Your Lord and King (Luke 18:18-23)

Writer's Note: I gave this talk to the graduating class of the UP College of Education during their graduation ecumenical service.

Image source: http://media.tumblr.com/tumblr_kuj0v0RcGN1qzlw80.jpg

I have discovered from the preaching of one influential Christian Apologist and Philosopher, Dr. Ravi Zacharias, that there is a very effective way of identifying Easterners (from a Eurocentric perspective this includes Asians, Middle Eastern People among others) from Westerners (Americans, Englishmen) if one is speaking to a multi-cultural group.

And I will illustrate this by means of his experience. One time, Dr. Zacharias was asked to speak in the United Nations before hundreds of representatives from countries all over the world. As he began his talk, he opened by saying, “I will tell you a story…”

From his vantage point he saw that representatives from the Middle East, East Asia, South East Asia, the Eastern half of the globe were suddenly leaning forward, concentrating  and looking more intently at him. This was as opposed to the almost unchanged expression and countenance of the Western representatives.

The key element there is the word “STORY.” We love stories as a people. And living in the context of the Middle East, it is not surprising that Jesus Himself used stories when He taught. We are all Easterners here, and so I choose to leave with you a story as you leave the walls of this university.  

But this story is not a product of my imagination. It is a historic narrative in the life of Jesus as recorded by Dr. Luke, the evangelist. For those of you who would want to read it after, it is found in Luke 18:18-23, in the Bible.

The Rich Young Ruler

Let me tell you the story… One time, a young ruler of the Jewish Sanhedrin, this is like a council or a court of justice during the New Testament Times, who was very rich went to Jesus and talked to Him. The Gospel of Mark notes that he ran up to Jesus and even fell on his knees as he spoke to Him, saying “Good Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus, standing there, looked at him and saw beyond the fa├žade. He answered back, challenging the rich young ruler’s words, “Good Master…,” because He knew that the young ruler had neither the faith nor the understanding of Jesus’ identity to back the confession, “Good Master…”

And so He answered, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” That was Jesus’ way of saying, “You call me Good Master, but do you know who I am? Do you know that I am the Son of God (Matthew 16:16), the exact representation of God’s being (Hebrews 1:3), that the fullness of the Deity dwells in me in bodily form (Colossians 2:9)? 

But before the rich ruler had the time to answer, Jesus turns to his main question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” And He quotes a very familiar set of commands as reply. “You know the commandments,” Jesus said, “Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.”

These are five of the 10 Commandments recorded in Exodus 20—Commandments number five through nine or the man-ward commandments. These deal with how one should treat his or her fellow human being in the sight of God.

Upon hearing this, the rich young ruler blurted out, “All these I have kept since I was a boy.” His claim was that he never committed adultery, he never murdered anyone, he never stole anything, never gave false testimonies against anyone and he always honored his father and mother.

Interestingly, Jesus never disputed the young man’s claims. But the key to their conversation was what He left out from the 10 Commandments—the First, the Second, the Third, the Fourth and the Tenth. From Exodus 20, “(1) I am the Lord your God…you shall have no other gods before me. (2) You shall not make for yourself an image… bow down to them or worship them. (3) You shall not misuse the name of the Lord Your God. (4) Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. And (10) You shall not covet.”

Upon these, Jesus makes His reply and says to the rich young ruler, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

The connection between the five commandments that were left out and Jesus’ recommendation for the rich young ruler to sell everything he owned and give to the poor is a HEART ISSUE. Jesus was not concerned with what the man can do so that he will inherit eternal life. Instead, He was concerned with what his heart was running after for. Jesus was concerned with what or who was sitting on the throne of the man’s heart as Lord, and as King.

We get a glimpse of the rich young ruler’s heart when, upon hearing Jesus’ response to "sell all his possessions and give to the poor,” he became not only sad, but VERY sad. Why? Because he was “a man of great wealth.”

Lessons We Learn
What do we learn from the narrative?

First what or who occupies the throne of our hearts? You see the young ruler. What was in his heart? What was he running after for? What was King and Lord, sitting on his life’s throne? The answer is great wealth. 

Commandments one through four are God-ward commandments summed up by Jesus as, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength (Mark 12:30).” That is, God should not just be number one, He should be the ONLY ONE occupying the throne of your life—not wealth or power, popularity or status, name, fame or beauty, politics, religion. No! God should be the only one.

Commandment number 10 has something to do with covetousness. And the Apostle Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, writes to the Colossian Church that covetousness is idolatry (Colossians 3:5). Incidentally, any form of disobedience to the God-ward commandments is basically idolatry.

Second, do we know the Jesus of the Scriptures? You remember that Jesus opened with a challenge that is summed up in the question, “You call me Good Master, but do you know me?”

If the young man knew Jesus, he would have gladly given up his earthly possessions because if he did, he would have given the throne of his heart to the King of kings, the Lord of lords (1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 19:16), the Prince of peace (Isaiah 9:6), the Alpha and Omega, Beginning and the End (Revelations 1:8, 22:13), the True God (1 John 5:20), the Bread of Life (John 6:35; 6:48), the Savior or Messiah (Luke 2:11), the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25), the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6), the Light of the World (John 8:12), the Good Shepherd (John 10:11, 14), the Lamb of God (John 1:29).

He would have given his life to Hims who died for our sins and rose again, overpowering death itself (1 Corinthians 15:3-5).

A Challenge

As you leave the university, I challenge you to think about who or what is sitting on the throne of your heart. Because that will be your foundation, the rock upon which you will stand or fall in the face of life’s struggles. Will God see riches, fame, honor, glory, pride? Or will He see Jesus enthroned rightfully where He belongs?

And I challenge you to yearn for that which produces eternal fruit (Matthew 6:19-21). May you strive for a purpose that is beyond the here and now to what is there in eternity. May God through Jesus ever so fill your hearts so that you will find peace. In my own experience, Blaise Pascal was right when he said, “There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.”

When I was about to graduate in UP, I had the luxury of good grades, the distinct honor of graduating Magna cum Laude, valedictorian of my batch, best thesis in the College of Mass Communication, and a ready job at the Philippine Daily Inquirer. But between these things and Jesus Christ, only Jesus, having a personal relationship with Him, gave me peace, security, purpose and identity. 

That is why I can say with the Apostle Paul, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ (Phil. 3:7-8).”

May you come to that point when you will also see the radiance of God in the face of Jesus that you may surrender to Him as Lord and Savior by grace through faith alone in the enabling of the Holy Spirit.

“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace (Numbers 6:24-26).”

Amen and Amen.

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