And they asked him, “Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?”
Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah does come first, and restores all things. Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected? But I tell you, Elijah has come, and they have done to him everything they wished, just as it is written about him.”
After the death of Mary Ann’s parents, their possessions were split up between the three daughters. While there was nothing of historic or great financial significance or value, she picked out some furniture that meant a lot to her.
One piece was the kitchen table that she grew up eating at. It was made of solid maple and its finish had been stripped some 30-plus years ago. The intent had always for it to be refinished, but no one ever got around to it.
The other piece of furniture was a secretary that sat in the dining room where her parents opened the mail, paid bills. It was veneered and made of a softer wood.
Both pieces had witnessed a lot of living. They were what you’d expect to find in the home of an active family; dings, nicks, stains, scratches. There was a particularly nasty mark on the kitchen table where a hot pot had been placed without anything to protect the wood. They were both in need of refinishing and restoration before they could be returned to use.
While the furniture, wood, and pieces were different, you always did some things the same. You only and always sanded with the grain. You wiped a thin coat of stain with a rag, removing any excess. Using a foam brush, you applied a thin coat of polyurethane to protect the wood, allowing it to dry completely before a light sanding.
But because the piece had differences, they also needed to be treated differently. The veneer on the secretary was only lightly sanded, or you could wear through to the wood underneath. Because the kitchen table was constructed of a very hard wood, it required more rigorous sanding.
Both pieces had legs that needed to be stripped, sanded, and refinished. Both had a lot of significant dings that needed attention. But that’s where the similarities ended. The kitchen table legs were relatively smooth, making them easier and straightforward to work with. The secretary legs were short and carved, so they needed a lot of time-consuming, detailed, hand work.
Restoration is like that. There are some things that are in common, and there are things that are unique. Some restoration techniques and skills apply to just about everything Some restoration skills are only needed in certain, special circumstances.
When Jesus talks about Elijah, he says that in the sequence of things, Elijah comes into public view first. When Jesus describes Elijah, he says that Elijah “restores all things.”
Jesus is saying that this Elijah will start the continuing restoration. This restoration is not completed but was started by Elijah. And Elijah isn’t sitting back, letting the restoration happen. No, Elijah is actively engaged and involved with the restoration.
This is what a Jesus kind of restoration looks like. And this is the same kind of restoration that Jesus wants to perform in you and me. We are to be actively engaged, energized, getting our hands dirty with the restoration of our lives. The lives of those around us. And the world in general.
So roll up your sleeves, get your head in the game, be totally ready to receive the gift that’s coming when Jesus arrives. Don’t lazily slip back into those old grooves of evil, doing just what you feel like doing. You didn’t know any better then; you do now. As obedient children, let yourselves be pulled into a way of life shaped by God’s life, a life energetic and blazing with holiness. God said, “I am holy; you be holy.”
1 Peter 1:13-16, MSG
We are to roll up our sleeves, get into the game. Actively be part of his team. Everyone on the team should practices hard. Study hard. Works together. Listen. Learn from the coach. When we’re on the field, we’re to play hard and smart together. Follow instructions from the coach on the sidelines. When we’re on the sideline, we’re to support and cheer on those on the field.
On a team, everyone is to be ready to go in and do their best. We need to be ready, willing, and able to take the field when called to. And when called out of the game, run out while encouraging the person replacing us.
We all have a role to play in God’s restoration. What’s your role?