Jesus once said, “You search the scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me” (John 5:39). Let’s look once more at what the Psalms say about Jesus.
Psalm 118:22-23, “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing …” This passage is quoted five times in the New Covenant (Matthew 21:42; Mark 12:10-11; Luke 20:17; Acts 4:11; 1 Peter 2:4-7). It is also referenced an additional time (Ephesians 2:20).
The stone is Jesus the Christ (Acts 4:10-11; Ephesians 2:20; 1 Peter 2:4-7).
Let us notice: (1) The stone was rejected. This rejection is connected in scripture with the crucifixion of Jesus. Peter proclaimed, “let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel … Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified … This is the stone which was rejected by you builders” (Acts 4:10-11). Jesus also connected the rejection of the stone with death (Matthew 21:33-46; Mark 12:1-12; Luke 20:9-19). (2) The rejected stone became the chief cornerstone. This is connected with the resurrection of Jesus. Peter proclaimed, “let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel … Jesus Christ of Nazareth … whom God raised from the dead … has become the chief cornerstone (Acts 4:10-11).
It seems to me, that it would behoove us to understand something about ancient architecture, in order to better appreciate this illustration. (1) Cornerstones were large foundation stones which were placed at the corners of buildings, and wherever two major walls met. The primary function of cornerstones was to provide a strong and solid foundation. Cornerstones were also reference points. All other stones in the foundation would be laid in reference to these. (2) The chief cornerstone was the first stone laid. The laying of this stone was often accompanied with celebration and ceremony. Inscriptions were sometimes placed on the chief cornerstone (much as one sees plaques placed on buildings today). “Among the Canaanites, before the conquest of the land of Joshua, the laying of the foundation stone was accompanied by the dreadful rite of human sacrifice. Numerous skeletons have been unearthed, especially those of tiny babies in earthen jars” (Zondervan’s Pictorial Bible Dictionary, p. 185). One is compelled to wonder if this was partly in mind when Jesus is referred to as the chief cornerstone.
“The Jews had a legend … According to that legend, when the Temple of Solomon was being built, the Masons sent up from the quarry below a stone different in size and shape from all the rest they had sent up. Looking at it the builders said, ‘There is no place for this stone. There must be some mistake.’ So they rolled it down the edge of the cliff into the valley of Kidron below the Temple area. As time went on … they were ready for the chief cornerstone. When they asked for it they were told, ‘we sent it up to you long ago.’ One of the workmen said, ‘I recall it now. The stone was altogether different from the rest, and we thought there was no place for it and rolled it down to the valley below.’ Men were sent down to the valley to find the stone. They succeeded in doing so; and when the stone was brought up it fit perfectly into its place (www.homeschool-life.com).” More than a few think that this legend is in view, when Jesus is referred to as the chief cornerstone.
Chief Cornerstone of What?
Jesus is the chief cornerstone in a temple which is composed of living stones (1 Peter 2:4-8; Ephesians 2:19-22). The church is built upon the great truth that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:16-18).
While in Ephesians 2:20 the foundation consists of the apostles and prophets (prophets of the New Covenant cf. Acts 2:17-18; 11:27; 13:1; 21:10; Romans 16:26; 1 Corinthians 12:28-ff; 14:29; Ephesians 2:20; 3:5) with Jesus Christ being the chief cornerstone, Jesus is pictured as the foundation itself in 1 Corinthians 3:11. How does one reconcile these two passages? The solution is this: The reference to the apostles and prophets as part of the foundation is not of the apostles and prophets themselves; instead, it is of their message (Romans 15:18-21; Ephesians 2:18 cf. 3:5). They did not preach themselves but Christ Jesus the Lord (2 Corinthians 4:5 cf. 1 Corinthians 2:2). Their teachings were by His authority and glorified Him (John 16:12-14 cf. 14:26).
The Psalmist then rejoices “This was the LORD’s doing; It is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day the LORD has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118: 23-24).
Let us have the same attitude. Let us rejoice in Jesus as the chief cornerstone, the foundation stone on which we rest.