What is the precious cornerstone?

Originally posted on the Refined By Fire blog for the Wednesday Quail Springs Church of Christ adult class

Last Wednesday night we talked about Jesus being the precious cornerstone mentioned in 1 Peter 2:4-8. Here’s the text:

See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone,”and, “A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.”They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.

I think there is more depth here to be plumbed. The “stone that the builders rejected” was certainly Immanuel – the savior of the world. However, because it was Jesus, then the stone must be interpreted as more than just the person of Jesus. For Jesus was the Word of God (Jn. 1:1). Peter speaks of the “message” that the people disobeyed as the rock that caused the people to stumble.

This is a major Jewish reference and it points out the consistency the Jews used in their behavior with Jesus and with most if not all of God’s prophets. An additional meaning to the “cornerstone” is not only that it refers to the person of Jesus, but also to his quality of being the very Word of God. His is the message of hope. He is the voice of power that spoke creation into existence. And it is upon this Word, this Person, this Message that all of Zion (the kingdom of God) is built.

Interestingly, this was not a “new” message. The prophets had been speaking it for hundreds of years before Christ. The prophet Samuel even creates the link between God, the Lord, and the imagery of a rock in chapter 22:2-3 of 2 Samuel:

The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior— from violent men you save me.

Many of the Jews did not except the Word before Christ’s time and they did not except it from Jesus himself either. In Luke 11:47-51, Jesus says:

Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your forefathers who killed them. So you testify that you approve of what your forefathers did; they killed the prophets, and you build their tombs. Because of this, God in his wisdom said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and others they will persecute.’ Therefore this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be held responsible for it all.

And again in Luke 24:25, Jesus mysteriously tells two of his followers on the road to Emmaus,

How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!

The book of Hebrews does a great job at painting the big picture of our story with God. In its opening verses it says,

In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.

From these passages we learn that the precious cornerstone upon which Zion is built is Jesus who is the Word of God. For generations before Christ, God spoke his Word through the prophets, predicting the coming of the Messiah and warning Israel. And just as the Jews rejected this Word, this cornerstone, this creative power by crucifying Jesus, they equally rejected the previous prophets who spoke the same thing.

It is important to note that when the same Peter preached his first sermon at Pentecost, he accused the Jews in his audience of being the ones who killed the Messiah. Yet his words reach out to us as well. We stand accused of the same crime and are guilty of it. Yet…

When the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. – Titus 3:4-7

Praise be to God for reconciling us, his rejectors, to Himself.

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