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The Cornerstone Rejected
by Dr. Johnny O. Trail, LMFT
When Jesus made His triumphant entry into Jerusalem, those celebrating Passover were quoting a messianic passage (Matthew 21: 42) from Psalm 118. The passage as quoted from verse twenty-two says, “The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone.” The event and Psalm are at once a prophecy of rejection and praise for the Messiah who would ride a donkey into the city just days before His crucifixion. The praise portion says, in Psalm 118:26, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! We have blessed you from the house of the LORD.”

The ministry of Jesus is filled with irony. The passages regarding Christ as the chief cornerstone are found in various places in the Old and New Testament. Isaiah offers similar wording when he says in Isaiah 28:16, “Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: "Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, A tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; Whoever believes will not act hastily.” The word “Zion” refers to the city of Jerusalem where the ultimate rejection of Christ would happen. The chain of events recorded in Matthew twenty-one is a fulfillment of the prophecies recorded in Psalm 118 and Isaiah twenty-eight.

Christ’s rejection was inhumanly cruel, but it figures into the God’s plan of redemption for lost humankind. The “chief cornerstone” phrase is used three times in the gospels (Matthew 21:42, Mark 12:10, Luke 20:17) and three times in other passages (Acts 4:11; I Peter 2:6,7). At once, Jesus was loved and hated by people who followed Him during his earthly ministry. The same multitudes that followed Jesus (Matthew 15:30) were the same ones who later cried out for His murder (Matthew 27:20-23).

The main source of rejection would come from the religious officials of Jesus’ age. Except for a few, they were staunchly opposed to Jesus as the Messiah. The Pharisees were arrogant in their assumptions about Christ’s city of origin and the feelings of the Pharisees regarding Jesus’ identity. The Bible records, in John 7:48-52, “’Have any of the rulers or the Pharisees believed in Him? But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed.’" Nicodemus (he who came to Jesus by night, being one of them) said to them, ‘Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?’ They answered and said to him, ‘Are you also from Galilee? Search and look, for no prophet has arisen out of Galilee.’"

The Bible makes several observations about this “chief cornerstone” that are worthy of consideration. This stone was to be laid in Zion (a.k.a. Jerusalem). 1 Peter 2:6 says, “Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, "Behold, I lay in Zion a Chief Cornerstone, elect, precious, and he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.” Thus, it is not coincidental that Jesus was crucified in Zion to bring about the forgiveness of sins through contacting His blood at the point of baptism (Acts 22:16).

Next, the “chief cornerstone” was Jesus Christ. Once again, I Peter 2:6b says, “...He who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.” This cornerstone was the crux of God’s plan regarding the redemption of all humankind. Without His sacrifice, burial, and resurrection, there would be no hope for any person. The one who acts in simple trusting faith and obedience (Hebrews 5:8-9) to His will never be put to shame by God. One might suffer shame from being ridiculed (Matthew 5:10-12), but that shame will be destroyed by the ultimate victory that is found in Christ (Romans 6:3-4).

Consequently, the “Chief Cornerstone” would be rejected. 1 Peter 2:7 says, “Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, "The stone which the builders rejected has become the Chief Cornerstone…” This rejected stone would have incalculable value for Jews and Gentiles alike for the salvation of all souls. The Jews rejected Christ during His earthly ministry as evidenced by His crucifixion, but this rejection would endure with those who desire eternal life. To those who believe in Christ, He would become the most important building block in God’s plan of redemption

and in the establishment of the church (Acts 20:28).

In these passages, Christ is described as a stone of offense. 1 Peter 2:8 and "’A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.’ They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed.” The Jews were offended at One who was crucified on a Roman cross. The Greeks believed that a “god” should be one of notoriety, perhaps a great conqueror according to human standards. The Messiah was offensive because He did not fit their idea of what He should be! He is offensive to many people today for that very reason.

Paul addresses this very problem when he writes the first Corinthian letter which we have preserved for us today. He says, in 1 Corinthians 1:20-24 “Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” It was through the proclamation of the gospel via human vessels that people were able to be saved (Romans 1:16). That gospel necessitated preaching the death of a loving Messiah—something inconsistent with certain Jew and Gentile reasoning.

Conversely, those accepting the rejected cornerstone have been made into a holy nation or people. 1 Peter 2:9 says, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” We are now a spiritual nation destined to show those in darkness the light of Jesus Christ and call the lost (by the proclamation of the word) into His kingdom.

Instead of being a stone of stumbling, Christ is a source of refuge and the foundation of eternal life. It is ironic to think that the same stone can mean totally different things to various people confronted with the gospel of Christ. Is He a stone of refuge or a stone of offense to you?