The Glory of the Stone the Builders Rejected (Matthew Sermon 106 of 151)
July 19, 2009 | Andy Davis
Exaltation of Christ, Election & Predestination
So you hear in my prayer, I have a simple goal, and my goal is to beguile your hearts and entice your hearts with the greatness and the marvelous nature of Jesus Christ. That you would be weaned from the things of this world and that you would be stoked up in your affections for Christ, that's my goal, my desire. And I really am gonna just focus on one verse, verse 42. You heard the sermon I preached last week on the wicked tenants. We've already been through that. And if you didn't hear it, I'd encourage you to go on the internet and you can listen to it there. But I really just wanna zero in on verse 42.
Some of the most glorious building projects all over the world have been done in stone. When you think about the Great Wall of China, which I personally have had the privilege of walking on, what an extraordinary engineering achievement it is, built in stone. I've never seen the Great Pyramid of Cheops there in Egypt, this pyramid, again, built of stone. I think about the cathedrals in Europe, Notre Dame and Chartres and other places in Europe that are built sometimes over 100 years with stone that's quarried out and shaped and fit together almost like a jigsaw puzzle, and soars to heights of close to 400 feet, the spires going up with flying buttresses and glorious stained glass, and a testimony of people's commitment to worship God. Or the mountain fortress of Machu Picchu in South America. These are incredible building structures in stone, but then, none of them compare to the building structure that God is building: The church of Jesus Christ. And each one of you, if you're a child of God, you are called in 1 Peter chapter 2, living stones that in some mysterious way, quarried out from Satan's dark kingdom, and you've been brought over into the kingdom of the Beloved Son and you've been set in place as living stones in this glorious church structure that's rising up.
And today, with one verse, I want to talk about the most important stone in the whole structure: Jesus Christ. He is the stone the builders rejected, who has become the capstone. The Lord has done this and it is marvelous in our eyes. And so, my goal is that it'd be more marvelous in your eyes when I get done than it is right now. The greatness of Jesus Christ, the greatness of the work of God in Christ, that's what I want you to focus on today. Now, let's set this in context, this one statement. Jesus is in the final week of his life, He's already entered Jerusalem, it's the week of Passover. There are more than a quarter, probably more than a quarter of a million worshippers there flooding the small city of Jerusalem, ready to offer sacrifice and take part in the Passover. Jesus has already been celebrated as he rode on a donkey and he entered the gates of Jerusalem as the coming King. And they're expecting a kingdom to come immediately, that it would be right with that triumphal entry that Jesus would bring in the kingdom of the Messiah, the messianic reign. And so, they call out “Hosanna,” but not one of them really understands what Christ is there to do.
His enemies greet him, they meet him and they begin to spar with him in Matthew 21, and he's beginning to have conflicts with them openly there, and those conflicts will result, ultimately, in his own condemnation and death. And so he is answering his opponents here. He's answering his critics. And he's doing more than that as he tells this parable that you heard read for you this morning. As he tells this parable, the parable of the wicked tenants, he's really tracing out the whole history of the Jews, and their tendency to reject the messengers that God sends and even worse, to not bring forth that harvest of righteousness that God intended in planting that vineyard.
And so, the details of the parable are familiar to us. There's a landowner who plants a vineyard and he gives it everything it needs for a full harvest, fully supplies it with everything needed. Then he rents it out to some tenant farmers, and goes away on a distant journey. After a period of time, at the right time, he sends messengers back to get his share of the harvest, it's harvest time. But the wicked tenants seize the messengers and they beat them and they kill them, stone them. And he sends more messengers, and the tenants treat them the same way, and this goes on. And last of all, he sends his son saying, “They'll respect my son.” But as you heard read already, when the tenants saw the son, they saw an opportunity to do the very thing they've been wanting all along: They wanna take control of the vineyard. They want it for themselves. They don't wanna submit to any authority. They want the full harvest for themselves. And so, they seize the son. They say, “Here's the heir. Let's take him, and kill him, and take his inheritance, the vineyard.” And so, they take the son and they throw him out of the vineyard and they kill him.
