The Stone the Builders Rejected Has Become the Cornerstone (Mark Sermon 60)
September 10, 2023 | Andy Davis
Glory of God, Exaltation of Christ
Jesus is the cornerstone in the eternal temple of the living God. The sinful men who despise and reject this stone are doomed to be destroyed.
- SERMON TRANSCRIPT -
"The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” The Lord has done this and it is marvelous in our eyes. Today's text, if you look at it in a certain way, is effectively the story of two builders and their differing perspectives on building. Their differences, immeasurably deep and profound, though it manifests itself in a simple controversy over proper building materials or a proper building material, a single stone that one builder hates and rejects, but the other builder delights in, chooses, and establishes. The two builders in this scenario are sinful man on the one side and Almighty God on the other. Their philosophies of architecture are radically opposed to each other.
Sinful man builds a building and so does God. Sinful man builds for his own glory and God builds for His own glory. The building projects go on day after day. Both sinful man and Almighty God add daily to their buildings and their architectural glories are in direct contradiction to each other. One of those buildings will sink back down into the dust from which it came and the wind will blow it away like chaff as though it was never there at all. But the other building will shine, will radiate with the glory of God for all eternity. Almighty God in his wisdom has chosen to make his only begotten son, Jesus Christ, despised and rejected, the head of the corner or the chief cornerstone of his entire building project. Day after day, this building rises, built out of other living stones, quarried and shaped to fit the cornerstone.
"Almighty God in his wisdom has chosen to make his only begotten son, Jesus Christ, despised and rejected, the head of the corner or the chief cornerstone of his entire building project."
When the last living stone is set in its proper place according to the plans of the eternal architect, the chosen stone will also be in some mysterious way, the capstone, the completing stone, as it was also the cornerstone. Every stone in it will glow with his glory. Sinful man having despised and rejected this stone builds every day for his own glory by his own principles, with his own building materials, his thoughts, his preferences, his achievements, his choices, his tastes, his lusts, his styles, his drives, his ambitions, and so the building of sinful man rises. It's outwardly impressive, in some sense, but it is ultimately doomed for it is built on the temporary sand of sinful man's own rebellious wisdom, and the storm will come and it will beat on it and it will fall with a great crash.
Habakkuk 2 describes these two building projects in direct contradiction to each other and Habakkuk 2:11-14 says, "The stones of the wall will cry out and the beams of the woodwork will echo it. Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and establishes a town by crime. Has not the Lord Almighty determined that the people's labor is only fuel for the fire that the nation's exhaust themselves for nothing?" As the nations are building their empires out of their own effort, God says they're exhausting themselves for nothing. It's only fuel for the fire, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. That's God's building project. So we have two builders, two approaches to architecture. One destined to stand in glory forever, the other doomed to be destroyed, blown away like chaff in the wind.
Now, the question for every individual member of the human race is this, which of these two buildings are you investing your life in? What are you building? I've seen some magnificent buildings in my life. I've had the privilege of traveling various places and seen some stunning displays of human ingenuity and architecture. Architecture is an interesting discipline, a fascinating discipline, a combination of science and art. Science because the building needs to be sound in its construction principles, needs to be built well on a solid foundation, needs to rise by tried and true technologies of engineering with structural members on which everything else is based so that it will stand strong supporting its own weight, surviving wind and weather, erosion and earthquakes, and years of subjection to sunlight and water. It must have wise provision for heat and venting and air conditioning, also plumbing and electricity now and walls and doorways that meet building codes.
It needs to be soundly built, but it also needs to be beautiful, I think. I've seen some really ugly buildings that stood behind the Iron Curtain. It seemed like they were designed to suck the life out of anyone that looked at them. Talk about form and function, it was nothing but function and ugly in form. It was intended to be so. You want there to be an art to the architecture, light, color, a space that captures the heart while it supports the body physically. Every great culture has expressed its greatness, at least in part, through its architecture, its great buildings. Five of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World were displays of architecture. The Great Pyramid of Giza, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus, the Lighthouse of Alexandria, the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus. They all sought to proclaim the greatness of the cultures that built them, but since all flesh is grass and all its glory is like the flowers of the field, the glories are here today, God blows on them and they wither and the wind blows them away like chaff. God has determined that the glories of man, including the stacking up of stones one on top of the other, will eventually be toppled and sink back down, as Jesus said of the temple, "Not one stone here will be left on another."
