Theme: Building on Christ
In this week’s lessons, we learn that God’s grace has been shown to all, supremely in the Lord Jesus Christ, who out of his rejection became the capstone for all who come to him in faith.
Scripture: Psalm 118:1-26
Pastor Frederick W. Evans, Jr. has a sermon on this verse in which he speaks of Jesus being rejected by the “experts,” because that is what these teachers of religion considered themselves to be.1 They had examined Jesus, and they had decided that he would have to die. Why?
In the first place, they did not approve of his origin. He came from Galilee, and they said, “Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee” (John 7:52). They did not like his lack of formal education, meaning that he had not been trained in their schools. They said, “How did this man get such learning without having studied” (John 7:15)? They did not approve of his disregard of their religious rules, particularly their rules for the Sabbath. They asked, “Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath” (Luke 6:2)? They did not like his choice of friends. They demanded of the disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’” (Matt. 9:11)?
Above all they did not like his teaching. He knew their hidden sins, self-righteousness and hypocrisy, and he exposed them. Moreover, he taught that salvation was of God and that neither these leaders nor anyone else could be justified before God by his or her own actions. He said, “No one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him” (John 6:65). He taught that certain people belonged to him because they had been given to him by God and that he had come to save them by dying for them (John 10:14, 15). He called the leaders thieves who only wanted to enrich themselves.
So they rejected him. “He wasn’t two years into his ministry when they decided he had to go. They were the builders, and they were going to build in their own way, without him. Yes, they would build over his dead body. They would put him to death. If they could not stone him according to Jewish law, they would see to it that he was nailed to a cross according to Roman law.”2 That is exactly what they did.
Yes, but God made him “the capstone” by raising him from the dead. The psalm says, “The LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes” (v. 23). Remember the words: “The LORD has done this.”
There are lots of things about the gospel that the world does not like. It does not like to hear about human guilt. Nobody likes to feel guilty. It does not like to hear about the resurrection. But of all the things the world does not like, probably the greatest is that God always accomplishes what he wants in spite of our opposition. And yet God does accomplish it! He is going to accomplish it with you. You may fight him to the end. But in the end, it will be his will rather than yours that will be done. What is his will? God wants Jesus Christ, his Son, to be honored and exalted, even by you. And he will be one way or another since “at the name of Jesus every knee [will] bow” (Phil. 2:10). It would be far better for Jesus to be exalted by your praise of his great grace and mercy in saving you than to be exalted in his power as he judges you justly for your sin.
Let me put it another way. If Jesus is the stone that has been made the foundation of God’s building or temple, then the only wise thing is for you and me to build on it.
I wrote that Peter loved and often quoted Psalm 118:22. He quoted it before the Sanhedrin, as I said. But he also used it in his first letter in combination with a number of other texts that speak along the same lines: Isaiah 8:14 and 28:16, as well as Psalm 118:22 (see 1 Peter 2:4-8). In introducing these verses Peter says, “As you come to him, the living stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (vv. 4,5). That is a great privilege and a joy.
But there is an important application. You must not stumble at God’s grace in Jesus Christ, as many have, tripping over that stone. You should come to Jesus instead, and build your life on that secure foundation.
1Frederick W. Evans, Jr., Christ in the Psalms (Indianapolis: Bethany, 1991), pp. 43-48.
2Frederick W. Evans, Jr., Christ in the Psalms, p. 46.
For what reason did religious leaders reject Jesus? Why is he still rejected by some today?
Who is the living stone Peter talks about? How are we also living stones? What does it mean to be living stones in a spiritual house?
Reflection: How do you ensure your life is built on the secure foundation of Christ?
Application: In what ways do you honor and exalt Christ?
For Further Study: The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals is offering James Boice’s studies on all 150 psalms in a three-volume paperback set at 25% off the regular price. This would make a great Christmas gift to help someone grow in the knowledge of God and his Word.