By Pastor Glenn Pease
George Banks of Lewiston, Idaho enjoyed his hobby of treasure hunting. He scoured parks and fair grounds with his metal detector, and he found coins, rings, and even watches. One day he was told of a ghost town in the state of Washington which use to have a race track back in the 1800's. It sounded like a likely place to find coins, and it turned out even better than he could dream. As he covered the area that must have been the race track, his detector buzzed, and he dug down a few inches and found a coin about the size of a quarter. It was dated 1855, and the value was twenty dollars. When he took it to a coin dealer, he discovered there were only two coins like it in existence. One was owned by the Ford Foundation, and the other is in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. That made George Banks, with his twenty dollar gold piece, worth about $300,000.
There are thousands, if not millions, of lost coins in this world, and all kinds of other valuables. Almost everything you can imagine can be lost. Whole cities have been lost and later found by archaeologists. Many ships have been lost, and some have been found with great treasures, but many still remain lost. Mines are lost, planes are lost, and even whole continents are lost if you believe in the lost island of Atlantis. The point is, we live in a world full of lost things. The fascinating thing about lostness is that it is always connected with value. If it is not valuable it is not called lost. If I loss a rock that I had in my shoe, I don't call it lost, for it is good riddance. If someone carries off my garbage, I don't report it as lost. There are many things that can be missing, but nobody cares, for they have no value. But if something that is missing is valuable, then it is considered lost, and we search for it.
Oak Island, off the coast of Nova Scotia, has been the sight of the most extensive treasure hunt in the history of man. For nearly 200 years Americans and Canadians have invested 4 million dollars, and at the cost of 6 lives, have tried to dig up the lost treasure of pirates. The haven't found it, but because it is lost, people will never stop searching. The Aztec treasure of Montezuma is still lost somewhere in New Mexico or Utah. Over 10 million in gold and silver is out there, and the search is still on after 450 years. The great king of Hawaii, who united all the islands into one kingdom, was buried with a fortune, but nobody knows where or on which island, and so the search goes on for that lost treasure.
This world has more lost treasure than most of us could ever imagine. Back in 1938 Floyd Terril, a professional treasure hunter, found one of the places where Jesse James hit his loot in Oklahoma. It was mostly gold coins worth $38,650. but the big one is still lost. The gold shipment worth 2 million that the James brothers buried is still out there, and somebody is searching for it.
There are few themes more fascinating to the human mind than lost treasure. We find it is a major theme of the Bible also, and here in Luke 15 we find ourselves in the lost and found department of the Bible. Jesus tells three parables in this chapter, and all of them deal with the lost. The lost sheep, the lost silver, and the lost son. Jesus was captivated by lost treasure. In fact, He tells us that the motive that brought Him into this world was treasure hunting for the lost. In Luke 19:10 He said, "For the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost." Do you wonder why God would stoop to become a man, and live in a body with all of its limitations? Is for the same reason men leave the comfort and luxury of the city to go off with a mule into the desert, and sweat and eat dust. They are treasure hunting, and that is why Jesus gave up the glory of heaven to come into this sin stained world. There is something lost, and it is of such great value that God Himself will pay any price to see it found.
Do you know what makes this marvelous treasure hunting story even more startling? It is the fact that some of the treasure Jesus came to find can be found right here in this building. That's right, there is a fortune to be found right under our noses. The treasure Jesus came to seek and find is not lost gold, silver, or jewels. Jesus came to find a treasure of even greater value-a treasure that will last forever, and that treasure is lost people. Treasure does not know its value, but man does, and he can enter into the joy of being found. We often see the lost only from a human point of view, and they are a dime a dozen. Lost people who do not know where they are going are a drag. They have no value to society. They are the drunks, prostitutes, and all the people that we call the lower class. Jesus loved these people, and they loved Him. Jesus saw them as buried treasure, and they saw Him as one who gave them hope.
Notice the first verse in this lost and found chapter of the Bible. Verse one says, "Now the tax-collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear Him." Jesus did not draw a very respectable crowd. It was the rejects that flocked to hear Him. The dignified people of society would have nothing to do with this riff-raff, but they flocked to Jesus like flies to sugar. It was a disgusting sight to the religious leaders. In verse 2 they show their contempt as they murmur about Him receiving sinners and eating with them. Imagine that, it was bad enough to be in the presence of such scum, but Jesus stooped even lower, and ate with these people. They hated Jesus because of His love for the lost. They saw the lost as worthless trash, but Jesus saw them as worthwhile treasure. What a picture in contrast. Here we see the perfect ideal and the pathetic real; the pure and putrid; the redeemer of men and the rejects of men.
