Week of March 10

Christ, Our True Cornerstone

Read: Deuteronomy 1-2; Mark 12
“Have you not read this Scripture:
‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”
Mark 12:10-11, ESV


Christ will have no person or nation supplant His authority. This opening statement to today’s culture seems provocative, but it is filled with urgent purpose. I penned the words because I want us to consider them carefully as we enter this Easter season. Christ presents a parable in Mark 12:1-11 where the chief theme may be summed up in our focal verses. Jesus quotes Psalm 118:22-23 in the passage and shifts the metaphor from a vineyard to a building, but He has a clear message in mind.
The story touches our lives because it is interpreted as a justification of the church replacing Israel as God’s favored people (NAC). Talk about a watershed moment! The parable holds profound importance for our contemporary lives when so many sincere Christians are confused about their ultimate responsibility to their nation and its leaders.* This passage will help us today as we seek to reclaim a clear understanding of Christ’s Lordship in an era of heightened global nationalism.

The Meaning of the Text

The significance of the imagery
The Jews understood the stone to be their own nation that other nations had rejected, but which the Lord would restore (12:10b-11; NAC). Recall Jesus’ disciples asking Him about the restoration of Israel (Acts 1:6). The early Christians, post-Pentecost, quickly understood the stone to be Jesus Christ (see Ephesians 2:20). Christ directs His words mostly to the leaders of the nation at this point, but the church obviously took up the image for its own use. I also believe Mark places this passage here to prepare his readers for the upcoming sufferings of Christ. Therefore, these verses are pivotal in any age.
Walking the pathway to the Cross
I want you to imagine that you are walking alongside Jesus through the Passion Week. We have reached something of a summit in Holy Week if this event is included in the third day (cf. 12:12), which I believe to be the case. This statement by Christ was a radical change in perspective. It is foundational to the events that would soon transpire on the cross. His words also hold deep implications for a shift from Jewish nationalism to the Kingdom of God with Christ as Lord. If you are in the United States, then you are reading this devotional on Super Tuesday, where multiple states are holding election primaries that will largely determine who the presidential candidates will be for the upcoming November general election. Do you feel the tension? Imagine that Jesus steps into a party precinct meeting or political gathering you are attending and states these words to all who are assembled!
Crown Him Lord of All!
This parable places the remaining Passion Week events into a clearer perspective for us. It clearly shows us that Christ is Lord, not any given nation or its interests. For example, the Jews despised the Roman census or poll head tax because it was a symbol of foreign domination. The coin they now used bore the image of the emperor. That currency was likened to idolatry because its inscription read, “Tiberius Caesar, son of the divine Augustus” (12:13-16; cf. NAC). Christ will accept no rivals to His authority, even though God’s people do have some obligation to the state (cf. Romans 13:1-7). The far greater obligation is to God, however. Caesar’s image was on a one-penny coin, but the image of God is stamped on our entire beings (Genesis 1:26-27). We are to worship the Lord supremely. Let’s examine a moral way to apply this passage.

The Message for Your Heart

A young twenty-three-year-old Dietrich Bonhoeffer in 1929 held to an ethic of the moment that was influenced by nationalism. He saw the German national and economic struggle at that time as God’s directive hand of order over creation and history (cf. Social Darwinism). Therefore, he believed that when the state says make war, then the response should not be guided by the Lordship of Christ, but by a nationalistic loyalty to government and nation (Stassen, “Healing the Rift between the Sermon on the Mount and Christian Ethics,” 90-91).
However, Bonhoeffer’s worldview was radically altered following a visit to America where he encountered, among other things, the Abyssinian Baptist Church, an African American congregation. Black Americans knew firsthand the hardship and suffering that a government yoke had placed upon them. Dietrich’s heart was changed, and he was genuinely converted to Christ. By his own admission, his previous nationalistic views were held when he was his “own lord,” but the centrality of Christ as Lord and the Sermon on the Mount brought radical change into his life. Bonhoeffer learned that the “cornerstone” was Christ, and His church, built with believers who are living stones, was the edifice. Christ calls us today, liked he called Dietrich Bonhoeffer, beyond nationalistic ideologies and theologies, to the Spirit-directed life of commitment to Him.
*Readers from various nations read this Pathway Devotional Ministry publication.

For Thought and Action

1. Some of Christ’s words today may be troubling you because they challenge your understanding of national allegiance. Write down what bothers you, then ask the Lord to help you to see more clearly the urgency of supreme Kingdom allegiance as you walk through the events leading up to Easter.
2. For Families: Have you ever taken your children on a search of unusual architecture in your area? On a sunny warm weekend afternoon soon, gather your kids and take them to your County Courthouse, or to the downtown area of a large city nearby. When there are fewer people around, your kids can roam. One of the things kids love play is “I Spy,” locating geometric shapes, climbing steps, reading cornerstones and historical markers, exploring the public fountains, and finding elements of architecture that make your city or county unique.

Before you go, be sure to research the difference between the cornerstone, the keystone, and the capstone, all very important architectural features, and each one essential for the safety and integrity of a buildings. Ask your kids to find these stones in buildings they see, and to explain how they help the building. Then, on the way home, ask them how Jesus Christ is all three for us and how He helps us to be stable, and load-bearing, and protected from harmful elements. Happy stone-hunting!

May your paths be straight,
Larry C. Ashlock