So that's the parable. And it's the culmination of Israel's history of rebellion against God. From the time of the Exodus through the time of the exile, the Jews consistently rejected the messengers that God sent, and the men that God sent to lead them, one after the other. God gave them the laws of Moses, he gave them a covenant, a conditional covenant, and they were supposed to obey those laws, but they didn't. And so, God would send messengers and call on them to obey the laws, to give them his harvest of righteousness, but they inevitably mistreated these prophets. These prophets, they preached and they prayed and they warned, and they cried and they bled and they died one after another. And finally, the time had come in the fullness of time for God to send his only begotten Son. This is the culmination of Israel's history of rebellion: The rejection of the Son, Jesus Christ. And to explain this very thing, Jesus quotes an ancient Psalm, a Psalm that was maybe 1,000 years, a little less than 1,000 years old. Psalm 118, “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; The Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.” We're gonna spend our whole time today focused on this one verse to try to understand it.
The Stone the Builders Rejected
So let's start with the first phrase: “The stone the builders rejected.” We have here an architectural image, an idea of a grand and glorious building being erected, erected in stone. Massive buildings in Jesus' day, as we already mentioned, were constructed in stone. Herod's temple, the temple complex where they would come to worship, it was a massive structure, a complex made of stone. And in Mark 13:1, when the disciples saw all of these incredible buildings made of stone, they said, to Jesus, “Look, Teacher! what massive stones! What magnificent buildings!” So these stones have been quarried and shaped and fit together in a perfect way, an incredible structure. So it's an architectural image made of stone.
The builders that Jesus refers to here have to be the Jewish leaders. They are the leaders of the Jewish nation, religiously. They are the chief priest, the scribes, the elders of the people, the Pharisees, the leaders, the Sanhedrin. These are the builders.
The Stone the Builders Rejected
So Jesus says, “The stone the builders rejected.” There's a single stone that he has in mind, and the builders reject this stone. And this is, as I said, the culmination of a long pattern, a settled pattern, a history of the rejection of the messengers of God by the people of God. All you have to do is just trace in your mind back in history, the ones that God raises up. You can start with the conflict between Jacob and Esau, and how Esau hated his brother, Jacob, and really made him flee, wanted to kill him. Even though Jacob was the one that the promise would be fulfilled through, ultimately.
And then, Jacob's son, Joseph, was rejected by his brothers. They hated him. They could not speak a kind word to him because of his dreams and I guess his attitude, and the fact that he was preferred by his father, Jacob. But Joseph was the very one that God had ordained for their deliverance as a family. Because of his position in Egypt, he was able to set aside grain, and they were able to survive a terrible famine. And so, they rejected this very one that God had raised up to be their deliverance.
And then there's Moses. God sent Moses to bring the people out of Egypt, out of bondage, but the Jews rejected Moses. Again and again, they rejected him. From the very beginning, two Israelites who were fighting rejected Moses saying, “Who made you ruler and judge over us?” They didn't realize that Moses was the very one that God had appointed to deliver them from bondage to Egypt. But even after he had done so, during the time of that great rebellion when the spies came back and they did not choose to enter the Promised Land to believe God, they talked of stoning Moses and going back, choosing another leader and going back to slavery in Egypt. They rejected Moses.
Then there was David. There was not one of David's family, the family of Jesse, who thought that Samuel was there to anoint David. He was the little kid out in the field with the sheep. Not even his own father, Jesse, thought that he was worth even mentioning. He was rejected. Everyone thought it was gonna be Eliab, the firstborn, who was so tall and regal-looking. And the Lord told Samuel, “Do not consider him just because of his appearance for I have rejected him. He's not going to be king. A man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.”
Well, David was rejected by his own family. And as a matter of fact, when he goes there to bring some food, and his brothers are going to fight the Philistines, but nobody wants to fight because there's Goliath coming out day after day to challenge the armies of the people of God, and no one has the courage to come and confront this man who's speaking blasphemies against the God of Israel. He comes and shows up with some food from the father, Jesse, and they just tear into him. And they insult him and they lay him low. They don't know that he's about to deliver them and all of that sorry army with them by his courage. He is the very one that God had appointed to be their deliverer. Did King Saul recognize that he was the anointed successor? Did he accept that, say, “When I finish my time, I'm gonna hand it over to this God's man”? No. Instead, he hunts him down and he chases him down and he wants to kill him. And he did everything he could to kill David; he did not accept him. And even after David had been in power as a king for years and years, his own son, Absalom, rejected him and wanted to murder him and take his place. And many of Israel followed Absalom at that time.
