In November 2008 one of the greatest masterpieces of the Italian Renaissance was restored to its original splendor and returned to its home at the world renowned gallery in Florence. The Madonna del Cardellino was painted by Raphael in 1505 for the wedding of his friend, a wealthy Florence merchant. It portrays Jesus Christ's mother, Mary, with two children who are playing with a bird. The children symbolized John the Baptist and his young cousin Jesus. The gold finch bird that feeds among thorns is interpreted as representing Christ's future suffering.
But something happened to this painting. Forty years after it was created, there was an earthquake in the house in which this painting was kept, and the painting was shattered into 17 different pieces. The wood was all smashed up into bits. So another artist took long iron nails and tried to patch the pieces together. And then he tried to paint over it to conceal the breaks and make it look whole again. But over the years, there were so many layers of paint added and so much dust and grime over this painting that the original colors, the original art, was completely obscured.
The contemporary restoration project fixed the shattered areas and removed layers of paint and dirt to get the colors back. It was a team effort. It took fifty people ten years of working on this painting, and the result is stunning. The cracks are gone. Centuries of brown film and grime are gone. The dulling veneers and patches have been stripped away, and the finished product glows with all of the deep colors: the reds, and blues, and golds of the original work of art. Given how badly it was damaged, the restoration of Raphael's painting is arguably even more amazing than the painting itself. The original was splendid, but the miracle of restoration compounds the beauty. Knowing the drama of the whole story, you can only gawk at it in wonder.
The spiritual parallels are profound. They speak to a far greater masterpiece of restoration, the one that the Lord wants to do in your life and in mine. Tragically, the beautiful design of who God created us to be has been marred by sin; and layers of grime and dirt have collected. Maybe you've felt them and sensed them in your life. You thought you could paint over the damage, but it didn't work, and the patches, the veneers that you applied just made things worse, and the cracks are showing. Maybe you've experienced earthquakes that have shattered you, but the good news of the gospel is that Jesus has the power to make all things new.
In fact, you have to look no further than Mary Magdalene to see an example. Here was a beautiful woman whose life had been ravaged by bad choices and Satan. Luke tells us that Jesus cast out seven demons from her (Luke 8:2) and after this she followed Jesus to the bitter end. Mary Magdalene witnessed most of the events surrounding the crucifixion. She was present at the mock trial of Jesus; she heard Pontius Pilate pronounce the death sentence; and she saw Jesus beaten and humiliated by the crowd. She was one of the women who stood near Jesus during the crucifixion to try to comfort Him. However, Mary was also the earliest witness to the resurrection of Jesus, as she was sent by Jesus to tell the others (John 20:11-18).
God restores broken lives and he reboots busted hope. When Mary was tormented by a host of evil spirits He touched her and made her whole. When her hope was crushed on Friday it was resurrected again on Sunday morning. “Behold,” says Jesus, “I am making all things new” (Rev. 21:5).