The Cornerstone

When Jesus arrived in Jerusalem in the final week of his life, he was looking ahead to his death and trying to prepare his followers for his death.  He wanted his followers to know that he was like the prophets who came before him, who proclaimed God’s message faithfully but were still put to death as martyrs.  In a prayer, Nehemiah had cried out to God about what people had done to the prophets: “They were disobedient and rebelled against you and cast your law behind their backs and killed your prophets, who had warned them in order to turn them back to you” (Nehemiah 9:26).  Jesus wanted his followers to know that martyrdom is what lay ahead for him, but he also wanted them to understand that he was more than a prophet and that his death would mean more than the deaths of all the prophets combined.    

So in Mark 12:1-12, Jesus tells a parable about a man who planted a vineyard (a common symbol for Israel).  But when the owner sent servants to collect his fair share from the vineyard, the people seized and beat and insulted and even killed the owner’s servants (a clear reference to how the prophets were treated in Israel).  Finally, the owner sends his own beloved son (Jesus’ reference to himself), but they killed the son even as they had killed the servants.  With this parable Jesus forewarns his followers of his coming death.  However, Jesus wants his followers to know that his death is not the end of the story.  Therefore, at the conclusion of this parable, Jesus shares a quote from Psalm 118 to speak to what would yet come about despite people rejecting him and killing him: “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; that was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes!”

Like the prophets, Jesus proclaimed God’s message to people, and like the prophets, Jesus will be martyred by the people.  Unlike the prophets, Jesus is not a mere mortal but the “beloved son” of the owner of the vineyard (Mark 12:6)—the beloved Son of God.  Unlike the prophets, Jesus’ death becomes the cornerstone.

The cornerstone is the foundation stone.  All other stones are set in reference to this stone.  The cornerstone determines the position of everything that follows.  That’s what Jesus death means for us.

Paul S. Rees remarks, “The cross does not so much reveal God’s mind, that is his infinite intellect…as it reveals his heart.  It is God himself getting through to our hearts, tracking us down in our sins with love’s relentlessness, forgiving those sins, shattering the old self-centeredness of us, and putting God at the center of a new life and a new person!” 

In other words, Christ’s death is the cornerstone.  His death determined the nature of everything that has followed.  His death reveals forever God’s heart of love for us.  His death tracked us down in our sins with love’s relentlessness.  His death forgave those sins.  His death reconciled us to God.  His death put God at the center of a new life and a new person.    

Frederick Buechner adds, “Christianity…ultimately offers no theoretical solution [to the problem of evil]…. It merely points to the cross and says that, practically speaking, there is no evil so dark and so obscene—not even this—but that God can turn it to good.”

Jesus’ death is the cornerstone, setting a direction of hope for us even when things seem dark. 

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