But of all these categories of people, probably no one was as clearly rejected as the prophets. God sent the prophets one after the other. And “the tenants,” it says, “seized the servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them in the same way.” Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, speaks to the Sanhedrin, this very body that's about to condemn Jesus to death.
After Jesus' death and resurrection, ascension, there's Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, and he traces out all of this history. I'm just giving you, really, Stephen's sermon is what I'm giving you so far, is that Israel has always rejected the messengers of God, always. And so, Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, says, “You stiff-necked people with uncircumcised hearts and ears. You're just like your fathers. You always resist the Holy Spirit. Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not kill? And now, you have betrayed and killed the righteous one, Jesus.”
Jesus himself said this before Stephen's sermon. In Matthew 23, he said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and you decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.” And so,” said Jesus, “you testify against yourselves that you're the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your fathers.” What does he mean by that? “Kill me. It's what you do.” And that's what they did. And he said, “I'm gonna send you prophets and righteous men and teachers. And some of them, you will murder, and some of them, you will stone. You're gonna treat them the same way you treated the prophets before. It's always the same.”
Now, the question is why. Why do they reject the prophets? Why do they reject the messengers that God sends? Well, I think there's a little story from the Old Testament that really illustrates why they rejected, rejected, rejected, over and over. I don't know if you remember the wicked king Ahab, and Ahab wants to go on a military venture of questionable outcome. He's gonna go fight and try to defeat Ramoth-Gilead, where the Arameans are powerful. He's gonna go out and fight against Ramoth-Gilead. And so, he's there with his friends, one of the more mysterious friendships in the Bible, godly king Jehoshaphat from the kingdom of Judah. So these two kings are there, and there are all these evil prophets of Baal and all these weird prophets, and they're all prophesying that he's going to succeed, King Ahab is going to succeed. “Go and be victorious!” “Go ahead!” And so, his ego's getting all pumped up. Jehoshaphat asked the question, he said, “Isn't there a prophet of the Lord here that we can inquire of? Don't you have one left?” [chuckle] He saw through all of that as the nothing it was. You remember what Ahab said? He said, “There is one man, Micaiah, son of Imlah. He's a prophet of the Lord, but I hate him because he never says anything good about me; only bad.” Oh, that's a very telling statement, isn't it? “He only says bad things about me all the time. I wanna hear good things.”
So Isaiah, the prophet, takes the whole attitude and puts it together for us in Isaiah 30:9-11. This is what Isaiah said; he was a prophet, he also was persecuted. Tradition says he was sawn in two, he was put in a log and they sawed through his body while he was in a log. Unbelievable. But Isaiah said in chapter 30 verse 9 through 11: “These are rebellious people, deceitful children, children unwilling to listen to the Lord's instruction. They say to the seers, ‘See no more visions!’ And to the prophets, ‘Give us no more visions of what is right! Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions. Leave this way, get off this path, and stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel.’” End quote. Well, there it is, friends. The prophets told the truth: The people were sinful. They needed to repent or die. And so, God sent these prophets to tell them the truth and they didn't wanna hear it. And so in the end, they generally tended to murder them because they wanted to hear pleasant things from God.
But though this pattern of rejecting the messengers of God is well-established as I've done so far in this message, it comes to its fullest fruition in this: The rejection of the only begotten Son of God. God sent his Son into the world and they did not receive him. The stone the builders rejected, it's not Jacob, it's not Joseph, it's not Moses, it's not David, it's not any of the prophets. It's the only begotten Son of God, it's Jesus that they rejected. He is the stone, this is the Christ. And this rejection is astonishing when you consider the quality of Jesus Christ, what kind of man He was.
