Read: Exodus 27-28, Matthew 21:23-46
Anyone who believes that the only side of Jesus there is belongs to a gentle shepherd has missed a few verses. This verse, quoted from Psalm 118:22-23, is powerful on its own, but in the context of Matthew, it’s a rather firm jab at the chief priests and Pharisees. I can imagine Jesus staring down the temple leaders with piercing eyes as he tells them exactly who and what they are. They are the ones who rejected the stone, the Son. And if that wasn’t harsh enough, Jesus goes on.
Therefore, I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed.
Matthew 21:43-44 (NIV)
The leaders that Jesus was talking to thought they had it made. Plans were in the works to put Jesus—a man they saw as a disturber of the peace—to death. This man who dared to cause division among the Jews would be dealt with and their position would once again be secure. Yet here he is, in no uncertain terms telling them that they will be usurped. These men had made a religion based on their own beliefs and interpretations, leaving God completely out of the picture.
The parable that precedes Jesus’ statements is about a landowner who rents out his land. When the time for harvest came, he sent servants to collect his share of the fruit. The tenants decided that they did not want to give what was owed to the landowner and beat, killed, and stoned the servants. The landowner sent even more servants who were met with the same fate. Finally he sends his son believing that he would be treated as the landowner himself. Instead, the tenants kill the son with the intent of taking his inheritance.
Jesus then asked what would become of the tenants when the landowner returned.
“He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,” they replied, “and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.”
Matthew 21:41 (NIV)
Without knowing it, the Pharisees had condemned themselves. By refusing to give the son the same honour as the father, the tenants robbed themselves of the right to remain in the land. God is the Father. Jesus is the Son. Because the chief priests and Pharisees refused to see Jesus for who he was, they essentially removed themselves from the kingdom of God.
Position is not what gets any of us into the kingdom. It doesn’t matter so much what we build, but rather how we build it. The Jewish leaders of Jesus time failed to recognise Jesus as the cornerstone. If Jesus, as the Son, is not given the honour that is due to him, any foundation we may attempt to build will crumble.
CORNERSTONE: The stone which lies at the corner of two walls, and unites them; the principles stone, and especially the stone which forms the corner of the foundation of an edifice.
Jesus has to be at the centre of anything we do in the name of our faith. Without him, our labour is in vain. He is the rock, the cornerstone, the foundation on which the entire kingdom of God rests.