Jesus: The Cornerstone

1 Peter 2:4-10 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 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. 6 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.”

7 So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,

“The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,”

8 and

“A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.”

They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Peter’s aim in this letter is to help the persecuted, elect exiles endure their persecution in a manner pleasing to God. His main point, however, is that our ability to do so is entirely dependent on the grace of God through Jesus Christ. Grace, may we never forget this: our ability to please God in any circumstance (especially difficult circumstances) is completely contingent on the gospel.

What’s more, the grace of the gospel is entirely dependent on the reality of the person of Jesus and the historical work of God on our behalf. If Jesus is not the Son of God, if he did not die on the cross for our sins, if his resurrection from the dead is not evidence of the Father’s acceptance of his payment, if we do not gain access to Jesus’ cross-accomplishments through faith, and if the Holy Spirit was not sent to us to renew and strengthen and sustain us, then we have no reason for any hope at all, much less hope of suffering well.

The key here, once again, is that our hope and help are not based on the idea of Jesus or his cross, but on the actual, historical God-man and the actual-historical cross upon which he hung. Our help and hope are not based on our feelings toward God, but upon the fact that his one and only Son suffered the wrath of God, died, and rose again on behalf of all who would trust in him. It is not the sentiment of these things that saves us. It is not the spiritual lesson of these things that saves us. And it is not our self-made version of these things that saves us. It is the grace of God in the form of the actual person and death of Jesus that saves us.

Fully aware of this (for he personally, actually walked with the actual person of Jesus and witnessed the actual crucified and resurrected Jesus), Peter, himself amazed by the true nature of Jesus, invites his readers to join him in amazement. That’s the main point of our passage for this morning: the amazing reality of the person of Jesus and what he accomplished for the people of God, according to the will of God. Grace, if when I’m finished preaching through this passage over the next three weeks, you are not increasingly amazed by who Jesus is, what he has done and is doing for us, and the loving kindness of the Father to orchestrate all of this, something went tragically wrong. Let’s pray now that no tragedies would happen this morning, and that instead we’d all be thoroughly and appropriately amazed.

Again, in our passage this morning there are three principles that we must see and understand if we are to honor God in our suffering. First, we must not miss the fact that Jesus is the cornerstone upon which God is building his Church. Second, Peter makes it clear that the Church, built upon Jesus, possesses and will possess blessings beyond comprehension. And third, all of this was predestined by the Father and predicted by the prophets.

This morning we’ll consider only the first amazing reality: Jesus is the cornerstone of the Church. Of the great Cornerstone, Peter highlights five glorious truths; truths that are able to strengthen us and help us and amaze us regardless of the circumstances in which we find ourselves.

A living corner stone (2:4)

A cornerstone, especially according to the architecture of biblical times, is a crucial element of construction. Often times an entire structure is dependent upon its cornerstone to hold it up. That is, buildings were engineered such that should the corner stone be removed the entire building might collapse.

Additionally, the cornerstone of a building is often ornate and holds markings indicating the significant aspects of the structure (such as the date of its creation, builder, or purpose).

Simply, a cornerstone is often—in structure and symbolism—the most important and essential aspect of a building’s architecture.

Through his prophets God had promised to send such a cornerstone to his people. God determined—and revealed his determination—to send an unshakable foundation for his people to gather and grow upon. This cornerstone, however, would not be a rock, but a person. Jesus declared himself to be the cornerstone God promised to send. And Peter personally heard his claim. This is recorded in Matthew’s gospel at the end of a parable of the wicked tenants.

Matthew 21:42 [As an explanation of the parable] Jesus said to [his disciples], “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “‘ The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?

This, evidently, was etched into Peter’s mind and heart. It amazed him and stirred him to worship Jesus in such a way that he referred to it much later in his plea to the Jewish leaders in Acts 4.

Acts 4:8-11 Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said…”Rulers of the people and elders, 9 if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, 10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead- by him this man is standing before you well. 11 This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.

And, evidently, Jesus’ cornerstone claim amazed Peter and stirred him to worship such that in our passage for this morning, which he wrote much later still, he again highlights this great reality. We see it in his own words in v.4 where he refers to Jesus as the living stone. And we see it in his quotation of the cornerstone promising prophesies of Isaiah 28, Psalm 118, and Isaiah 8 (in vs. 6, 7, and 8).