Now, God searches the hearts of every man. Psalm 7:9, it says, “Oh, righteous God who searches minds and hearts.” He's searching your mind and heart right now. He knows what you're thinking about; I don't, but he does. He searches your mind and heart. He knows what's in your mind. And the testimony of God right before the flood in Genesis 6:5, it says that, “Every inclination of the thoughts of man's heart was only evil all the time.” That's what brought the flood on. But sadly, this similar testimony is given in Genesis 8 after the flood, “Even though in every inclination of his heart is evil from birth.” That's in Genesis 8, after the flood. Jeremiah says, “The heart is deceitful and wicked beyond all understanding.”
So that's our hearts. But what about Jesus? Here is the one man in all history whose heart is filled with the light of God. It is pure, it is holy. Every inclination of his heart is only good all the time, the only pure man that ever lived. He's the only one that perfectly fulfilled the two great commandments: To love the Lord your God with all of your heart, and to love your neighbor as yourself. He's the only one that ever did it. This is the quality of the man that they hated. All of his words were helpful and true and beneficial, all of them, even the convicting ones. And all of his healing miracles brought a river of grace and mercy and blessing to the people of Israel. The lame walked, the blind saw, the deaf heard, the dead were raised to life and the good news was preached to the poor, a river of blessing coming from Jesus' life. His demeanor, just as a man, what kind of person was he? He was gentle and tender-hearted. He wasn't a yeller or a screamer or a rabble-rouser out in the streets. That wasn't what he was like. Children felt comfortable sitting on his lap. He would touch them gently and pray for them. That's the kind of man that he was.
And at one point, after a bunch of miracles, in Mark 7:37, the people were just overwhelmed, they're just overwhelmed with amazement of Jesus. And they said of him this: “He has done everything well.” How could they hate somebody like this? How could they hate and reject a man like this? But they did. The builders rejected him. These leaders of the Jews, they assessed Christ, they evaluated him and they rejected him. “No, not this man, give us Barabbas,” they said later. But it was already in their hearts. They had rejected Jesus.
They were offended at his freedom from the tradition of the elders. He didn't wash his hands the way they did. You know, they had everybody under control on that hand washing thing. Jesus didn't do it. I'm not saying he wasn't hygienic, I'm just saying he didn't follow the traditions of the elders. And they hated his freedom from that. They were offended at how freely and powerfully he healed on the Sabbath. Despite their teachings, he went ahead and clearly healed and it frustrated them. They were disdainful of the fact that he came from Nazareth in Galilee. They said to Nicodemus in John 7:52, “Look into it, and you'll find that no prophet ever comes out of Galilee.” [chuckle] Of course. They missed Isaiah chapter 9, when it talks about a light shining in Galilee. They didn't see that scripture, but they were convinced that no prophet could ever come from there.
And secretly, in their hearts, they were jealous of Jesus. Pilate even could see that, that it was out of jealousy that they'd handed Jesus over. He had a sway over the crowds. They listened to everything he said. He could do anything, he could do miracles. They couldn't do that. They, I think, were incredibly frustrated by his healings, because they knew he was from the Devil, but here, he's doing these healings. They couldn't put it together. So they hated him.
I think though, especially, you wanna know why? Especially they hated him, because he told them the truth about themselves. He said, generally, in his preaching in the sermon of the mount, “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and teachers of the law, you will by no means enter into the kingdom of Heaven.” And later in Matthew, He's gonna give them the seven woes. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites!” He calls them whitewashed tombs. He told the truth and they hated him for it. Now, they should have repented. They should have said, “Yes, I am a whitewashed tomb. On the outside I look good, but on the inside, I'm full of dead men's bones and everything unclean. Oh God, make me clean.” And he would have done it. But instead, they hardened their hearts and dug in their heels and they would not listen to him.
Christ’s Rejection Predicted
And so, in the parable, the tenants seized the Son, threw him outside of the vineyard and they killed him. The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone. Now, God had predicted that this would happen, not just here in Psalm 1:18, which by the way is quoted five times in the New Testament. It is an important prediction. But even more clearly, I think in Isaiah Chapter 53, there the prophet spoke very plainly about the Messiah, the servant of the Lord, who would be rejected by his own people.