For me, personally, what are the most impressive buildings I've ever seen? Oh, of course, this one here that we're in, definitely. Well, what are my seven wonders of the modern world? It's objective, of course. I was speaking at a pastor's conference in Chicago last year and they took me on a river tour of the skyline of Chicago, and it was very impressive. Lots of steel and glass and crown jewels, building formerly known as Sears Tower, they still call it Sears Tower though Sears sold it a long time ago. It's impressive, shiny and beautiful. I've seen the Great Wall of China, Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, the United States Capitol Building, Washington D.C., London Bridge, the Louvre Art Museum, the Eiffel Tower. Those are impressive. Four years ago, April 15th, 2019, I was saddened to hear the fire that attacked the cathedral at Notre Dame. I was sad about that. I know that they're refurbishing it, but it's not the same when it gets rebuilt, but it's a reminder to me, again, everything man builds is temporary.
The text that we're studying today points, along with other passages, to a work of spiritual architecture that will never be destroyed. This morning, we're going to look at one small passage, but I'm going to use it as a portal, a doorway to go through into something much bigger, and I want to use it to meditate in an extended fashion with you on the greatness of Jesus Christ. That's what I'm about today. "The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone. The Lord has done this and it is marvelous in our eyes." It is one of the most significant Old Testament prophecies about Christ.
It's cited by Jesus here in this debate with his enemies. It's cited again by Peter and John in Acts 4 in their controversy with the exact same men, the exact same enemies as they boldly proclaim the Gospel. It's cited again by Peter in his epistle in 1 Peter 2. And as a matter of fact, I would urge you to turn there. Put your finger here on Mark and turn also to 1 Peter 2 because we're going to be leaning on it to get some of our information today. This passage, "the stone the builders rejected, et cetera", is a magnificent image of a building rising from its perfect beginning, from its perfect foundation, to its perfect consummation, the true temple of God in which God will dwell with his people in glory forever. It is eternal and heavenly architecture, the foundation laid by Christ's perfect life and substitutionary death. The wall's made up of living stones, that's us Christians quarried from Satan's dark kingdom, and positioned in walls of a rising spiritual structure, a true spiritual temple in which God dwells and will dwell by his spirit.
Ephesians 2 talks about this, I know you're in 1 Peter 2 and I'll get to that in a moment, but Ephesians 2:19-22 says, "You are no longer foreigners and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household 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 dwelling, to become a holy temple in the Lord, and in him, you two are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his spirit.” So you've got this holy spiritual temple rising, rising now, and it's a place that God dwells and will dwell by his spirit. Again, in the passage in 1 Peter 2:4-5, the same illusion, "As you come to him, the living stone rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him. You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” This is the true and eternal architecture, the eternal temple of the living God, which is rising right now by souls that are being won to Christ through evangelism and missions all over the world. Rising now, though we cannot see it, it's built on the foundation laid by Jesus Christ, but it all starts with him as that first stone, the cornerstone, the foundation of everything.
I. Context of the Story
The context of this statement in Mark's Gospel, it was the final week of Jesus' life. He has already ridden in triumph into the city to cries of "Hosanna!" and "Blessed is the coming kingdom of our Father, David," and all that. That was the high point emotionally. From then on would come Jesus' final descent down to the cross, his humiliation, the consummation of that infinite downward journey of his humiliation described in Philippians 2, “Jesus, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant being made in human likeness and being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross.” That downward journey is on display in the final week of Jesus' life and that's where we're at in Mark's Gospel. Central to this downward journey was his increasingly sharp conflict with his human enemies, the chief priests, elders, teachers of the law, the Pharisees. His human enemies are surrounding him. He had already made a mortal enemy of the high priest, the real high priest, Annas, whose business He impinged on twice by cleansing the temple, when He overturned the benches of the money changers and those selling doves and says, "Take these out of here. How dare you turn my father's house into a marketplace? My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations. You've made it a den of thieves."
