Restoration vs. Rebuilding

Heritage Presbyterian Church

November 24, 2019
Christ the King Sunday
Scripture readings – Jeremiah 23: 5-6 and Luke 23: 33-43

We’ve all got it.  Oh yes, every single one of us has something.  No matter our age or experience or whatever…we’ve all got it.  Something that is not quite right with our bodies.  Some kind of injury, disease, or defect that keeps us from being perfect.  Maybe it’s something that happened just one time long ago, and you’re still living with the results.  Maybe it’s a disease or a syndrome or a condition that you just have to live with, even with all the miracles that modern medicine can work.  Maybe you’ve tried medication, therapy, surgery, appliances.  Maybe they’ve actually worked.

Perhaps you heard a doctor say: “Now you’re good as new!”  You know that’s not entirely true.  Maybe you can get on with your life, but you’re not exactly “good as new.”  The human body can be repaired, rebuilt, even retooled in some areas. 

But only God can restore us to “good as new.”

Let’s say you buy a brand, new car.  Isn’t that a wonderful experience?  Even if it’s not a luxury car or something fancy or flashy.  Buying a new car and getting to drive it off the lot is a wonderful experience.  You get the new feeling of the steering wheel.  You can almost see yourself in the finish.  You see how it accelerates and how it stops (and usually MUCH better than the car you just sold).  And that new car smell!  I think the only smell better than the new car smell is the smell of Thanksgiving dinner.

A new car…what a joyful thing!

Yet as soon as you drive it off the lot, you begin to lose value.  The exterior begins to get a little dirty.  The oil needs changing, and everything under the hood begins to look a little dirty over time – even in the best of cars.  The seats need care, but you also need your morning cup of coffee as you drive to work; those two things can cause trouble.  And over time, every car needs repairs.  Things wear out.  Things break down.  Tires wear and need replacing.  Recently, my wife hit something in the road that she could not avoid.  It put large gashes in two of her tires and took off a panel on the driver’s side below the door.  Those parts of her car can be replaced, repaired, and reconditioned.

But it won’t be “good as new” because it is impossible to make a used car into a new one…although I know some folks who come pretty close…

Remember: only God can restore.

Do you see the pattern?  Humans can and should work to replace, repair, refresh, restart, and rebuild many things in our world.  Countries should rebuild after natural disasters or wars.  Societies that have been neglected for generations should work to rebuild themselves or to reform into something new and better.  Broken lives that are destroyed by gambling, drugs, alcohol, or addictive behaviors can be rebuilt – but it takes lots and lots of work.  Failed leadership in society or organizations or governments need to be replaced before any rebuilding has a chance to begin.  Broken trust caused by crime can only be somewhat alleviated by justice in court and punishment through fines or imprisonment or both.  But any victim of crime will tell you that they are never truly the same.

We can do our best to help and to relieve suffering caused by life, but our human efforts can only go so far… 

Because only God can restore.

You might think I’m just playing with words when I reserve the word “restoration” only for what God can do.  But join me in reviewing the definition of that word.

First, the dictionary definition of restoration: the act of putting something or something back into a prior position, place, or condition.

Now the Bible dictionary definition of restoration: newness in Christ.  This comes from the Greek word apokatastasis which refers to the final restoration of all things to their primal perfection.

The very definitions point to our basic message for today:

Humans can make some things better, but only God can restore.

In the Old Testament reading for today, do you get the feeling that God is saying, “I’m tired of watching you and your leaders turn away from me.”  How often does it say in the Old Testament that “King _____ was ___ years old when he became King and he ruled for _____ years.  He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.”   Skim through the books of Kings or Chronicles and you will see this phrase almost every other page or so. 

After watching us mess things up throughout recorded Biblical history and waiting for someone to act decently and listen to the call, God may have become impatient with us.  So, God promised to restore his king over his people from “the stump of Jesse.”  In other words, God would do this restoration using what was leftover after we tried our hand at it.  Close reading in either Matthew or Luke and skimming line by line through the family histories, you will find that Jesus was directly related to Jesse, the father of King David.  This occurred through Joseph’s family.

When Jesus became Lord, our eternal and perfect King, God’s promise to his people was fulfilled.

It’s a good thing God did this because even the very best of kings throughout history – even the ones that are considered saints today – did not restore anything.  Only God can do that.

But then…our discussion arrives at the New Testament reading for today, and it would seem that is has little to do with God and his restoration.

Because our reading is about the crucifixion of Jesus, one that is usually reserved for Good Friday.

It is entirely proper and fair to ask yourself like I did: “How can this passage teach us anything about Christ the King?  How does it prove the point about restoration?”

There are two ways that this happens in the crucifixion passage from Luke’s Gospel:

First, Jesus was the perfect son of God, but in this passage his human body was broken, battered, and bloody.  He suffered so much that some in the early church had difficulty accepting that the Son of God could die in such a manner.  But when Jesus rose from the dead on Easter morning, God restored him completely and fully.  He became Christ the King on that day.

Second, Jesus’ love was also perfect, unlike the love that some human kings forgot for their own people.  Jesus even had love for the thief on the cross next to him.  Note Jesus’ words to him: “This day you will be with me in Paradise.” 

In other words, you will be forgiven, resurrected, and RESTORED.  This was possible even for an admitted thief who knew he deserved his punishment.  Only Christ the King, the Son of God, could restore that man.

Now I would like everyone to take out our green hymnal and turn to the front inside cover.  Look for the copy of the Apostles’ Creed that should be glued in there.  Skim down near the bottom and look for the last line of the prayer.  It says that we believe in “the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.  Amen.”

That means each and every one of us will someday be restored.  Not repaired.  Not rebuilt.  Not any of that.

We will be restored.  We will truly be “as good as new”…or perhaps even better!

Our King loves us.  He will restore us to perfection.

Christ the King will do this.