And so, Isaiah 53 begins with this question, “Lord, who has believed our message?” They're not believing. “Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him. Nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, and yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
Christ’s Rejection Complete
Now Jesus' repulsiveness comes to its maximum point on the cross when he is bleeding and dying. He is ultimately repulsive to the Jews. This can't be the King of the Jews, but it was. And so they hated him for it, though, this rejection was predicted. Now his rejection was complete. They took him out of the vineyard and threw him out. They threw him out of the vineyard. It was outside of the camp that they put all the refuse, you know? It says in Hebrews 13, that the blood of bulls and goats, the sacrifice is brought into the most holy place as an offering for sin, “but the bodies are burned outside the camp.” And so, Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his blood. So let us also join him outside the camp, bearing the reproach he bore. He was thrown out, rejected completely. You know, the law of Moses said, “You should make a place,” speaking to the nation of Israel, probably two million strong. “Make a place outside the camp, where you may go and relieve yourselves, lest I see and be disgusted, and turn away from you.” That's where the refuse goes. That's where the outcast and the lepers go, and Jesus was completely rejected by his own people. The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone.
For me, though, the most significant rejection of Christ wasn't by any of these human beings. It was really by God. In some mysterious, infinitely mysterious, way, God rejected Jesus too. Now this is not what this Psalm is talking about, but we should acknowledge it, because Jesus himself acknowledged it up on the cross, didn't he? Didn't He cry out, saying, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And so, in some infinitely mysterious way, God himself rejected Jesus.
And it's the Apostle Paul in Galatians 3 that tells us why and how it worked. Jesus, our sin bearer, took all of our nasty, wicked guilty sin on himself, and then God poured out his wrath. He made Jesus a curse. And so, it says in Galatians 3:13, “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who's hung on a tree.’” This, dear friends, is the stone the builders rejected. The most acceptable, the most beautiful, the purest man in history became the most rejected.
Has Become the Capstone
The Exaltation of Christ
Secondly, He has become the capstone. The stone that the builders rejected has become the capstone. This, dear friends, is the exaltation of Christ. He is exalted in this passage. He is made glorious, and who can measure that infinite journey that Jesus traveled from the pit, as it were, of hell on the cross, rejected under the wrath of God, to on the third day, being raised to life in a glorious resurrection body. And after a 40-day instruction period with the church, ascending through the atmosphere, higher and higher, until a cloud hides Jesus from their sight. And then the book of Hebrews takes over and tells us that he traveled through the heavenly realms, to the right hand of Almighty God, and sat down there at the place of ultimate honor in heaven. How can you measure the infinitude of that journey as he goes from ultimate rejection to ultimate exaltation?
Says in Ephesians 1, “God raised Christ from the dead, and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power, and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the Church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” That's how exalted this rejected stone is, that's how glorious he is.
Cornerstone or Capstone? Either Way...
Now, we have to deal with a little detail here. You may be asking, “is it capstone or is it cornerstone?” You may not, but it's my job, first, to get you to ask, “Is it capstone or is it cornerstone?” Which is it? Is he the cornerstone or is he the capstone? Frankly, the Hebrew goes either way. It's the “head of the corner,” that's what it says, and it's really hard to tell. And that's why these English translations always give you a footnote. They choose one and they give you the footnote on the other one, because nobody really knows. You know the ultimate answer is, it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter. I'll give you another verse. Okay. Jesus said in Revelation, “I am the Alpha and the Omega. The first and the last, the beginning in the end. I'm everything.”
Cornerstone: Indispensable and Uniting
And so, the cornerstone is that first foundational stone you lay and it's gotta be put in just the right position, and just right orientation, and it needs to get all the other stones started in the right direction or the whole thing's worthless. It's gotta be just right. It's a foundation stone on which everything is based. And so it says in Ephesians 2 in verse 20 and 21, that the church of Jesus Christ is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him, the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.” So there, Jesus is the cornerstone and you know how you see in some of these old stone buildings, there's this polished, beautiful stone with a date on it and inscription and all that. That's a ceremonial stone, but it's also a vital stone, the first one.
