What was God calling water out of in the desert as the Hebrew children wandered around? What did the preferred method of execution consist of in the books of the Law? Take the building of the temple, for instance. Good luck reading that story without access to Wikipedia to provide pictures of topaz, beryl and onyx. I was just reading yesterday in the 81st psalm- did you know God promised honey-producing wheat?
And this whole rock-emphasis certainly does not end in the Old Testament. It seemed Jesus was a big fan of rocks too. Do you remember what Satan promised Jesus he could make bread from? And, speaking of executions, Jesus himself was the recipient of several “attempted stonings.” There was another time Jesus promised he would build his church on the rock of Peter’s faith. In fact, we forget, but Peter’s original name was Simon but Jesus changed it to Peter, which translates, “Rock.” All this talk about stones- it seems a bit strange, right?
While all of these instances of stones are interesting, and, to say the least, odd, there is one stone reference that stands out among the rest.
Jesus was in Jerusalem just a couple of days before he would be arrested, and he decided to tell a story. If it were me, I would tell a story about how great King David was and I would find a way to relate that back to the greatness of the current leadership. Oh, if David could see you Pharisees now, he would be so proud! Or maybe I would give a sermon that focused on the thematic use of rocks in the Old Testament, relieving myself of speaking the absolutely polarizing message of God for the people.
Not Jesus. He was never one for self-preservation.
Jesus told a story about a land owner who had gone on a far-away trip and left his people in charge of his land. After a little while, the owner sends a servant to collect rent. His people, in attempts to stick it to the man, beat up the servant and send him away empty-handed. So the owner sends another servant. Same story. Another servant. Same story. After this happens a few times and the owners’ people have beaten the last servant within an inch of his life, the owner comes up with a great idea. I’ll send my son. Surely they will respect him. Of course, unless respect and murder are now synonymous, the owner’s people have come a bit short of Aretha Franklin’s anthem.
As if the main part of the story was not obvious enough (the leaders had killed all the prophets, now they were going to kill Jesus), Jesus adds on a direct slap in the face. The owner has had enough. He will kick those wicked people to the curb. Leaving aside the theological mess this charge leaves in its wake, Jesus added on one more obvious slap to the face. Are you ready?
The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone…everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.
And this is the problem with Jesus. His teachings are so clear that we cannot understand them.
In the end, there are only two responses you can have to Jesus. You can accept him as your cornerstone and let him build you from the ground up or you can stay in his way and wait to be crushed into powder. The point is that, with or without you or me, Jesus is going to be laid as the cornerstone. He will build his church, regardless of whether or not we want to play along.
While we have been busy building our way up to heaven, stacking stone on stone to get to God, he has been quietly, almost silently, clearing the ground to lay his own foundation. Our Towers of Babel made out of success, leadership, 10,000 seat auditoriums, secret sexual exploits, career, social status, power and fame will fall. They are falling all around us even now and why? Because they are in the way of the foundation God is laying.
In the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, No one can hinder his coming, but we can resist his coming in mercy.
He will build his church. He will lay his foundation. He will clear his own way.
The offer to us right now is beyond unbelievable. Not only will we be freed from being crushed by the blow of a heavy stone upon us, but we will be able to claim Jesus himself as our cornerstone, our master-builder, and ally.
This is why there is so much strength in our oft-used promise that God is for us. That would be an absolutely useless statement if God’s power and plan could ever be trumped. I mean, seriously, if the Pittsburgh Pirates promised you a World Series title it would be awfully cute and warm but you could never in a million years take that seriously. They have no resources to get the job done. They are out-matched in every way. Their intentions are no doubt admirable but their ability to deliver on such a promise would leave you hopeless.
If, on the other hand, the New York Yankees promised you a World Series title you could rest assured that they would inevitably deliver. There is not a Yankee fan alive who is afraid that they will never taste victory again. The reason is not because the Yankees are so friendly but because the Yankees are so powerful.
We have heard the charge. We will either let Jesus build us out or we will be crushed by the weight of the coming of his kingdom. The coming of his kingdom is inevitable. He alone is capable of making good on this promise.
It is for our own good that he makes a constant successful effort of tearing down our Towers of Babel. This is mercy. This is grace. It is offered today. Before we are crushed by the weight of his coming kingdom.
Let us be wise and submit our lives and wills over to Christ, our Rock, while the terms of peace stand.