Theme: Peter before the Sanhedrin
This week’s lessons teach us about the wide variety of ways in which the whole Old Testament points to Jesus.
Scripture: Luke 24:17-37
In the fourth chapter of Acts we have another of Peter’s sermons. Here he has been called before the Sanhedrin (the highest council of the ancient Jews), and he is defending himself and his teaching. We have a relatively short record of this sermon in verses 8-12, but in the midst of it we have another important Old Testament text applied to Jesus. It is Psalm 118:22, which Peter cites, saying, “The stone you builders rejected …has become the capstone” (Acts 4:11).
When the temple of Solomon was being built, the builders sent a stone to the site that did not seem to fit anywhere, so it was laid aside. They went on with the building, but when they came to the last great capstone of the structure they didn’t have the stone they needed and they sent down to the quarry for it. The word came back: “That stone has already been sent up.” The builders looked around for it, found the stone that had been laid aside earlier, and discovered that it fit. So the proverb came into existence: “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone.”
This proverb was an inadvertent prophecy of the Messiah, for Jesus is that capstone. When he came, he was laid aside, rejected by the builders of Israel. Yet God determined that he should be the capstone, the very focal point of God’s temple of revealed religion.
After Peter and John were released by the Sanhedrin, they went to some of the other Christians who were waiting for them in Jerusalem, and at the end of the fourth chapter these believers burst into a hymn of praise in which they recited a fourth great text from the Old Testament. Psalm 2:1, 2 reads, “Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One (Acts 4:25, 26).
The second psalm is a mocking description of the way the kings and rulers of this world conspire to do without God and Christ. They say, as the rulers of the world do even today, “If we are going to succeed in shaking off God’s rule, we are going to have to get together and do it jointly. There’s strength in numbers.” So they link up, saying, “Let’s take our stand against God. Let’s declare ourselves to be independent. Let’s do our own thing.” God, who looks down upon this act of cosmic treason, does not tremble. He laughs instead, and his laugh is derision. He says, “I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill” (Ps. 2:6). Jesus is that King. So the psalm is saying that one day every knee will bow before him (see Phil. 2:8-11).
The early Christians must have learned to understand the psalm this way from Jesus, and they found that it was a source of strength when their leaders were opposed by the Jewish Sanhedrin. Paul also quoted this psalm at Antioch in the sermon I mentioned earlier (Acts 13:33, quoting Ps. 2:7).
Recall the proverb of the capstone. In what way does Jesus represent the capstone?
What do the rulers of the world conspire to do?
How does God react?
Read Psalm 2 and summarize what it describes. What is the comparison being made by Peter with the Sanhedrin?
Reflection: In what ways do you see Psalm 2 being carried out today?
Application: How can you turn opposition into a source of strength?