Mark 10:17-31

“Can You Handle The Truth?”

October 14 2018

Benjamin was a good man. He had been good all his life. He had been a good boy and remained that way.  He was also a smart man. He showed evidence of high intelligence at an early age and his parents made sure he was given every opportunity to learn. He had been trained in the Hebrew laws and traditions by the best teachers. No expense was too great for these proud parents as they encouraged their son to use the great mind God had blessed him with.  He knew the laws and worked to keep them.  The words good, smart, and well educated were used to describe Benjamin. He was the kind of boy every parent wants their daughter to date. And more than that, he was rich. He belonged to the upper class.  His nails were nicely manicured and his hair neatly groomed. His clothes were of the best material.  Benjamin was proud of what he had. Like his father and grandfather he was proud to be a member of the upper class of society and enjoyed the prestige and good things being rich brought him. 

Benjamin was good, smart, well educated and rich.  The kind of boy every parent wants their daughter to date, and marry.

You would think that Benjamin was a man with no problems.  You would think that Benjamin was a man who “had it made”. But if you thought that abut Benjamin, you would   be wrong.  Benjamin might have been good, smart, well educated and rich but he was restless and dissatisfied with his his rich, good, educated life.   His riches, his goodness, and  his education were not enough to satisfy him. He knew there had to be something else, something more, something that his goodness or his education or his money had not given him.  He felt that riches were not enough, and that trying to keep the law was not enough.  He felt that there had to be something different, something more meaningful or more satisfying to life. 

            But what could it be?  What was that “more” Benjamin was looking for? His friends laughed at him as he questioned them. “What more could you want?” they scoffed.

            So Benjamin set out to find what more he was yearning for. He set out to find what it was that was missing from his well-educated, well-provided for life. It seemed to him as if he had been handed “a bill of goods”, directions for a good life that did not leave him satisfied or feeling good about himself. Now he wanted the truth. The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Not the same old things he had heard for so long. This time he wanted the truth and would not stop until he got it.

            Benjamin heard that a man named Jesus was teaching and working miracles, and that many were following him.  “Maybe this man can help me” Benjamin  thought. Finding Jesus certainly couldn’t hurt, he reasoned. Benjamin  found Jesus and asked Him: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus responded:       “Keep the commandments.” “I’ve done all that — isn’t there something more?” Benjamin responded. In other words “I’ve been handed that line all my life.  This time – I want the truth  and I want it now!” Jesus looked at Benjamin and loved him and said: “Go — sell — give — come — follow”

Benjamin had asked the ultimate question. He had asked for the truth. And Jesus had given the ultimate answer. Jesus told him the truth. Now Benjamin had no excuse. Now he knew the truth. His life was now on the line. He could never again say that he did not know the truth .            Now he knew the truth.  But could he accept it? Could he handle it? Could he respond to it and follow it?

            Could he give up what he had and follow Jesus? Sadly, no. He now had the truth but could not handle it. He had the truth but he could not accept it.  He had the truth but he could not follow it. He turned and walked away, and you could almost see the tears in Benjamin’s eyes as he turned away. And in Jesus’.

            Benjamin’s story is a sad one. He was rich, smart, and educated, but he needed one more thing.  He didn’t need more money, he had plenty of that. He didn’t need more education. He did not need to try to do better. he had tried to do better all his life. What he needed was the truth of God, and he could not handle it once he discovered it. It is sad to have so much, and yet have nothing. It is sad to learn the truth, and turn and walk away. Benjamin’s story is a sad story indeed.

            You know, wanting “the truth”, in one way or another, is a major concern and preoccupation for many people.  “What is the truth” is a question many ask. Many just want the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  Whether it is  from politicians,  to government,  to our friends and acquaintances, many times we just want the truth.

            “Just be honest with me”, we may say. “Give me the truth”.  “No lies, just the truth.”  The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.   

But many times knowing the truth and handling the truth, or accepting the truth, are 2 completely different things. The truth, many times, is hard to handle. Benjamin could not handle the truth.  Can you handle the truth?

