Theme: Jesus the Rejected Capstone
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
Psalm 118:22 pictures Jesus’ death and resurrection. We know this because it is the way Jesus himself used these words. In the same chapter of Matthew in which we read about the people of Jerusalem hailing Jesus with verses 25 and 26 of Psalm 118, we also find Jesus quoting verses 22 and 23 in reference to himself (in Matt. 21). He had just told a parable about farmers to whom the owner of a vineyard had leased a field. They were to care for it, harvest the grapes and then give the owner his share of the profit when the time came. When the harvest was drawn in he sent servants to collect his profit, but the tenants beat, stoned and killed the servants. Finally, the owner sent his son, thinking they would respect him. Instead they killed the son, hoping to gain the land for themselves. He then asked the chief priests and elders to whom he was telling the story, “When the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?”
They answered, “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end, and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.”
This was the right answer, of course. But Jesus then applied it to himself by quoting these important verses from the psalm: “Have you never read in the Scriptures:
‘The stone the builders rejectedhas become the capstone;the Lord has done this,and it is marvelous in our eyes’” (vv. 33-42).
The chapter ends by noting: “When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew he was talking about them” (v. 45).
In this context there can be no question about how Jesus understood these verses. God was the owner of the vineyard. The leaders of Israel were the evil tenant farmers. The servants were the prophets, and the son who was killed was Jesus himself, the Son of God. Therefore, he is also the stone rejected by the builders who was to become the capstone of all true religion and Christianity. Those to whom the vineyard was to be given are the members of the church to be composed of all believing Jews and Gentiles. We are members of that church today if we believe on Jesus.
Psalm 118:22 meant a lot to the apostle Peter. The first time he used it was in one of his defenses before the Sanhedrin after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Peter and John had healed a crippled beggar. They were arrested, and when they were brought before the Jews’ high court they were asked, “By what power or name did you do this” (Acts 4:7)?
Peter responded by a great, short sermon. “Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you completely healed. He is
‘the stone you builders rejected,which has become the capstone.’
Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:8-12).
I wrote that Peter quoted Psalm 118:22 in this sermon, and he does (in v. 11). But there is one significant change. When Luke, the author of Acts, quotes verses from the Old Testament, as he does here, he almost invariably quotes from the Septuagint. The Septuagint was the translation of the Old Testament used among Greek-speaking people. Luke was writing to Greek-speaking people. So he used the Septuagint. But in quoting from the Septuagint at this point Luke varied the quotation slightly, adding the word “you.” The Septuagint says, “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone.” But Luke changes it to say, “The stone you builders rejected…” Why? Undoubtedly because that is the way Peter spoke it. Peter used the text to reinforce what he had been teaching. He had spoken of the guilt of Israel’s leaders. So he took this impersonal Old Testament text and made it pointed.
In the context of Matthew 21, how did Jesus understand Psalm 118:25, 26?
How did Peter use Psalm 118:22?
Why did Luke quote from the Septuagint version of the Old Testament?
Application: Are you as vocal about your faith as Peter was? Ask God for an opportunity to share your faith with someone else.
Observation: Christ’s quotation of Old Testament passages can expand or illuminate their full meaning.
Sanhedrin: the highest council of the ancient Jews