God-breathed 17: The Rejected One Becomes the Cornerstone

If I said the name Cristiano Ronaldo, would you know who I was talking about? He’s probably the most famous soccer player in the world right now. A few years ago, he did a video. If you go onto YouTube and search for “Christiano Ronaldo in disguise”, you’ll find it. In the video, he dressed himself in disguise. He looked like a hobo, with long hair, a beard, and glasses. He then went out on the streets of Madrid with a soccer ball and started playing with it. He had a little box out, was sort of busking, and even invited people to play a little one-on-one with him. However, most people paid him no attention. There was the odd person who maybe played one-on-one for a few moments and then went on their way.

But then there was this one young boy who started playing with Ronaldo. They played back and forth for about 15 minutes. Finally, Ronaldo picked up the ball and asked, “What’s your name?” The little fellow said, “Nicolas,” and Ronaldo started taking off his disguise. People around him started going crazy as they were shocked by who was among them. Ronaldo signed the ball, gave the kid a hug, and said, “This ball is for you.” The kid said, “Thank you,” and as Ronaldo had taken off his disguise earlier, there is a view of the young boy’s face. As he starts to recognize Ronaldo, his eyes get wider, he begins to smile and says, “Hello.” As Ronaldo starts moving away from that area, a whole bunch of people are hanging on him, adults who didn’t recognize him before, but now they do. Towards the end of the video, the camera turns to the little boy, who wipes a tear away from his eyes as he clutches the ball Ronaldo gave him.i 

Why is it that children are sometimes able to recognize greatness when adults cannot? And to make this a more significant question, how can we, who are often so caught up in our everyday lives, with all the busyness and all the tasks that we have to do, and perhaps checking out our phones as well, see the greatness of God, and the great things God has put in this world for us? This is a very important question because when we miss the great things of God in this world that he’s put here for us, we’re actually missing the greatness of God Himself, and we’re missing the great gifts that he wants to give to us. 

Jesus Cleans the Temple

As we think about this question, we’re going to be looking at a passage from Luke 19, starting with verse 45. As we look at that passage, we see that Jesus has just come down the Mount of Olives—it’s the first Palm Sunday—and he comes into Jerusalem. One of the first things he does after entering the city is go to the temple and clear out a bunch of merchants who had set up in the temple compound. They were all set up in an area that was called the Courtyard of the Gentiles. This was the only place on the temple grounds where someone who was not a Jew could come and pray to the one true God. But now they couldn’t because now that whole space was filled up with stalls of merchants who were selling animals to people that came from a long way away and needed an animal for a sacrifice. They were also changing money for people who needed to pay their temple tax in the currency that the temple received. Not only was there all this noise and all this business going on, but these merchants were taking advantage of the pilgrims who came to Jerusalem to worship. So Jesus cleared them all out and said, “It is written, My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of robbers.” 

Now, this is the week before Passover, the week before Jesus goes to the cross. For that reason, everything that Jesus does and says during these precious few days carries extra weight. So it is important for us to note that a few days later, because he had cleared out the temple, Jesus’ authority is questioned by the religious leaders of his time. They asked him, “Who gave you the authority to do that?” He responds by asking them a question about John the Baptist. This puts them in a dilemma because, before he was put in prison and later killed, John was baptizing hundreds, if not thousands of people at the Jordan River, and the religious leaders did not recognize that God was working through him. So Jesus asks them, “Where did John’s baptism come from, from God or from people?” If they answered “From God” then people would have said, “Then why didn’t you recognize God was doing a great thing there through John?” And if they answered “From people” then they would have been in trouble as well because it was obvious to the average person that God had been doing something incredibly special through John.  

Then Jesus tells them a story, and I’ll tell it in a little different way. Imagine a man who had a mansion in West Vancouver. He rents it out to a bunch of renters and then goes to Europe for several months. He sends an employee over after the first month to collect the rent on his mansion. The renters beat up the servant and send him away. This happens time after time, and the beatings just get worse and worse. Finally, the man says, “I know what I will do. I’ll send my son. Surely they’ll respect him.” But the renters say to themselves, “This is our opportunity to get this mansion for ourselves. Let’s kill him.” So they kill the son and then throw him over the fence into the neighbor’s yard. What do you think that landlord is going to do when he gets back? He’s going to toss the renters out and allow new renters to come in. When Jesus told that story, those who were listening, especially the religious leaders, said, “No, that’ll never happen,” because they realized he was telling this story about them. They were the renters, and the mansion or the vineyard was God’s rules that they had over His people. That involved the temple and everything that happened there. But it also involved how they were leading people. Jesus said, “Well, then how do you explain this passage from Scripture: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone?'” Because if you cannot recognize the greatness of God, then you will not recognize the authority that comes with that greatness. And God chose to hide his ultimate greatness in an ordinary human being, man, Jesus of Nazareth. Because the religious leaders did not recognize the greatness of Jesus, they did not recognize his authority to do what he did. 

The Cornerstone

So let’s think for a moment just about this word “cornerstone.” It is a term that was used a lot more often 2,000 years ago in the Ancient Near East that it is today, and it could be thought of in one of two ways: it could be the main foundation stone in the bottom row of stones that would be used to build a building. And when it’s at the bottom, all the other stones would be lined up with it, and it would bear the weight of that corner. So that’s one way of understanding of cornerstone, but a cornerstone could also be in the top row at the corner. And that case it serves to hold the building together. In Jesus Christ, the cornerstone sent from God, not only does he carry the weight of the world on his shoulders, but he also holds things together. We see Jesus carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders when he, a few days later, willingly went to the cross for you, for me, and for everyone else in the world. Because he loves you and me, as He hung there, naked and suffering, he was bearing all of our sin, guilt and shame, and he destroyed its power to condemn and define us. Then he gave up his life and died. But that’s not the end of the story. Because on the third day that followed he rose from the dead. He is alive and he is with us right now. And Jesus can carry all the weight of all the things that you’re dealing with in your life right now, plus all the things you’ll deal with tomorrow and the day after that, forever. You can let him carry everything for you. 

