Explore the Bible Study: Cornerstone

5:05 PM

Do you know what all these products have in common - Satisfries, Cheetos Lip Balm, New Coke, Windows Vista, Harley Davidson Perfume, Life Savers Soda, Galaxy Note 7? I know you have trouble believing this (sarcasm 😉) but they were all rejected by the public, costing each company millions of dollars! The Explore the Bible Study: Cornerstone is going to examine rejection as it relates to Christ. 

It's hard to imagine why anyone would reject Christ but, obviously, many people do. So, what are the results of rejecting Christ? You will see as you study this weeks passage from Luke 20.

Luke 19 begins with Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem and the celebration it prompted. Luke tells us in 19:41 that Jesus wept for Jerusalem as He approached the city gates because He knew that, in only 40 short years, Jerusalem would fall under the judgment of God as the Romans would lay siege and eventually burn the city in A.D. 70. Approximately six hundred thousand Jews were killed during this onslaught.

Upon entering the temple complex, Jesus sees all the merchants in the temple complex. He recognizes the corruption that has taken place, even in the temple, so He drives out the vendors (most likely from the temple’s outer court). Luke tells us at the end of chapter, Luke 19:47, that every day He was teaching in the temple complex while the Jewish religious leaders were looking for a way to destroy Him. 

Luke 20:1 tells us that, on one of these days, while Jesus was teaching the people in the temple complex and proclaiming the good news, He was asked a question by the Jewish religious leaders regarding His authority. As was very often the case, Jesus responded to their question with a question which caught these religious leaders in their own trap. They could not answer without causing more problems for themselves. Since they couldn’t respond, Jesus proceeded to tell the people a parable about a vineyard owner that would bring an indictment upon the Jewish religious leaders regarding the danger of rejecting Christ. 

Rejecting God's Messengers - Luke 20:9-12

  • When you think about Jesus’ descriptions of how these servants were treated how do you feel
  • Realizing that this parable illustrates the rejection by God’s people, Israel, is it possible for the church to reject the message of God today? What examples today might indicate that the church is responding the same way to God’s messengers or His Word? How can we avoid allowing this to take place?
  • What are the dangers of ignoring God’s Word and the messengers sent to deliver that Word? How does the treatment of God’s messengers reveal the true nature of a person’s heart?
  • How does this parable demonstrate God’s patience and grace?
The owner could have sent armed guards and forced the tenant farmers to comply but he didn't. Equally, God’s long-suffering can be seen throughout the Old Testament as prophets were repeatedly sent to appeal to Israel to repent. 

God’s patience with rebellious people goes beyond human comprehension. Any earthly king would have sent an overwhelming force to punish the rebels. Instead, God is portrayed as continuing His mission of mercy. We are the workers in God’s vineyard. God has entrusted all His creation to mankind, His crowning creation, made in God’s image; yet man has rejected God and treated Him, His messengers, and His Word with contempt. Still God continues to appeal for reconciliation.

Rejecting God's Son - Luke 20:13-16

The word beloved is a term that not only means “dearly loved” but also implies uniqueness. This young man was the owner’s only son. The tenant farmers didn’t simply reject his father’s demands, but took the son’s life. The parallel to Jesus is obvious (John 1:14; John 3:16). When the time was right, God sent His one and only Son to provide salvation (Galatians 4:4-5).

Notice the phrase perhaps they will respect him. We know that God sent His Son fully knowing Jesus would be rejected and crucified. Do you believe that, even though God knew His Son would be rejected, He held on to hope that people would respond differently? Is it possible for God to hope for a different outcome even though He knows the outcome? 

This is the amazing contrast between the Sovereignty of all-knowing God and His love for His crowning creation, man. Imagine, as Jesus is telling this parable, perhaps in Jesus’ heart He is quietly hoping and longing for people to respond differently – that “perhaps they will respect Him.” Yet, Jesus knew this wouldn’t be the case and He was destined for the cross. Paul tells us in Romans that God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us! (Romans 5:8)

God sent His Son, knowing Jesus would be rejected and crucified. In fact, that is exactly why the Father sent the Son. Jesus came not simply to be a representative of God among human beings. His purpose was to die on the cross in order to atone for human sin and to make forgiveness and salvation possible.