Capstone: Infinitely Lofty and Majestic
Or is he the capstone? Think about an arch, and there's the keystone in the middle and it holds all the weight pressing in on that keystone. Anybody here from Pennsylvania? It's the Keystone State, they tell us. You got the northern colonies and the southern colonies and there's Pennsylvania, in the middle, as the keystone holding the whole thing together. I don't know if that's true or not, but that's what they claim for themselves. I'm not saying it isn't true, but all I'm saying is that this architectural image, and it holds the weight and distributes the weight and it's just the keystone in the entire arch. And generally, it would be decorated, maybe made beautiful with some carvings or some other things, it's a vital stone.
The Soaring Majesty of Christ
Now, which is Jesus? Hey, whatever gives him the most glory, that's what he is. He's the beginning, he's the last. He is everything. He is the Alpha and the Omega. In any case the one who was rejected has become infinitely lofty and majestic. And so, how wrong were the buildings to reject him? The soaring majesty of Christ, the very one that the builders rejected as worthless, the equivalent of dung to be set outside the camp, he has become the most important stone in the entire edifice. The builders rejected him, but God exalted him.
The Lord Has Done This
The Sovereign Plan of God: Both Sides
That brings us to the third. “The Lord has done this,” it says. This is the direct work of Almighty God. It's something God has done. The Lord has done this. The sovereign plan of God, and I say it is sovereign, it is the plan of God on both sides of the equation. The stone the builders rejected, that's the first half, has become the capstone, now that's the second half. The Lord has done both of them, both of them. Now, what do you mean? Well, I say that God, in his sovereign plan, ordained that the Jews would reject their own Messiah. He set it about, it was their destiny to do so. I do not shrink back from this language because this is the very language that the Apostle Peter uses in 1 Peter 2, quoting this exact same text.
In 1 Peter 2, he's saying, now this stone, to you who believe, is glorious, “but to those who do not believe, ‘the stone the builders rejected has become the capstone,’ and ‘a stone that causes them to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.’ They stumble because they disobey the message - which is also what they were destined for.” Now, I don't know if I can persuade you how they can be destined to reject their own Messiah, and God still condemn them for it, and he can. Those depths, I don't know that I have enough brain power to plumb, but I know that this is what the Bible teaches. God's was the plan and theirs was the sin, but God did this. He set apart Christ as his very own, and had him born into the context of Israel, and ordained that Israel would reject him. The stone the builders rejected. The Lord has done this.
Now, they said the exact same thing in Acts chapter 4, when after Jesus had been crucified, third day rose again, ascended into heaven, sends forth the Holy Spirit of God. Pentecost comes. The church explodes out of the streets of Jerusalem, 3,000 people come to faith in Christ. The Church is just moving. At that point, the Sanhedrin gets involved. Peter and John do a healing. They give Peter and John a warning not to preach or teach at all in the name of Jesus. They do some more healings, they bring in all the apostles, and they warn them again not to preach or teach at all in the name of Jesus, and they beat them. They are rejecting Christ and his messengers. And in the middle of all of that, they have a prayer meeting. Peter and John go back, and they have this prayer meeting, and they gather the church together and they talk about the threats and all that. And this is what they prayed. “Indeed, Herod and Pontius Pilate,” this is Acts 4:27-28, “Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and with the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did,” listen. “They did what your power and will had determined beforehand should happen.” That is my faith, friends. That's the faith of the Bible, that God does this, the rejection, and the Lord also does, dear friends, the exaltation. The exaltation.
Only God Can Exalt Christ
God willed that the church of Jesus Christ be built only by His sovereign power. It's not by the plans and schemes of religious leaders. They were the ones that rejected Him. Not by the plans and schemes of political and military leaders like Pontius Pilate or the emperor Caesar. They were the very ones that persecuted the church for two centuries, after the death of Christ, three centuries. Not by the philosophies of men, for the philosophers of Mars Hill in Athens scorned the message of the resurrection, and mocked it. Not by any of these things, not by power, not by might, but by my spirit, says the Lord. So, the elders of this church, ministerial staff, we can make all the plans we want. Unless the Lord builds this house, we will labor in vain. Amen? We need the Lord at work at First Baptist Church. We need him to exalt Christ in our midst. I asked, and I prayed this morning, I said, “Lord, exalt Christ through this sermon. Make him appear glorious and majestic.” Because my words aren't enough. Only the Lord can build this church.