Jesus told the Pharisees three stories that show the real contrast is between those who see the lost as trash, and those who see them as treasure. They are junk or jewels, and which you see makes you heavenly or earthly in your view of man. In these three stories Jesus shows three different causes for being lost.
1. Some are lost like a sheep. They do not necessarily want to go astray, but they are easily influenced to wander, and before they realize it they are lost. Many sinners are not rebels who want to get into all kinds of trouble. They are like sheep who just carelessly stray into the world, and get trapped, and can't find their way out.
2. Others are lost like a coin. They get tossed about by circumstances. The coin does not lose itself. It gets lost because of the carelessness of others. Many sinners are lost because they are the victims of others carelessness, and like a helpless coin they are tossed into a world of sin.
3. Others are like the Prodigal Son. They deliberately chose to go into the far country and live it up. They have their choice to stay home with the father, or go out into the world of sin, and they choose to go into sin.
So we see there are at least three ways you can get lost: By carelessness, circumstances, or choice. The good news is that all three stories have a happy ending. The sheep is found, the coin is found, and the son returns, and in each case there is a party for celebrating. Jesus is saying, whatever the cause for being lost, all of the lost are valuable, and finding them is cause for great joy. There is no lost person, for whatever reason, that Jesus says is good riddance. They are all treasure to Him. Jesus loves the least of the lost, for the least are of value to Him. Jesus saw, what others would call worthless people, the lost as those who could reign with Him over the universe. They knew He treasured them, and that is why they came to Him. The dignified people did not know they were lost, and so they never came to Jesus to be found.
Jesus had parties to celebrate, like the father of Prodigal did, when his lost son returned home, and like the shepherd had who found his sheep, and like the woman had who found her coin. Jesus went so far as to say that even the angels in heaven have a party, and rejoice over every sinner who repents. Every lost person who is found is like a jewel added to the treasury of heaven. Angels love a good treasure hunt just like men do, and they are delighted when lost treasure is found.
If only the lost would see their value to the shepherd, they would gladly let him carry them back to the fold. The tragedy is that the lost often listen to the view of the Pharisee rather than the view of the shepherd. They say I am worthless and of no value, and not worth saving. I can see the angels rejoicing over the great crowds that come forward in a Billy Graham crusade; I can see how there would be a party in heaven after Pentecost, where 3,000 sheep came back to the fold. But one lost sinner who would be missed by few, and mourned by fewer, if he dropped dead in his tracks, is not worth an earthly party, let alone a heavenly one. This is the view of the so-called sophisticated.
You either see life from the view of Jesus, or from the view of His enemies. It was His enemies who said the sinner is a piece of junk. It was Jesus who said he is a jewel. It you are digging for diamonds and come upon one, you do not sulk because there are not 20 or 30. You rejoice in your discovery of one. One is all it takes to get you excited, for one can be of great value. Jesus says that is the way I see every sinner, and the way heaven sees them. Heaven is not hung up on our math, where only millions and billions count. Heaven knows what is priceless, and that is why there is rejoicing over every single sinner who repents.
Heaven does not rejoice because the stock market goes up, or gold triples in price, or that billions are made by this or that super company. Heaven rejoices when some poor nobody of a sinner realizes just how valuable he is to God, and turns to Jesus to be saved. So often the sinner feels so down, and like such a nobody that he cannot be motivated to do anything, but Jesus says the sinner can turn heaven on. Heaven is not as happy as it can be yet. As long as one sinner remains lost, there is more to add to heaven's joy. Just imagine, you as a sinner can make heaven happier, and you can please God, and add to the joy of Jesus, and bring gladness into the family of God. All of this power for good lies in the sinner who will listen to the good news of the Gospel, and trust in Christ as Savior.
Jesus says you are buried treasure to Him, and He is seeking you to find you, and make you a treasured part of His family. He wants to make you rich forever, and all you need to do is repent. That is, quit going astray and wandering like a sheep. Stop choosing to be a nobody living in sin. Come home, and surrender to the Shepherd, and let Him carry you back to the fold. Open your heart to Jesus, and become a lost treasure found.