When it comes to the Church (all of the people of God of all time), Jesus is most certainly the cornerstone in all of the ways I mentioned above. He is the foundation on which the entire Church is built. Without him the Church cannot stand. He is the head of the Church and the cause of the Church’s beauty. And he is the source of the Church and the assigner of its purpose.

As amazing as it is that we could say this about any man, the nature of Jesus’ cornerstoneness is more amazing still. Ordinary cornerstones are, of course, inanimate objects. They serve a significant purpose, but they do so on the basis of the life and will and strength and purpose of another.

Jesus, however, is different. He is a living cornerstone. He allowed himself to be fashioned by the Father. He is alive and willingly lays himself down to be built upon. More amazing still, he not only has life, but he gives life. He not only offers himself as a solid foundation to be built upon, he gives life—eternal life—to all who do.

Grace, the clear and unmistakable application of this amazing reality is that just as the Church is built on Christ alone, so must our church and our lives. He is the only sure foundation. He is the only foundation that is truly living and life-giving. We must not build our church or our lives on anything else.

We can get people to come here easier if we build this place on comfort or fun or an attempt to meet the felt needs of our community or on socially acceptable good works. Of course there is a place for all these things in the church, but they are an altogether inadequate substitute foundation for the church to be built upon.

Likewise, we will have an easier time in this world if we build our lives upon our any number of things other than Christ. But again, he is the only sure foundation. He is the only living, life-giving foundation. We must build upon him alone—his nature and work on our behalf.

Jesus is the living cornerstone God promised to send. And understanding this and being properly amazed by this is great help in times of trouble. For when we understand this, we understand that a church or life built upon the great rock of Jesus cannot be shaken. It cannot be knocked down. It cannot be destroyed. It will endure whatever attacks the enemy hurls at it.

Rejected by men (2:4)

However, though it is true that Jesus is the foundation upon which God is building the church, and the only safe and satisfying place to build our lives, the second amazing reality that Peter would have us understand (if we are to honor God in our suffering) is that nevertheless the world around us rejects Jesus as its cornerstone.

Wishing it away or ignoring it or being ignorant of it does not change the reality that Jesus is the living cornerstone, but it will change how people respond to him. Peter’s readers needed this understanding of the nature of Jesus in order to suffer well because it explains why they were being persecuted in the first place. It is precisely because the Jews in particular, and the world in general, rejected Jesus as God’s one foundation that the elect had been exiled, and still are.

At best the world still doesn’t know what to do with people who take the person and teachings of Jesus seriously. At worst, which we seem to be moving toward, the world despises those who do. This is what sin does. This is what it has done from the beginning. Sin blinds us to the glory of God in all forms, including the glory of his Son as the cornerstone of his kingdom.

Jesus was rejected by men as the living cornerstone, and so will be those who build upon him. Indeed, as v.8 says, he is the rock of offense, the great stumbling block for those who do not believe.

Grace, this is help to suffer well. It lets us know what to expect and why. When we understand this well, we are not surprised by our persecution and we are not afraid that our foundation might crumble. Again, Jesus, our sure foundation, our living cornerstone, can withstand all that this world and the demons of hell can throw at him. And as long as we’ve built our lives and church upon him so can we!

Chosen by God (2:4)

Before the foundation of the world was laid, God determined to save his people from their sins. That’s an amazing reality that boggles the mind. People regularly and rightly reference Ephesians 1 to demonstrate this glorious reality.

Ephesians 1:3-4 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him…

But what many often miss is the fact that this passage not only teaches that God chose for himself a people to be his own before the foundation of the world, he also chose the one through whom he would bless and save and adopt and sanctify his people. He chose us and the One who would bring us to himself. Though we may miss this, Peter did not. He says in v.4 that Jesus is a living cornerstone, “rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen…”.

What an amazing reality! What a powerful help in times of trouble. Our fight for faithful perseverance through trouble finds great help in the amazing reality that our salvation and savior were chosen and sealed even before our trouble began; indeed, before the world began. It is the idea of this Jesus, this cornerstone, that saves us, it is the great reality that he was chosen by God to come into this world and die in our place—and so he did. Amazing grace! Amazing help.