It Is Marvelous in our Eyes
Fourth part. “The Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.” There are four key figures in this quote; the stone, and that's Christ, the builders who rejected the stone, those are the Jewish religious leaders. The Lord has done this, that is God, the Father. And it is marvelous in our eyes, that's you and me, dear friends. We are the audience of this grand and glorious sovereign plan of God. We get to watch it. We get to look and see what God has done. And it is sweetly marvelous in my eyes. Oh how delightful it is.
Wonder and Be Amazed!
Wonder and be amazed. The point of all of this is worship, that your hearts would be moved from stone cold hardness to sweet affection for Christ, and loyalty to him, and love for him. That you will spend eternity gazing at the stone that the builders rejected.
Spending Eternity Gazing at this Marvel
And he will have enough in his infinite person, and his great achievements, to call forth from you a river of praise for all eternity. And not just you, but people from all over the world will be doing. We're gonna be on our faces, dear friends. We're gonna be falling down before Jesus' glory, and we are going to be praising and offering worship to him for all eternity.
Warnings, Exhortations, and Encouragements
Marvel in the Glory and Attractiveness of Christ
How can we conclude? How can we apply this? Well, I wanna begin by just urging you to marvel at the glories of Jesus. “The Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.” Is it marvelous to you? Do you see his appeal, his attractiveness? Earlier, we sang one of my favorite hymns. “Jesus, I am resting, resting.” It was Hudson Taylor's favorite hymn. And he was in the midst of a terrible trial in China, and suffering and there was no let up in sight, and he was humming this very hymn. “Jesus, I am resting, resting.” And somebody was insulted. “How can you hum and whistle during this time, when all this is going on?” He said, “It's precisely because all this is going on that I wanna rest in Jesus.”
“Jesus, I am resting, resting, in the joy of what thou art. ... I am finding out the greatness of thy loving heart.” Are you finding out how great is his love for you? “Thou has bid me gaze upon thee and thy beauty fills my soul. For by the transforming power, thou has made me whole.” I can scarcely go over these words without tears coming to my eyes, because I think about the greatness of Jesus' love for me, a sinner. And that he has transformed me and made me whole. I was broken. I was dead in transgressions and sins and now I'm alive. And now I love Jesus and I love God the Father. “Simply trusting thee, Lord Jesus, I behold thee as thou art, And thy love, so pure, so changeless, satisfies my heart; satisfies its deepest longings, meets, supplies its every need. Compasses me around with blessings.” This is love. “Thine is love indeed.”
Jesus satisfies, dear friends. Whatever idols you're playing with right now, they don't. And if you're a Christian, you know it better than you used to know it. There is no idol that can satisfy your heart. Jesus can satisfy. Is this stone the builders rejected marvelous in your eyes? Is he marvelous seven days a week? Is he marvelous when you're toying with sin? Is he marvelous all the time? It's the essence of the exaltation of Jesus as the stone is the worship he receives from grateful sinners all over the world. Come to him. Look to him. I'm speaking even to Christians. You may have been a Christian for four or five decades. Come again to Jesus and gaze at him and let him satisfy your deepest longings. Don't run after sin. Don't run after the world. Don't run after power or money or sex or anything else. Run after Jesus and let him satisfy you.
Warning to the Unbeliever
Secondly, I must give, tenderly, a warning to the unbeliever. I don't know your spiritual state, I can't see by your faces. I see that there's some guests here today. I welcome you. I'm glad you're here, but can I give you a tender warning not to reject Christ like they did? Look at verse 44, right in the text. “He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but the one on whom it falls will be crushed.” Now, I thought about this, and I said, “What would I rather? Would I rather be broken in pieces or crushed?” Answer is, neither one. I don't wanna fall on Jesus. And I think, by that, it means like the authority figures seize him to arrest Him, lay hands on him to stop him. That's what his enemies were about to do. They were going to arrest Jesus, kind of fall upon him and seize him. And he says, if you do that, you will be broken to pieces.
