We talk about Jesus regularly 2,000 years after he lived. And 2,000 years before he lived, God called the Israelites to be the builders of his way on earth. But they mis-managed his project and these builders became blind to the One right in front of them:
Matthew 21:42 - Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone…’”
We talk about Christ so much because he’s the linchpin, the centerpiece, the pinnacle, the culmination, the cornerstone.
And this cornerstone is missed by so many:
1 Corinthians 1:23 - we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles
Do we have eyes to see? Even Christ himself deconstructs us.
Matthew 21:44 - the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.
Some will be put back together. And some will be crushed completely - more literally, the text rednered as “it will crush him” means “ground into powder.”
From the beginning, God has made Jesus central. More than 600 years before Jesus lived, Daniel prophesied about this (corner)stone and powder when he interpreted Nebuchadnezzar’s dream:
Daniel 2:34-35 - As you looked, a stone was cut out by no human hand, and it struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold, all together were broken in pieces, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, so that not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.
Choosing My Religion
We don’t want to give up control of our lives. We don’t want Jesus central because we want to be central. We want the throne. And so people make up religions with elaborate rules designed to be rigorous but achievable in our own strength. Jesus batted down such people and schemes:
Luke 18:9 - He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt…
Their refrain would go like this: “Some trust in horses and some in chariots, but we trust in ourselves and our religious observance.”
Luke 18:10-14 - “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
The Pharisee set his own standard and met it. He was self-justified.
The tax collector accepted God’s standard and knew he couldn’t meet it. And he went home actually justified - right with God.
We can choose any religion we want. But there’s only one standard.
The cornerstone’s three distinct characteristics distinguish it from the other stones used in construction; building orientation, history, and celebration. The cornerstone was the first stone set during the building process.
Two thousand years and he still dominates the landscape. Jesus “became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.”
Isaiah 6:1-5 - In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the traina of his robe filled the temple. 2Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3And one called to another and said:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”
And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”
One standard. One cornerstone. One king.
And one problem. We don’t believe it.
Into the Eye
As we stand on the brink of renouncing Jesus, most are simultaneously designing a custom religion - taking a bit of this and a little of that - shaping a fort of protection that makes us feel good. Dangerous ground. Because we’ll die someday. And who will we answer to? Will our own made-up religion save us?
And so Peter warned the Pharisees as he testified before them in court:
Acts 4:11-12 - This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
This is the whole claim Christianity rises and falls on. Huge stakes. Eternal stakes. And God doesn’t seem angry when people have the honesty and tenacity to wrestle with this central point.
Even Jesus’ own cousin, John the Baptist, was struck forcefully by the cornerstone and came apart. This is the man who had previously been so confident in Jesus (like many today who once proudly identified with God but now think Jesus may only be a man, if he ever existed at all):
John 1:29 - The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
In a dank jail, his faith was tested by God with a severe trial and John was nervous. He’s not deconstructing Jesus, but his own idea of who Jesus is:
Matthew 11:2-6 - Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”
See how gentle Jesus is for those who honestly, sincerely struggle.
Blessed are we - happy are we - a good life will we have - if, in the middle of deconstruction, though tempted and teetering as John the Baptist, we are not offended by Jesus but internally and externally wrestle as the dad of the demon-possessed boy did:
Mark 9:22b-23 - “But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”
Jesus isn’t being cruel here. He seems to be helping the man into faith. He couldn’t heal people who didn’t have faith:
Mark 6:5 - He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.
And he can’t save us if we don’t have faith. It’s the one thing we need. It’s the one thing deconstruction tries to kill. And it’s the one thing Jesus wants to raise up.
A tiny bit of faith is good enough for Jesus to work miracles - like healing demon-possessed boys. Even the mountains could be moved, he said - the biggest, most outrageous things could change with faith. So, too, does faith heal the misery of deconstruction and feeling galaxies away from God.
Scrounge for whatever dust of faith is available in your. It can put a camel through the eye of a needle. And, because of Jesus, it can save a human soul to God forever.