            The movie A Few Good Men takes a look at the truth and how knowing the truth sometimes creates bigger problems than not.  Jack Nicholson plays a Marine colonel, Colonel Jessup, who has secretly ordered some of his men to beat up a recruit he wants to chase from the corps.  When the recruit dies from the beating, though, Jessup has to make up lies and begin a massive cover up.  Every person on the base, from the commanding officer to the lowliest recruit, are instructed on what they were to say when the case is brought to trial. Even officials in Washington are told to cover up Jessup’s record of past violations, and if not, he would tell things he knew they had done that would cost them their jobs. A vast tale of lies is developed and every player knew their line. Tom Hanks plays the lawyer prosecuting the case against Jessup and the others.  Everything is going as Jessup planned until Hanks begins to question him.  Hanks knows Jessup is lying, and presses him for the truth. “You can’t handle the truth! “ Nicolson growls.

            Neither could Benjamin.  Can you? Can you handle the truth? Can you handle the truth Jesus taught? The truth is that God loves you. The truth is  that God calls you to give your all to Him,  to His work, and to show His love to others in every way you can. The truth is that God calls you to live in ways that show His love. The truth is that God calls you to trust Him and not let anything come between Him and that trust. The truth is that Jesus calls you, like Benjamin. to come and follow

            Can you handle God’s truth? Can you handle Jesus’ truth? Benjamin could not handle the truth. Can you? Can you handle the truth? It takes faith.  It takes trusting in God as you give of yourself for God and others and as you give up old ways of doing things for God’s ways. Can you handle it? Can you handle the truth?

            What does it take to handle God’s truth, the truth that God calls you to follow Him, trust Him, and reach out to others?  It takes faith. It takes commitment to God. It takes commitment to others.

            Can you handle it?

            Benjamin must have felt that following what Jesus said would have been like trying to walk on air. Giving up his wealth, his prestige, all he had to follow Jesus,  giving up all he felt comfortable with and that gave his life stability,  must have seemed to him to be like jumping off a cliff and trying to walk on air.             He was not willing to do it. He did not trust Jesus enough. 

            Sometimes following God and taking God up on His truth might seem like jumping off a cliff, leaving behind what you are comfortable with and leaping into what looks to be very uncertain territory.   You might know that God is with you, lifting you up and protecting you, blessing you when you follow, but at times you  might find might find it hard to translate that “head knowledge” into actions.

            Sometimes it is scary to follow God, no matter what, show God to others, no matter what, and do God’s will, no matter what. At times it may seem like leaping off a cliff and trying to walk on air.  

            Some years ago I took a group of young people to a camp where they encountered many exercises designed to help them learn about trust and faith.  One exercise was a pole the height of a power pole the participants climbed, then at the very top they had to jump and grab a trapeze, then slide down a zip line to the ground. The whole time they were strapped into a harness with a line attached, and the other end was held by the other participants.  There was no way the ones that jumped could get hurt.  If they did not make the trapeze,  the ones holding the line would lower them down. Most of the youth I was with were big, strong athletes who were up to any challenge, except for this one.  They could not make the step into the air, the leap of faith. They were used to accomplishing everything on their own and found it hard to trust others.

            Benjamin had the same problem. All his life he had trusted himself and what he had and what he could do. When Jesus told him to trust Him, he couldn’t.  The truth was that these young people on top of that pole would not fall, either way they would be caught by the others. The truth was that Benjamin would not fall or fail if he followed Jesus. Jesus would support Him and strengthen Him. But, in both cases,   they could not handle it.  

            Can you handle the truth? The is truth that God loves you and calls you to share His love with others.Can you handle God’s truth, God ‘s plan, God’s will,  whatever it might mean for you, whatever changes it might mean, however scary it might seem or however risky it might appear?

            Benjamin could not. Can you?

            Jesus truly calls you to live in way that shows His love to others and to love and worship and follow God above all other things in your life. Jesus calls you to follow Him,  and at times to jump, knowing that God is watching and guiding and blessing you as you go.

 That truth is that being a follower of Christ, giving up all, and taking a leap of faith opens us up to God’s will as it opens us up to others,  and through our  “faithful following” shows God’s mighty love to a world that desperately needs to see it.               

So, can you handle the truth?  Amen