The next day, Jesus continued his teaching ministry right in that location in the temple, taking it over, teaching, healing, ministering. His enemies come back, the priests and Scribes and Pharisees come to challenge him with controversial questions trying to trap him into a fatal error with his mouth. They challenged him with the question of his authority. What authority did He have the right to do these things? By what authority? Cleansing of the temple, his teaching of the people, all of that, "Who are you to do these things?" Jesus challenged them back with a question about John the Baptist's authority. Where did he get his authority to do his baptism? Where did that come from? "You answer me, then I'll answer you." They wouldn't answer him so He didn't answer them. Then He told them, as we studied last week, the Parable of the Tenant Farmers, the wicked tenant farmers, how God expected fruit, and represents, I think, Israel, the people of God. It represents them and He sent messengers, prophets to them, and they just killed them, et cetera. Ultimately, he sent his son. "They'll respect my son," he said. But when they saw the son, they said, "Look, this is the heir. Let's kill him, and the inheritance will be ours,” meaning the vineyard. So they took him and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard.
Jesus interpreted the parable in light of their imminent rejection and murder of the son of God, himself. He finished with the allusion to this Old Testament prophecy, "Have you never read in the scripture the stone the builders rejected has become the capstone. The Lord has done this and it is marvelous in our eyes." So that's where we're at in Mark's Gospel, and that's what we're going to consider today. This one prophecy is so rich I believe it's worthy of our entire attention this morning. It's a direct quotation of Psalm 118 : 22-23, and I desire to unfold it.
This is my simple interpretation. The stone is Jesus Christ. The builders are the Jewish leaders. The rejection of Christ shows that they're directly opposing God in their rejection, for the stone that they reject, God makes the chief cornerstone or the head of the corner, a chosen, strategically placed stone. The text says, "The Lord has done this." So the Jewish leaders’ rejection of Jesus is directly in contradiction to God's intentions, God's estimation, God's selection of him to be the head of the corner. The psalmist says, "The Lord has done this and it is marvelous in our eyes." Therefore, it is worthy of worship, it is worthy of us marveling over it, and that's what I think we've assembled to do this morning, is to marvel at Jesus. I'm using this one concept, the stone the village rejected as a portal through which to contemplate some of the marvels of Jesus Christ.
It's mysterious. How is Jesus like a stone? What does that mean? What does the head of the corner mean? In Hebrew, what does that mean? How is this placement of Jesus celebrated in the Bible? All of these questions and others came into my ever questioning mind, my engineering mind, my verbal mind. I won't deny that it wasn't accidental that I ended up with a bunch of Ps in the outline. If you look at the outline, all right, you'll see the list of where we haven't even begun to start yet this morning. There you've got all of these P’s: a predestined stone, a prophesied stone, a perfect and perfected stone, a rejected stone, there's no P for that one, a precious stone, a position stone, a permanent stone, proclaimed, pattern, praise, and I thought of one more, paradoxical. We'll get to that in due time.
But I feel okay with it because in Psalm 119, the psalmist does it with the success of letters of the Hebrew alphabet, eight verses on “aleph”, eight verses on “beth”, eight verses on “gimel”. I don't usually do it. I know it seems a little gimmicky. The other day, I was with a good friend at one of my favorite restaurant coffee shops around here, and the servers brought us a tray with a bunch of samples on it of a new product that they were rolling out. I took it and popped it in my mouth, it was delicious and that was it. That's what this sermon's going to be like, a sampler. So let's walk through.
II. A Predestined Stone
First, Jesus is a predestined stone, predestined. God planned this whole thing from eternity past. The blueprint was laid in the mind of God before He said, "Let there be light.” This is no new thing for God. God is the architect that made the blueprint. He figured all of this out. He knew that He wanted a spiritual temple in which He would dwell forever with his people in intimate connection with them. He knew that his people would be essential to that dwelling place. They would make it up in effect as themselves living stones. He figured all of this out, that his only begotten son would be the head of the corner or the chief cornerstone, et cetera. Peter tells us he was predestined for this role. Look at verse 4 of 1 Peter 2, "As you come to him, the living stone rejected by men but chosen by God." That's implied in the Psalm 118 quote, the Lord has done this. This is God's plan, God's purpose. Also, two verses later in 1 Peter 2:6, “For in scripture it says, ‘Behold I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone.’" So He is chosen for this role.