Precious in the sight of God (2:4)

Greater still, though mankind naturally rejects Jesus because mankind naturally despises the idea of Jesus as the foundation of the world, nevertheless, he is precious beyond measure to the Father. Mankind, by natural disposition, is ignorant at best and outright hostile at worst to the idea of Jesus being God’s cornerstone. We either don’t taste it or hate the taste of Jesus being the source and purpose of our lives. But the Father delights in his Son. He delights in him with a divine ferocity that we can scarcely imagine. Peter declares this too in 2:4.

1 Peter 2:4-10 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious…

Before the world was created the Father loved His Son.

John 17:24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

From the beginning of his earthly ministry it is written,

Matthew 3:16-17 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

And again, later on in his ministry, at his transfiguration, the Father repeated these precious words,

Matthew 17:5 [Peter] was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”

Peter himself was there for the transfiguration blessing of the Father. He wrote about it in his second letter,

2 Peter 1:16-18 we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.

Grace, may we learn from this and be amazed by this and find help in our times of trouble in this. Should the entire world despise Jesus, it would not diminish the Father’s love for him one iota. In the same way, should the entire world despise us for building our church and lives upon Jesus, should persecution come upon us in measures never before seen, it would not decrease the Father’s love for us by one degree. The Father’s pleasure and love + nothing else is everything. The experience of the Father’s pleasure and love easily overwhelms even the most unimaginable suffering in this life.

Jesus is the living cornerstone. And even though he is rejected by men he is chosen by and precious to the Father. When, by grace through faith he becomes these things to us, we have perfect and sufficient help in times of comfort and unimaginable suffering.

That which makes us acceptable to God (2:5)

As amazing as these things are, as always, no matter how amazed by God we are, we ought always to be more amazed still. And so Peter gives us another—a fifth (and final)—reason to grow in our amazement and bit of help to honor God in times of trouble.

Not only does Peter tell his readers (and us) that Jesus is chosen and precious, but also why he is chosen and precious. That is, Peter gives us one of the countless reasons that Jesus is chosen and precious to the Father; namely, that he makes us acceptable to the Father!

We’ll get to this more next week, but here I want to simply mention that it is only a ministry and life built upon Jesus that the Father will accept. The simple fact is, even our best attempts at good works, at righteousness, fall short. Even now, even with the indwelling Spirit, we still fall short of the glory of God, every time. We lack wisdom to know exactly what to do. Even when we do know what to do, we lack the perfect motivation to carry it out.

And yet, through Jesus Christ, the Father accepts our imperfect acts offered in faith as righteous. He finds even our inadequate attempts to please him pleasing in Jesus. That’s an awesomely amazing reality. That’s wonderfully sufficient help in times of trouble. And that’s Peter’s point in 2:5.

1 Peter 2:5 … 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.

Jesus was chosen by the Father to be our righteousness. And he is precious to the Father because he succeeded perfectly. Amazing!

Jesus is the living cornerstone, rejected by sinful man, but chosen and precious to the Father for dying to rescue the people of God. Amazing, Grace Church.

So what are we to do with all of this? Peter tells us in v.4: come to Jesus. Be amazed by him…who he is and what he’s done for you. Let this reality wash over you and come to Jesus. Cry out to the Spirit to stir your soul as it ought to be stirred by this and come to Jesus.

Christian, come to Jesus and cast off the remaining sin that entangles you. Come to Jesus and reengage the mission the Christ gave to his church. Come to Jesus and give yourself to the care of the vulnerable. Come to Jesus and know that your attempts at righteousness, although imperfect, will be acceptable and pleasing to God “through Jesus Christ”. Come to Jesus, build your life entirely upon him and find persevering amazement and help for all that comes your way.

Non-Christian, forsake the things of the flesh and the world and come to Jesus. Stop looking for satisfaction in places that don’t contain it and come to Jesus. Stop imagining that you are the ruler of your life and come to Jesus. He will receive you. He will accept you. He will wash you clean and make you new and whole and full and safe in him! He will grant you all the blessings of the children of God, of all those who build upon the living cornerstone…and that’s where we go next week. Amen.