Not only does Jesus carry the weight of the world, he also holds all things together, and he’s been doing that since the dawn of time. Paul put it so beautifully in his letter to the Colossians, writing about Jesus as he says, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him, all things were created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities. All things were created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him, all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:15-17) Jesus not only was there at the very beginning, he was not only the Word which God spoke to bring everything into being. He’s also the Word that’s going to make everything right, starting from his resurrection and finishing when he comes back to this world at the end of time. You and I live in between those two ages, the old creation and the fulfillment of the new creation, but we are new creation people. By definition, that is who we are. And one day, Jesus is going to make his new creation—which he has already started within us in an invisible way—all fully visible. He’s going to come and defeat death once and for all, banish all evil, and restore his entire creation. And he will raise you from the dead with your old body made new again, and you will never get sick again, and never die again.  There’ll be no more sorrow and no more suffering, ever, ever again. All that is happening right now. Even though we cannot see it with these earthly eyes, we can see it with the eyes of faith. By faith we see that Jesus, who was rejected by the religious and powerful leaders of his time, is the cornerstone that holds all things together and supports all things as well. 

God Chooses to Put His Greatness in Weak Things

What does all this mean for us? First, we can see that God chooses to put his greatness in weak things. In 1 Corinthians, we read, “For God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise. God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things, the things that are not, to nullify the things that are so that no one may boast before him.” (1 Corinthians 1:27-29) It’s not strength that saves us; it’s in our weakness that we can see the salvation God has for us. 

The greatest greatness of God was disguised as an ordinary human being who came to save the world: Jesus Christ. But the thing is, when our hearts are captured by the grandeur of what is visible, then our eyes are less able to see the greatness of what is invisible. Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18: 3) So why did Jesus say that? Is it the case that children are better than adults? Are they sinless? Based on my experiences as a child and a parent, I don’t think so.  

But the key thing about children is that they recognize that they are dependent on someone greater than them and that dependence gives them the eyes to see that the help they need is right before them, ideally in their parent, but also in the other people God places in their lives. And so the question I’m asking you to think about this morning is this: Do you recognize that you are dependent on someone who is greater than you? 

A New Purpose Through God’s Love

If you go online to the “I Am Second” website you’ll find a testimony by a man named Joshua Broome. He wanted to be an actor and he wanted to be rich and famous. So he moved to Los Angeles when he was 22 years old and started working in a restaurant. One day, someone asked him if he wanted to be in a porn movie, and he said yes. That one porn movie led to six years in the industry and over 1,000 movies. He thought he would be happy when he became rich and famous, but what he found was that fame and wealth just made him more miserable.  

He had been using a pseudonym in the industry, so everybody he interacted with called him by his pseudonym. One day, he went to the bank to deposit a check, and as he was leaving, the teller said, “Are you okay, Joshua?” It had been so long since somebody had called him by his real name that it felt to him like Joshua didn’t exist anymore, and there were times when he wanted to die. That question shocked Joshua back to his senses. He left the porn industry and went back home and applied at various gyms for work. Finally, he got a job at one on the east coast in the Carolinas. But people would come into the gym, and they would still recognize him from the movies he had made, so he felt awful and shame-filled. 

He rose up within the gym to the level of management. One day, a young woman came in, and he asked her out on a date. She said no at first, but later she agreed to go on a run with him. During the run, he realized he had to tell her everything, so he did. She responded, “You know, a person isn’t defined by the worst thing they’ve done or the greatest thing they’ve ever done. I believe that a person is defined by God. Do you believe in God?” He said, “Yes, I believe in God.” His family took him to church when he was little, but as she probed further, she realized there wasn’t much to his life with God now. So she invited him to church and in the ch was a plaque that read, “We want to love all people.” The pastor spoke about how while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. He thought to himself, “There’s nobody that would do that for me.” Yet, here was this good news that when he was at his worst, Jesus Christ died for him. He believed in that good news and became a follower of Jesus. That girl who invited him to church became his wife, they have been married for six years and they have three children. 

He discovered he had an interest in theology and went to Bible school. Joshua said that God has given him a new purpose through his love.ii 

We See God’s Greatness in Jesus

Going back to our original question, how do we recognize the greatness of God? Well, the answer is that it doesn’t matter what we see with our eyes or whether we trust it. What matters is whether we trust what Jesus sees with his eyes and keep our eyes focused on him and his greatness. Because when we believe in the greatness of Jesus, we receive the great things that he has for us. He is the chief cornerstone of our lives and the world, and he sees our lives in a new way. In 1 Peter 2, we read, “As you come to him, a Living Stone rejected by man but in the sight of God chosen and precious. You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture, ‘Behold, I am laying in Zion, a stone, a Cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.'” (1 Peter 2:4-6) 

So the challenge before us today is simply to trust in how Jesus sees us, as Living Stones that he is building up into a spiritual house. He has made us his priests wherever he has placed us and enabled us to serve others with his love in his name. Amen. 

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