Posted by: Heather | October 7, 2010

Jesus – The Cornerstone

Matthew 21:42  Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner:  this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?

I try to be a good, attentive listener…really I do.  Every Wednesday evening, we have a Bible study at our church.  It’s in a discussion format, which is something I love.  I love it because anyone that has something to add is encouraged to do so.  Not only am I allowed to contribute, but I learn a lot from the others that also feel compelled to do so.

As is my personality, I show up every Wednesday night to Bible study with my mini-computer in hand.  I don’t do it during regular services in which a sermon is preached, so don’t worry.  But often when we’re studying, things come into my mind.  I feel the strong need to look up words in their original language, and look deeper into their meanings.  With my netbook, I have the luxury of having a concordance, lexicon, Bible dictionary, etc, at my fingertips to use when the urge strikes.

This past Wednesday night as usual, they served me well.  We’ve been studying the book of Acts, and the above scripture was mentioned as an addition to what we were studying.  Well, it hit me, and I immediately became absorbed into the concept of Jesus being the cornerstone.  My pastor probably thought I wasn’t paying attention at all.  I was trying to, but was so drawn into this subject, I couldn’t help myself.

Matthew 21 takes place in the preparation days before the Passover.  Early in the chapter, Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey, and spends several days in Jerusalem being examined by many people, including authorities of that day.  (To see the Passover/Jesus connection, please read the Passover series:  Introduction, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.)  He overthrows the tables of the moneychangers in the temple, and then begins to teach in parables about the kingdom of God.  He relates the parable of the vineyard to those standing around.  The crowd included some of the chief priests and elders, who were questioning Him about where His authority came from.

Jesus relates:  The owner of the vineyard appoints husbandmen to care for his vineyard.  When the time comes for the fruit harvest, he sends servants to collect the fruit.  The husbandmen maimed and/or killed the servants.  Finally, the owner decides to send his son, thinking the husbandmen would respect him.  However, instead of rendering respect, the husbandmen decide to kill the son as well so they could steal his inheritance.  They carried out their plan.

The question was then asked:  When the owner of the vineyard found out about this, what would he do?  The people answered that he would destroy the wicked husbandmen, and appoint others over the vineyard that would give the owner the fruits.  They answered correctly.  This is the context of Matthew 21:42.  In this passage, Jesus was quoting directly from Psalm 118:22-23, where it is prophesied that the Jews would reject Him as their Messiah.  This scripture in Matthew takes place just days before His crucifixion, where He is declaring Himself as the stone who had become the ‘head of the corner’, even as He was being rejected by His own people .   This in turn, would allow God to turn His attention to the Gentiles, and allow us, in mass numbers, to become part of His kingdom.

What exactly does it mean when He says He’s the head of the corner?  I think many of us, if we’ve gone to church any length of time have heard about a cornerstone, and what it is.  There are several passages of scripture that call Jesus ‘the head of the corner’ or ‘the cornerstone’ (in KJV).  The NIV translation uses another word…capstone.

When I began to look at exactly what a cornerstone (capstone) is, I found out it actually has a three-fold meaning.  The most familiar to us is the cornerstone as the first stone set in a foundation.   It was the starting point of any ancient building.  This stone determined the placement of every other stone in the construction.  No other stone could be set in place without the cornerstone being set properly, because it determined the position of the entire building.  The cornerstone gave the building its proper foundation, and helped it withstand the stresses that would be put upon it, both from the inside and the outside elements.

When doors were built in structures of that day, they would often be completed in an arch pattern.  A capstone (also called keystone in our modern terms) would be placed at the top of the archway.  The weight of the other stones essentially rested on this center stone, so structurally, it was very important.  It was not only the primary support to the doorway, but was also a support to the stones above it.  So much so, that if you wanted to take down the entire building, all you had to do is remove that capstone.  Everything else above it would collapse.

And third, the capstone was also the final stone put in a building.  It was usually the highest point in the building, bringing unity and strength to it.  It also signified the work was complete.

So in essence, when Jesus teaches this parable, He is speaking of Himself as the cornerstone.  Not only is He the foundation stone of the kingdom of God…He’s the stone that holds everything together, renders the support needed to sustain it, and the stone that completes the work!!

Another thing I found that really intrigued me is that in biblical days, a sacrifice was always required to lay a foundational cornerstone.  The sacrifice was actually left in the foundation as sort of a ‘time capsule’.  In earliest days, it was an animal sacrifice.  Later on, grain, wine, or oil was used.

What an awesome picture of Jesus!  By the sacrifice of His own life, He is the foundational starting point, the support, and the crowning glory of His church!  I Corinthians 3:11 (KJV) says it beautifully…“For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

God bless you today!



  1. A pastor or teacher doesn’t mind the listener’s mind wandering as long as he has provoked hunger or productive thought. I shudder to think of the places that some minds wander. I tell my folks the reason I go down so many rabbit trails when I preach or teach is to find them and bring them back to my thought. Sometimes you pick up a nugget or two along the way! Good teaching Heather!

    • Glenn, that’s hilarious! I love what you say about rabbit trails. I’ll have to remember that one! I know my pastor really doesn’t mind, and even likes it that I bring the computer to Bible study. I just got caught off guard a couple of times when he had something he wanted me to look up and I was a bit preoccupied. LOL Thanks for your comment!

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