And it's going on today. Even though Jesus is up at the right hand of God, there are still people trying to lay hands on Jesus to stop him. It could be presidents of countries who are making decisions that are ungodly. It could be political leaders that are doing it. It could be all, it could be in this country to the ends of the earth. It could be tyrants in Africa or in South America or in Asia, that are openly opposing the Gospel, but they're trying to lay hands on Jesus through his people. “Saul, Saul, Why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” “I am Jesus, the one you're persecuting.” They're trying to lay hands on Jesus. He said, he's giving them a warning. “Be warned, you rulers of the earth. Don't try to lay hands on me because if you do, you'll be broken to pieces.”
Alright. Well, what about the one on whom he falls will be crushed? Well, the word literally, in the Greek, means ground to powder. You get a picture of like a millstone, grinding something until it's just a dust. That's what the Greek word means. And I just, in my mind, I go back to Daniel chapter 2, when King Nebuchadnezzar, the most powerful man on earth, had a dream. And in that dream, he saw a statue. And the statue had a head of gold, and chest and arms of silver, and belly and thighs of bronze, and legs of iron, and feet partly iron, partly clay. And while he was watching, a stone was cut out, but not by human hands. And that stone flew through the space, I guess, and came and struck that statue on its feet of clay, and smashed it. And then the gold and the silver, and the bronze, and the iron and the clay, all of it were smashed to pieces and became like dust on the threshing floor. Then a wind blew it all away and there was not a trace left.
The interpretation is clear. It's a transfer of power from one government leader to the next, from the Babylonians to the Middle Persians, to the Greeks, to the Romans, to whatever followed the Romans. Someday, there's gonna be the stone that's gonna come and it's gonna smash it all, and it will all be gone, blown away without a trace. He on whom it falls will be crushed. If the time of the coming of Christ, you are his enemy, you will be crushed. Speaking of the second coming of Christ and judgement day, when he comes to set up a kingdom that will last forever and ever, Oh, how sweetly glorious it will be, to be in a right relationship with Christ when he comes again. But if you're not, he is a dreadful enemy. “He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but the one on whom it falls will be crushed.” Come to Christ then. Come to him and trust in him, and be not his enemy, but be his beloved son or daughter.
Encouragement to the Oppressed
A couple of more words of encouragement and I'll be done. If you're going through a hard time, if you're oppressed, if you're feeling rejected, you're going through things, there is no one who knows how you feel like Jesus. Your rejection is as nothing compared to his, but he is compassionate. He knows what it's like to be tempted, just as you are. Come to Him. Let him refresh you and renew you. Let him tell you how it turned out for him. He's doing fine. He's at the right hand of God. He is eternally happy and blessed, and so will you be in him. Dispel the shadows of discouragement and doubt and rejection by looking to Christ and realizing that if you're in him, you'll be just fine. And if I can urge you, just as believers in Christ, worship this stone. May he be marvelous in your sight. If he's not so marvelous to you today, if you can't wait for the sermon to be over, if you can't wait to go do some other thing, beware of idols and see if the stone is as marvelous in your sight as it should be. And if not, then repent, really. And say, “Lord, take the idols from me. I wanna see you, I wanna be melted by you. I want you to satisfy my deepest longings again, like you used to.”
Bringing Forth the Fruit of the Kingdom
And then finally, if I can urge you to just as the bent of this whole passage is, bring forth the fruit of the kingdom, both within the walls of this church through the kingdom. It is just helping others in their walk with Christ. Encourage them. Lift each other's burdens. Pray for each other. Love each other. Don't be strangers to each other. Get involved in ministry here, get involved in Home Fellowship, Bible for Life class. Find out how people are doing. Shoulder their burdens and pray for them. Bring forth fruit within the walls of this church. And then let's go out into the streets. Let's go to 27701, right around here. Let's do this mission trip. Thursday evening prayer, Friday, serving in various ways. Saturday, a cook out, and reaching out. Let's see if we can save someone by the power of the gospel. See if we can reach out and be useful to God. The stone the builders rejected, well, he's up in heaven now. He's at the right hand of Almighty God, and he will be glorified for all eternity for what he did. Close with me in prayer.