“The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing,
and it is amazing in our eyes”?
43Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. 44The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.’
14 Therefore hear the word of the Lord, you scoffers
who rule this people in Jerusalem.
15 Because you have said, ‘We have made a covenant with death,
and with Sheol we have an agreement;
when the overwhelming scourge passes through
it will not come to us;
for we have made lies our refuge,
and in falsehood we have taken shelter’;
16 therefore thus says the Lord God,
See, I am laying in Zion a foundation stone,
a tested stone,
a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation:
‘One who trusts will not panic.’
17 And I will make justice the line,
and righteousness the plummet;
hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,
and waters will overwhelm the shelter.
In a lot of ways, this passage is similar to the story of building your house on a rock that we explored last week, although it is also different. I think a key difference in this story is the idea that actually Jesus as a cornerstone is not necessarily a safe, logical choice (unlike the obvious firm foundation of building on a rock vs. sand). In this story, the builders, who know a lot about logical, safe ways to build, have rejected this stone altogether, not only have they not seen it as a cornerstone. The imagery of the natural disasters (floods and hail) in Isaiah is also interesting – it seems that it is actually a cleansing sort of disaster with positive effects, not only something to withstand.
I think in a lot of ways this connects well as we start to move into Holy Week. This story in Matthew, for example, comes towards the end of Jesus’ ministry. He is again trying to get the disciples to understand who he is and is quoting the Old Testament to try to explain that – he is the fulfillment of what was promised, he is the messiah even though he is not the sort of messiah (strong military leader) who the people were expecting. The gospel of Matthew is the one most known to have been written for a Jewish audience who would have been very familiar with this story from Isaiah, and to appeal to them the writer of Matthew is trying to convince them of Jesus’ connection with the ancient Jewish tradition.