Jesus stepped outside the parable to ask His listeners a rhetorical question: What will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He did not intend for them to answer, since He provided the obvious response in Luke 20:16, He will come and kill those farmers and give the vineyard to others.
  • Do you feel this response of the owner is justified?
  • Is so, why do so many people refuse to accept the fact that God is justified in punishing sin and demanding repentance for sin? Why do so many think they can act, do, and believe as they wish and still “go to heaven” to be with God?
  • Do you agree with this statement? – “Because God is holy, He must punish sin.”

The Indictment - Luke 20:16-19

Quoting Psalm 118:22, Jesus showed the unbelieving leaders that even their rejection of the Messiah had been prophesied in Scripture. Psalm 118 was a key part of the Passover service—all the pilgrims coming to Passover would recite 118:25–26 as they came to Jerusalem. The religious leaders had been reciting this passage for years without understanding or applying it (see John 5:39–40). In Jesus’ quotation, the “son” of the parable became the stone of this prophecy; the “tenant farmers” of the parable became the builders. Rejecting the cornerstone was dangerous. A person could be tripped or crushed (judged and punished).

The Significance of the Cornerstone
The stones pictured in the title of this blog post are part of the “Master Course” of stones located under the Western Wall (or Wailing Wall) of the temple. These stones are only accessible by a tunnel dug by archaeologists while excavating down to the very street which existed in the days of Jesus. This road went from the city center of Jerusalem into the temple complex and would have been walked regularly by the people. The largest of the stones weighs 570 tons and is 44 feet long, 10 feet high and 12–16 feet deep.  Compare this to the largest stone in the Great Pyramid which only weighs 11 tons. When Jesus spoke of a stone the builders rejected but which had become the chief cornerstone, all the people would’ve thought of this very stone. 

There are two distinct phrases Jesus uses regarding the function of the cornerstone – broken and shatter. Some view both phrases as a message of judgment – some will be broken to pieces and some will be shattered or crushed. Others view the first phrase as a message of salvation. If one falls, broken before Christ, the Cornerstone, He will remake them (Salvation). If one rejects Christ, that person will be crushed by the cornerstone (Judgment). 

Considering the first phrase as a reference to salvation helps explain the fact that brokenness is not only good but also essential for receiving Christ. He uses only people whose hearts, volition, and pride have been broken. Those who cast themselves on Jesus, submitting their wills and all that they are to Him, will be broken by Him of arrogance, hard-heartedness, self-centeredness. It is not a pleasant process but an absolutely necessary one.
  • Do you feel most people believe they don’t need to be broken in order to come to Jesus? Why or why not? 
  • Do you feel you need to be broken in order to come to Jesus? 
  • Do you believe we live in a broken world?
The reality is that we do have to be broken before receiving Christ. We have a choice: broken before Him, or crushed by Him. For those who do not submit to Him, He will ultimately “fall on them,” an experience that can only be described as “crushing.” 

Still, another message that can be drawn from this metaphor relates to the church. Although Jesus had been rejected by many of His people, He would become the “cornerstone” of His new building, the church (see Acts 4:11 and 1 Peter 2:6–7, where it is clear that Peter was impressed with this vivid image of Jesus being the rejected stone). Although Jesus had been rejected and defeated by His own people, the Jews, God would raise Him from the dead and seat Him at His own right hand. Nothing can thwart God’s purpose. At the Last Judgment, God’s enemies will be crushed by it. At that time, Christ, the “building block,” will become the “crushing stone.” He offers mercy and forgiveness now, and He promises judgment later. (source: Life Application Bible)

It’s not by coincidence that Jesus told this parable in the shadow of the cross. Jesus was using the parable to make a point regarding three truths. First, the tenant farmers represented the extent to which human beings had become corrupt. Second, the owner’s actions showed how much God cares for people by sending Jesus to die on the cross for us. Third, the owner’s wrath toward the farmers warns us of God’s judgment against anyone who rejects Jesus and His sacrifice.
  • Would you create a list of people in your circles of influence who have yet to express faith in Jesus? Begin praying for God to open doors for you to share and show the good news of Jesus to them and that they might receive Christ and not reject Him.
  • Reflect on the judgment awaiting those who reject Jesus.  How should the reality of judgment fuel our sharing the gospel? What adjustments do you need to make in this area?
The downloadable teaching helps provide more details for this study along with some tools you can use in guiding a group Bible study. Be sure to use this as a supplement to your study of the Explore the Bible Study resources provided by LifeWay.

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Video Supplement
Why People Reject Christ

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