Names of Jesus Week Twelve, Day Two
Stones were used for building altars, homes, palaces, and temples. When "capstone" or "cornerstone" is mentioned in the Bible, it refers to a particularly important stone that held two rows of stones together in a corner, one that stabilized the structure at the foundation, or one that formed the keystone over an arch or at the top of a roof parapet. In order to hold the structure together, the cornerstone had to be perfectly fitted for the task, both strong and well shaped. A flawed or poorly cut stone would compromise the building's integrity.
Jesus is the Cornerstone or Capstone to which we are joined as living stones. Together we form a spiritual house in which God can dwell.
As the foundation stone on which God is building his kingdom, Jesus is strong enough to hold everything together. He is also the fitting conclusion to all God's work. When you pray to him as the Cornerstone, you are praying to the One on whom you can base your life.
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 capstone'?" Luke 20:17
Praying the Name
"Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.'
"But when the tenants saw him, they talked the matter over. ‘This is the heir,' they said. ‘Let's kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.' So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.
"What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others."
When the people heard this, they said, "May this never be!"
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 capstone'?
"Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed." Luke 20:13 - 18
What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the "stumbling stone." Romans 9:30 - 32
Reflect On: Luke 20:9 - 19 and Romans 9:30 - 32.
Praise God: Whose plans and purposes endure forever.
Offer Thanks: That God did not give up on us.
Confess: Any tendency to water down the gospel or reduce it to a list of dos and don'ts.
Ask God: To renew your faith in Jesus.
Imagine that you own a large and prosperous vineyard. You decide to enlist tenant farmers to work the land in exchange for a portion of the harvest. That way you can all prosper together. The sloping, welldrained fields produce a fine crop of grapes year after year. Trouble is, you have yet to see even one grape. The three men you sent to collect your portion of the harvest have returned one after the other, emptyhanded.
Worse yet, they still bear the scars of their beatings.
But you do not give up easily. So you risk one more man. This time you send the best man you have, the one closest to your heart. If he can't talk sense into those surly, stiff-necked tenant farmers, no one can. After all, he is your son. They should listen to him as though they were listening to you. But instead of listening, the farmers do the unthinkable. They murder the son you love in hopes of claiming the vineyard as their own.
Shortly after September 11, 2001, the president of the United States accused Islamic terrorists of hijacking not just American planes but the religion of Islam itself, distorting it to serve their purposes. Two thousand years earlier, Jesus made a similar claim, using radically different images, but ones that would instantly connect with his audience. Jesus' story echoed a stinging prophecy from Isaiah:
The vineyard of the Lord Almighty
is the house of Israel,
and the people
are the vines he delighted in.
And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed;
but heard cries of distress. . . .
The Lord Almighty has declared in my hearing:
"Surely the great houses will become desolate,
the fine mansions left without occupants."
Isaiah 5:7, 9
Jesus was pointing a finger straight at the chief priests and teachers of the law, who had hijacked the faith and led God's people astray through their hypocritical behavior and legalistic teachings. Instead of acting as the servant leaders they were supposed to be, they had treated a form of religion that advanced not God's agenda but their own. In his love and mercy, God had already sent multiple prophets to call them back, but they rejected each one. In a final, grand act of mercy, God sent his Son. But they hated him, seeing not a Savior, but only someone who threatened their power, who undermined their control. Thus, Jesus became for them the threat they feared.
Fully aware of their desire to kill him, Jesus provoked them further by quoting the words of Psalm 118:22: "The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone." And then, "Everyone who falls on the stone will be broken to pieces" (Luke 20:18). He himself was the cornerstone of what God was doing in the world. But he was also a stone of stumbling, a rock of offense for those who failed to believe in him.
For a time he would seem to be the one who would be broken, but his brokenness would result in triumph. And sooner or later everyone who opposed him would be brought to ruin.
The same is true today. Many forces are at work in the world and within our own fallen natures to twist and distort the gospel. There are those who would try to hijack it for their own purposes, using it for a bully pulpit, making of it a caricature that is easily rejected by the rest of the world, or watering it down to make it more palatable. How sad when Christians themselves reduce the faith to a set of rules and regulations, conforming outwardly to religious conventions while their hearts are filled with unbelief. How sad when believers fail to preach the whole gospel because they fear offending someone.
If we really believe that we have needed saving and that we have been saved, our lives should say so, because faith has led a revolution in our souls. Of all people we have the most to be grateful for, the most to be excited about, the most to celebrate, for Christ, the cornerstone on which God is building up his kingdom, is leading his church. He is our rock forever.
For more from Ann Spangler, visit her blogspot on Christianity.com. Be sure to check out Ann's newest book, Praying the Attributes of God: A Daily Guide to Experiencing His Greatness.