These verses tell us that Jesus was chosen for the role but doesn't say when. But Peter tells us that in the previous chapter, 1 Peter 1:20, that “He was chosen before the creation of the world."You look at it right there in First Peter 1:20, "chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.” That's what I mean by predestined. All of this is consistent with the biblical doctrine of predestination. Ephesians 1:4-5 says, “God chose us in him before the creation of the world, [him being Christ], to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love, he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ in accordance with his pleasure and will.” Also, Second Timothy 1:9 says, "This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.” Before the beginning of time, this whole thing was worked out. He is the predestined stone, predestined cornerstone, part of a blueprint that God worked out in his mind before time began.
III. The Prophesied Stone
Secondly, he's the prophesied stone. Not only did God choose and predestine and work all this out in his mind, He rolled out his ideas of it ahead of time through the prophets. He told the prophets what would happen and the prophets proclaimed it to the world. They prophesied it, they predicted it. So we get Psalm 118, verse 22-23, "The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone. The Lord has done this and is marvelous in our eyes." Jesus quoted it. Jesus thought, “Have you never read like in your synagogues on the Sabbath? Haven't you read this Psalm, Psalm 118? Of course, you have." Who wrote Psalm 118? It's not titled. If you look at it, it's not titled, but, traditionally, logically, in the psalter, in its position in the psalter, it's ascribed to King David. That would've been 1,000 years before Christ, 1,000 years. "The stone the builders rejected, it has become the capstone." David was prophesying. He's a prophet as he wrote the psalm. God prophesied these things about Christ ahead of time so that his chosen people could read the prophecies that predated him by 1,000 and know it was all true. It's a sense it is validation of our faith. He's the prophesied stone.
IV. A Perfect and Perfected Stone
He's also a perfect and perfected stone, perfect and also perfected. What does that mean? First of all, He's already perfect, flawless, morally pure, but that perfection was not formed or fashioned by man. He is flawless. 1 Peter 2, same chapter verse 22 says, "He committed no sin and there was no deceit in his mouth.” He was a perfect man. Jesus' perfection was not the work of other people. It certainly wasn't the work of Joseph and Mary. They were really great parents and did a really great job raising him, but no, not at all. They were godly people, but his perfection was not because of their great parenting.
There is a picture of this, if you know what to look for. As a requirement, the stones used for the altar and for the building of the temple were not to be formed or fashioned by chisel and hammer on the work site. It's very interesting. Exodus 20:25, "If you make an altar of stones for me, do not build it with dress stones for you'll defile it if you use a tool on it." 1 Kings 6:7, Solomon's Temple, "In building the temple, only blocks dressed at the quarry were used and no hammer, chisel, or any other iron tool was heard at the temple site while it was being built." Why this little detail? Because Christ was not formed or fashioned by human ingenuity or power. It's a picture of the work of God in the perfection of Christ. We also have this in Daniel 2 with the image of human history of the statue in Nebuchadnezzar's mind that had feet of clay. The whole thing is destroyed by a stone, we're told, cut out but not by human hands that struck the statue on its feet of clay and destroyed it and turned the whole thing to chaff.
Hence, my earlier comments as I introduced this sermon saying, everything man built will turn into chaff and the wind's going to blow it away without leaving a trace. But the stone that struck it became a huge mountain that filled the whole earth representing the kingdom of Christ, and it's called "a stone cut out but not by human hands." His perfection was his own and yet He was perfected by his sufferings, we're told. The author of Hebrew tells us, Hebrews 5:8-9, "Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and once made perfect became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him." Wow, what a mysterious assertion. Jesus was made perfect by his sufferings to be our mediator, our savior. As I meditate on that, it doesn't mean there was any imperfection in Jesus, but He had to go through the suffering and death on the cross to save us. So I would look at “made perfect” as “qualified by his sufferings." By his suffering He was qualified to save us. By the shedding of his blood, He was made a perfect savior, a mediator for us. That's what I think of as “made perfect.” He was fitted to be the foundation stone by his suffering and death. Therefore, the stone the builders rejected, their rejection of him was essential to him being made perfect to be our savior. So Jesus was both perfect and perfected stone.
