The Rejected Stone: 6 March 2015

Disrobing of Christ - Bernhard Strigel

The disrobing of Christ by Bernhard Strigel c 1520.

Luke 20: Jesus looked directly at them and asked, ‘Then what is the meaning of that which is written:

‘“The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone”?

18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.’

19 The teachers of the law and the chief priests looked for a way to arrest him immediately, because they knew he had spoken this parable against them. But they were afraid of the people.

Ps 118: The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
23 the Lord has done this,
and it is marvellous in our eyes.
24 The Lord has done it this very day;
let us rejoice today and be glad.

25 Lord, save us!
Lord, grant us success!

26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
From the house of the Lord we bless you.
27 The Lord is God,
and he has made his light shine on us.
With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession
up to the horns of the altar.

28 You are my God, and I will praise you;
you are my God, and I will exalt you.

29 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures for ever.

We cannot fully understand this passage in the context of modern building work. Today, builders lay cornerstones in great ceremony after the building is finished. Usually some empty place—a square receptacle—is left in a wall, where the cornerstone will finally be inserted with great pomp. The cornerstone represents a time of finishing, a time for speech-making, a time of celebration.

In Jesus’ parable, the cornerstone was understood to be the first stone laid on the foundation. Every distance was taken from that stone. The full weight of the growing building always fell on it. Without it, the building was not possible. Jesus’ listeners would have understood this. Jesus was reminding the temple officials that the Messiah was to be the standard, the support, the creator of the faith. This promised one was not merely the object of theological dialogue; indeed, he was the faith itself.

This parable must have bitten deep into the self-righteous people. They needed to hear him and embrace him as the centre of their heritage.

Alas, they did not. They rejected their Redeemer.

Lord, be the foundation stone for my life. May the solid granite of your purpose be the strong basis of my every dream. May I raise the superstructure of my life on your truth and faithfulness.