God’s Word for You
Luke 20:16b-19 The stone the builders rejected
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, February 6, 2019
When the people heard this they said, “May it never be!” 17 Jesus looked at them and said, “Then what is the meaning of what is written: ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’? 18 “Whoever falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; but whoever it falls on will be crushed.”
Matthew’s account is a little longer here. Jesus asks the crowd, “What will he do with those tenants?” To which they answer: “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end and he will rent the vineyard to other tenant farmers” (Matthew 21:40,41). Luke merely records the gasp from the priests and scribes, “May it never be!” This is a special expression in Greek which was used almost superstitiously to avert evil.
From this, Jesus takes us into Psalm 118:22, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone (or ‘capstone’).” The difference between a capstone and a cornerstone is that one (the capstone) is a specially cut wedge-shaped stone to cap an archway. If the capstone is true, the arch will stand a long time. Some arches erected in Roman times are still standing today, two thousand years later. A cornerstone was originally a three-dimensional model of the finished building, expertly cut to have the precise angles and dimensions of the building perfectly true. A plumb line was used against the cornerstone to be certain that the walls were true; if the cornerstone was correct and true, then the whole building would be correct and true. Jesus is our cornerstone, and the whole building of our faith is measured against him. He is true, and therefore our faith is true.
Jesus adds a fearsome warning: Don’t trip on that stone, or you will be broken up. And don’t let that stone fall on you (in judgment, with an echo of Abimelech’s death in Judges 9:52-53), or his judgment will pulverize you.
19 That very hour the chief priests and the scribes began to look for a way to lay hands on him, because they knew that he had spoken this parable against them. But they were afraid of the people.
The plotting begins. The plan is laid out. The opportunity is sought. In a short time, the very next day it would seem (Luke 21:1-6), they found the very opportunity they were looking for.
This parable was not only for the religious leaders who betrayed Jesus to his face. It stands as a warning for all, right up to the very end of the world. A pastor or a congregation that once was Christian might fall away, pursuing only their own goals, not really working for the harvest God desires. The Lord sends messengers, not always Christ himself or his angels, but messengers nevertheless, who ask: Where is the harvest of souls for the Lord? When a minister has done nothing but puffed up his own importance and sown nothing but doubt for the Word of God among the souls in his care, he must beware. He is about to have the cornerstone come crashing down on him in divine judgment. Can he look Jesus Christ in the eye, in person, and say, “I have faith in you, dear Lord; I have led my people to trust in you”? Or will standing before his Savior cause him nothing but terror? His sheep are in grave danger, and in danger of far more than the grave. A sheep in the pew who wonders, “Is my pastor even a Christian?” is a sheep who we pray will have the wisdom to either leave that flock or perhaps, if he has the strength, to confront the wandering shepherd. If that minister is one of the “godless men who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord” (Jude 4), then the flock must either throw out that shepherd, or leave him. He is a shepherd who only feeds himself (Jude 12), and is a cloud without rain. What use is he? Worse than useless! If this is not a description of your pastor, then God be praised. Thank God in your prayers for a faithful shepherd, and thank him with your offerings, too. But if such a leader is a cross you bear, then consider carefully what you should do next, not just for your own soul, but for the sake of the other sheep in your flock.
Pastor Timothy Smith