Cornerstone: What is the starting point of the Resurrected Life?

The Cornerstone

If you are not in the construction industry, you may not know the purpose of a cornerstone. The cornerstone is the first stone that that a builder sets with a new structure. That particular stone will have a unique role of becoming the foundational reference point for all of the other stones in the building. So, when the architect identifies and marks a stone as the chief cornerstone; that becomes the central element from which all other stones take their proper alignment. Everything will find its direction in relationship to that one stone–everything.

Now, let’s reconsider the power proverb from yesterday’s post on Royal Stones,

The stone that the builders rejected, has become the chief cornerstone. –Psalm 118:8

Interestingly, when Jesus arrived at the Temple in Jerusalem, he quoted this ancient proverb in the midst of a verbal confrontation with the Jewish leadership of that day. A heated exchange between Jesus, the chief priests, scribes and other religious leaders broke out. They gathered around Jesus and plotted and schemed against him, trying to trap him by peppering him with very hostile questions. In the context of that exchange, Jesus tells a little story–a story about tenants and a vineyard–and a stone.

The Parable of the Tenants (Matthew 21:33-46)

“Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country. When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit. And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’

But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.”

Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”

When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them. And although they were seeking to arrest him, they feared the crowds, because they held him to be a prophet. Then Jesus quotes a proverb. “The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.” Now, all of those chief priests and scribes, they were listening to Jesus telling this story, and they got the message. They said to themselves, “He’s telling this story about us!”

Why was Jesus making this application? Understand that God had entrusted to the leaders of Israel, in that day, with stewardship of his creation, stewardship of his cities, stewardship of leading his people. The leaders were the tenants, Israel was the Lord’s vineyard and the Lord is the owner. The LORD had sent prophet after prophet after prophet to these leaders of Israel. And yet, how did they respond? They stoned every one of them. John the Baptist was the last one (beheaded by Israel’s reigning king Herod Antipas).

God as the owner of the vineyard said, “I’ll send my son, and surely they’ll listen to my son,” but instead they plotted his arrest and murder. Ultimately, they would see him crucified him between two thieves. The tenants rejected the owners son. But wait! There is good news in the story from the owner of the vineyard: “The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone!” Now there is an interesting little play on the words that you would not catch unless you spoke Aramaic–the language of Jesus.

The story would originally have been told in Aramaic, not the Greek of the Gospel writers. Here is the interesting thing: The word for “stone” in Aramaic is the Aramaic word eben. The word for “son” in Aramaic is ben. The tenants rejection of the son is equivalent to the builders rejection of the stone. When you reject the stone, the eben, you reject the ben, the Son.

Here is the good news! God has taken the Son/Stone that was rejected by the builders and made It/Him the Chief Cornerstone. “This is the Lord’s doing,” the psalmist says, “and it is marvelous in our eyes!”

But, what exactly did the Lord do that is so visibly marvelous? 

Royal Stone: How is your life constructed?

Power Proverbs

Some of the most profound truths in life are contained in simple power-proverbs. One such truth is quoted 7 times in the Bible. First, in the Old Testament Psalms and then 6 other times in the New Testament. When something is repeated that many times in God’s word, we should take notice and listen.

Here is the power-proverb:

The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. –Psalm 118:8

Homes built in the ancient Israel would often use cut stone for the foundation. Public buildings such as palaces, synagogues and temples, would also use stone to lay a foundation and build all the superstructure. The grandest stone building in all of ancient Israel was the Temple of the LORD in Jerusalem. The Temple was originally the vision and dream of King David. He desired to build a House for the Lord. Only the Lord revealed that it was not for David to do so, but his son Solomon.

Solomon’s Temple was considered one of the 7 wonders of the Ancient World. Sadly, the temple constructed by Solomon was destroyed in 587 when the Babylonian Empire sacked Jerusalem. It would be rebuilt. In Jesus day, King Herod the Great had build a Temple complex to rival King Solomon’s in grandeur. In fact, many of the Jewish people of that day considered it more of a structure built to the glory of Herod, than God. Nevertheless, the foundation and walls of both Solomon’s and Herod the Great’s temples would have been made entirely out of stone.

There were several different professions of people that were involved in the constructing such an edifice: quarrymen, stone masons, builders and the master architect.

First, there were the quarrymen. These are the men who would labor to mine the rock out of the hills. They would mine huge pieces of uncut stone out of the ground. The largest quarry in Jerusalem is a five mile cavern that is located under what is now the Muslim quarter of Jerusalem. The first century Jewish historian Josephus called it the “Royal Cavern”. The stone when it was freshly removed was pure white in color and soft enough to cut with a knife, when exposed to air it becomes extremely hard.

Once the quarrymen extricated the stones from the ground, the stone masons would take over the work of shaping and dressing the stone. These men would cut and shape the stones to be used as building material in accord with the needs and specifications of the architect and builders.

The Royal Stone

The stonemasons highly valued the stone removed from the Royal Caverns. This material was excellent for shaping into massive blocks because of its superior strength, its ability to be carved without flaking and its resistance to erosion. Consider that the “Wailing Wall” in Jerusalem which is made out of this very stone has been standing for over 2000 years! It was a perfect material for shaping the massive building blocks fit to be used for all of Israel’s royal buildings. For this reason, the stonemasons called it “Meleke Stone” which comes from the Hebrew root for “kingly” or “royal”.

When the Psalmist writes that Jesus has become the Chief Cornerstone, he has in mind the Royal Stones that were used to build the Temple of the Lord. The implication being that Jesus ought to be at the foundation and center of the structure of our lives. That a builder would reject such a worthy stone is the height of foolishness!  He alone is the worthy and strong foundation stone and building block. The Psalmist sees the Messiah as the primary and principle building block of a life well lived. The resurrection of Jesus establishes him as the Messiah and therefore the Chief Cornerstone.

If you were to consider your life as a stone building, like a temple, ask yourself: “Is Jesus the primary foundation stone in the construction of my life?” He is far superior to any other building material that could be used. Is the Royal Stone the central foundation stone for you? Or is he a mere decorative add on? Perhaps he has not been incorporated in your life at all! Today, Consider the Royal Stone and where he fits in your life–or even better–consider where your life fits into his! God is the architect of your life, but you are the builder. The blueprint includes the Royal Stone as first importance!