V. A Rejected Stone
He is also a rejected stone, as I just said a moment ago. There is no P for this. Therefore, it really sticks out, doesn't it? How could such a man be rejected? Stunning. But, actually, most people that know and hear about Jesus reject him. It's actually normal, but it's still bizarre. "The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone." The Jewish nation officially rejected Jesus. "Led by these builders, he was despised and rejected," it says in Isaiah 53. John 1:11, "He came to his own and his own did not receive him." Officially, on his trial before the high priest, Matthew 26:65-67, "The high priest tore his clothes and said, 'He has spoken blasphemy. Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you've heard the blasphemy. What do you think?' 'He's worthy of death,' they all answered. Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists.” That's them rejecting Jesus, officially rejecting him. How astounding that He would be rejected. This speaks to the perversion of the sinful mind. Jesus was God incarnate. He was love incarnate. He was kindness incarnate, goodness incarnate, mercy incarnate.
He did a river of healings for the people. Why did they hate him? The sinful mind steeped in darkness hated him, rejected him. The sinful mind is twisted and perverted by sin and evil. It loves what is hateful and hates what is lovely. It puts darkness for light and light for darkness. It puts bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. It calls wickedness righteousness and righteousness wickedness. It is fundamental. It is essential to sin, this rejection of goodness, this rejection of God. It's at the core of our wickedness. We are commanded to love God with all of our heart, with all of our soul, with all of our mind, all of our strength, and we actually hate him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength until we are converted, steeped in sin. Jesus was the rejected stone.
VI. The Precious Stone
But Jesus is the precious stone. Rejected by men, but precious. Chosen by God and precious to him, we're told. The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone. The Lord has done this and is marvelous in our eyes. Look at 1 Peter 2:4, "As you come to him, the living stone rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him." What does that mean, “precious"? Precious means “unspeakably valuable.” How can you properly measure the worth and value of Jesus Christ? One way to get at it is Romans 8:32. So you know, God the Father, ”He who did not spare his own son but gave him up for us all, how will we not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” That puts everything that God had to give in two categories, his own son and all things. That would be everything other than Jesus. The entire universe, physical and spiritual, lays before him because He made it all, He owns it all, and He says, "Of these, what's really precious to me is my only begotten son and I gave him for you. Therefore, how would I not also, along with him, graciously give you everything else?" That means, in God's estimation, Jesus is more precious than everything else in the universe.
"That means, in God's estimation, Jesus is more precious than everything else in the universe."
And isn't it amazing that now He's precious to us too? Look at 1 Peter 2:7, "Now, to you who believe the stone is precious." How beautiful is that, “precious to God”, in verse 4, 1 Peter 2, precious to us who believe.
How did that happen? Is it not because of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives? Do you not give credit to the Holy Spirit for making Jesus precious to you? How many of you could testify right now that Jesus is precious to you? How many of you be willing to say, be able to say, "Jesus is precious to me,” ? You might've been converted a week ago and you would be able to say, "Jesus is precious to me." You might've been a Christian for 50 years and you'd be able to say, "Jesus is precious to me." Those would say, "Jesus is more precious to me now than when I was first converted."
The more I study him, the more precious He becomes to me, and the more you study his preciousness, his value, his worth, the more you feel you've just begun to scratch the surface. Give him the credit and the glory. Thank him for your salvation. You are surrounded every day by people who are familiar with Jesus, who know some things about him, and He's not precious. They're rejecting him. But not you. How did that come about, dear brother and sister? Is it not because the Holy Spirit sovereignly worked grace in your life? Is it not because He took out your heart of stone and gave you a heart of flesh and made Jesus precious to you?
What does that word mean, “precious”? Charles Spurgeon, meditating on this, said, "Something is precious because it's rare, and because it has intrinsic value to it, and because of its beneficial qualities.” Jesus is rare. He is utterly unique in the universe. He is the only begotten son of God. We're all adopted children of God. He's the only begotten. He's unique. He's the God-man. He has intrinsic value because in him dwells the fullness of the deity in bodily form. And one of his beneficial qualities, Spurgeon put it this way, "He is eyes to the blind. He is ears to the deaf. He is feet for the lame. He is healing to the sick. He is freedom to the slave. He is joy to the mourner. He is life to the dead. Think of his life and how it gives life to the believer. Think of his death and how it redeems from hell all those who trust in him. Think of his resurrection and how it justifies believers. Think of his second coming and how it delights our hearts. Think of our Lord in all of his offices of prophet, priest, and king. Think of him in all his relationships as husband, brother, and friend. Is he not precious to you?”
