One of my favourite novels is the Count of Monte Cristo, the story of a betrayed man who spends thirteen years incarcerated in the Prison Chateau D’If because of the sins of others. Yet because of the sacrifice of a Priest, incarcerated with him, he not only gains freedom, but becomes the inheritor of a vast treasure hidden in a cave . At first Dantes does not believe the Priest who tells him of this treasure, but when given the exact location of the riches, he uses all his energies to find it. And he uses it to inspire every endeavour of his new life. Having discovered the treasure, Dantes’, new great passion is to exact vengeance on those who betrayed him. This he does in the most meticulous and calculated way.
Over the last few weeks, several treasure seekers have been digging with us, (George and I) at the Lighthouse in Woking, for treasure in Luke’s gospel using UCCF’s excellent material with the questions adapted depended on the literary ability of those reading with us. We have been sharing the gospel with the widest variety of people I have ever encountered.
Some have been incarcerated in their addictions for periods of time similar to Dantes. Others, including myself, have at times, given their lives idols, less obvious but no less potent. People have various reasons for coming into the Lighthouse and making contact with us. Some have come in to do bread-making, others to help, or receive help, from Jigsaw, http://www.jigsawwoking.org/jigsaw/index.htm an outreach to financially needy pre-school families. Others have come to serve in the Lighthouse, building and decorating. Still others have been “digging” for years but have renewed their motivation in recent weeks. Several can testify to experiencing a new freedom as they have trusted Christ.
Two ladies who are recovering from heroin addiction have been looking at how Jesus riled the religious leaders of his day by hanging out and sharing the gospel with prostitutes and sinners. One lady commented today: “ . . . you are helping us dig for treasure in the bible.” What we have found is that when we dig into a passage, truth and grace, the character of Jesus, is gradually uncovered and cherished. Often those studying a passage for the first time are surprised and blown away by what they discover of a God they thought they knew about but had misunderstood. Unlike the treasure Edmond Dantes discovered, the treasure of the gospel, uncovered by reading and studying the scriptures, enables a repentant sinner to love his enemies and bless those who curse him.
This is exactly what our saviour did when he hung on a cross for those who had betrayed him. Inscribed on Dante’s prison wall for thirteen years were the words: “God will give me justice.” At the cross, not only is justice dispensed on the innocent, but those who are guilty are pardoned and made right with a God who goes to the uttermost, in order to reconcile us to himself. The gospel of grace is staggering, stunning and counter cultural in any society and to all sections of it. As the gospel writer Matthew put it: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field’. (Matthew 13:44)