VII. A Positioned Stone
He is also a positioned stone. He is positioned by God as the foundation to the entire building. Everything's based on him. Cornerstones are laid first. Everything else finds its orientation based on the cornerstone. The angles must be perfect. Let's imagine that the architect wants a 90 degree angle. If it's 89 or if it's 91 and you measure out over 200 feet, you're going to be off by three feet or more. It's got to be just right. It's a cornerstone. Everything is based on him. He's positioned as the foundation. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 3:11, "No one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ." Everything's based on him, his death, his resurrection.
VIII. A Permanent Stone
Therefore, He's a permanent stone. He's laid for all eternity, He cannot be moved. Stones have immense weight and compressive strength. You can stack stone upon stone upon stone and make a big building. There's that sense of permanence with Jesus. He is positioned permanently, and He is more permanent than the universe itself. It's hard to believe, but it is really true. Hebrews 1:10-12 says, "In the beginning, oh Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth and the heavens of the work of your hand. They will perish, but you remain. They all wear out like a garment. You'll roll them up like a robe. Like a garment, they will be changed, but you remain the same and your years will never end." Speaking to Jesus, He's more permanent than the universe. The finished work of Christ on the cross cannot be undone. He is permanent foundation for the eternal dwelling place of God. "Heaven and earth," Jesus said, "will pass away, but my words will never pass away." Therefore, also, everyone who builds his or her life based on the words and work of Christ, it will last for eternity, the things you are building. At the end of the Sermon of the Mount, Jesus says, "Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and puts the into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. Rains came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, but it did not fall because it had its foundation on the rock." Your work will be permanent too if it's based on Christ and on his words. "But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on the sand, and the rains came down and the streams rose and the winds blew and beat against that house and it fell with a great crash.” [Matthew7:24-27] That's somebody who does not obey the word and builds on sand.
IX. A Proclaimed Stone
Jesus is also a proclaimed stone. I'm doing it right now. I'm proclaiming the greatness of Christ. I'm preaching him. He is proclaimed throughout the world, proclaimed in scripture, and He's proclaimed by preachers who go and proclaim the greatness of Christ, and in that proclamation, people hear and believe and are saved. 1 Peter 2:6 says, "Behold I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame."
So as this proclamation is going out around the world, people are hearing and trusting and they are built on that foundation. Peter and John give a very good example of this in Acts 4. It's one of my favorite parts of the Book of Acts. They heal a lame beggar. He's walking and leaping and praising God and all that, and they come and arrest Peter and John and haul them up in front of the exact same human enemies that had condemned Jesus. Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, spoke to these wicked enemies of Jesus these words, "Rulers and elders of the people, if we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel, it is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed." Now listen to this. It's my favorite part, "He is the stone you builders rejected which has become the capstone. Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." [Acts 4:7-12] Do you see what Peter did to the quote? He changed it a little bit. I've been reading it out of Psalm 118, "The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone." Peter said, "The stone you builders rejected..." in case you missed it, filled with the Holy Spirit, he applied it to Jesus's enemies. But he's saying, "Salvation is found in no one else and that's how we get saved. That's how our sins are forgiven, by the proclamation of this cornerstone."
X. A Pattern Stone
He is also a pattern stone. Jesus is the first of a vast sequence of similar stones. Look at 1 Peter 2:4-7, "As you come to him, the living stone rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him, you also like living stones are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in scripture it says, 'Behold I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trust in him will never be put to shame now to you who believe the stone is precious.’" So, by believing Jesus becomes precious, you become instantly like him, a living stone.
XI. A Paradoxical Stone
Now I'm going to insert another P in here, and that is a paradoxical stone. What does that mean? “Paradox” means, it's “internally mysteriously, contradictory”. By dying, we live. By living, we die. This kind of thing. Do you not see the paradox of a living stone? Think about it. Don't we use stones as an example of things that are dead, that are not alive? Dead as a stone or stone dead, something like that? But here Jesus is a living stone. I was on another bike ride and I was thinking about that phrase, living stone. How is a stone living? What does that mean? And I don't know for sure, but let me tell you some guesses. I think stones not just are pictures of deadness, but they're also pictures of permanence and unchanging nature. They just are what they are. If something's engraved in stone, it never changes. If something's rock solid, it has a solid foundation. It doesn't move. So I think it's a sense of Jesus's permanence and immutability, but tied to his life. He's eternally alive. As Romans says, "Since he died, he cannot die again. Death no longer has any mastery over him." He's alive forever. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. What he was yesterday, he will be today and he will be forever.
And you can count on him. He never changes. He's rock solid. You can build on him. He's alive and gives you life. The giving of life will keep on happening. He's a living stone. You also become like him, living stones. That's pretty cool too because you are positioned in a wall of the rising spiritual temple in which God will dwell forever. You're positioned there in a place, I believe, through predestination. You're the only one that could have been positioned there. That place was made for you. Imagine, not that anyone would ever do this, a 100,000 piece jigsaw puzzle. Imagine someone with the diligence and discipline to do a 100,000 piece jigsaw puzzle and there's one piece missing. Let's imagine it's a real type-A person. That person's not going to shrug and say, "Oh, well, we got most of it." What are they going to do, friends? They're going to search until they find that missing piece, aren't they, because that piece can't be replaced. It's got a certain contour, certain shape. It's got certain colors on it. It's the only one that can go there. Didn't Jesus tell a story about a woman who lost a coin and she looked everywhere and everywhere until she found that coin? So we also, like Jesus, are positioned in a certain place in the wall that only we could have filled and God will not rest until all of his chosen people, Ephesians 1 says "chosen in him before the foundation of the world", are positioned like him in our proper place in the wall. It's pretty awesome when you think about it.
Now, with this, we have a bit of a translation problem. Is Jesus the cornerstone or the capstone? Have you ever wondered about that? Now, which is it? They are different. The one is the beginning stone and the other is the ending stone. One of them starts the whole thing and the other one finishes it or consummate it. The Hebrew is "head of the corner". KJV brings it over to “chief cornerstone”. He's the head of all the corner, that kind of thing. He's the chief. So people have wondered, are we talking the foundation, the cornerstone foundation stone, or the capstone the consummate? Why not both, friends? I'll tell you what, let's go both, because Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. He is the beginning of this whole structure, and He will end it. And every living stone in between is conformed to him in beautiful ways. In Revelation 3:12, it says of believers, "Him who overcomes, I'll make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it." You're going to be positioned and be radiant forever and you're going to glow. In Revelation 21, the holy city Jerusalem is coming down out of heaven from God. It's shown with the glory of God and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.
Think about that, clear living stones. You're going to radiate with the glory of Christ. You're going to shine with his glory in that beautiful spiritual temple.
XII. A Praise Stone
Finally, a praise stone. That's all I've been doing in this sermon. That's the whole point of this sermon, this gimmicky-looking sermon with all of its Ps. I just wanted to praise Jesus. Doesn't it say right in the text, "The Lord has done this and it is," what? "marvelous in our eyes." Do you know you're going to get a chance for all eternity to celebrate how marvelous Jesus is, how marvelous this whole building project really was? It is marvelous. It's more marvelous than you think.
We've only scratched the surface. I've given you a sampler sermon today. Each of the Ps you could delve into more, but Jesus is infinitely greater than any meditations you could ever do, and you're going to have heaven. If you repent and believe in Jesus and trust in him, you're going to have heaven forever to think about the greatness of Christ. Close with me in prayer.
Father, we thank you for this one text, for its power. We thank you for the concept behind it, of this grand and glorious structure that is rising to become a dwelling in which God lives by his spirit. We thank you. We pray that you would take these meditations, however brief, however imperfect, and use them to fill us with glory. Help us to proclaim Christ to a lost and dying world. Help us to be filled with expectancy that we have so much more to learn about Jesus than we ever thought we did. Fill us with a sense of his greatness, of his preciousness. Thank you for saving us, Lord. I want to thank you for each of my brothers and sisters that are here for whom Jesus is precious. Thank you for working that in them. In Jesus' name, Amen.