Behold! Cornerstone

Behold! Cornerstone

Behold! Cornerstone. 

There are some individual words and short phrases in Scripture that need to be highlighted as they are read, words or phrases that are significant or point to something meaningful. Some phrases might be: Fear not. Here I am. Woe to you. One another.   And maybe some words are: AmenHallelujahBlessedAbba. Come.  The word Behold! is one of those significant words, an exclamation that is intended to get our attention. Listen, people, this is something you need to hear! Behold says to the audience, Look at this and take note! You would be wise to remember these words and think about them! Careful now, don’t be deaf to what I am about to say! Stop what you’re doing and listen up! As the Eastern Orthodox Christians say before they read the Gospel in the Liturgy… Attend! The following verse begins with Behold! So the words that follow must be important.

Behold! I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation. It is a cornerstone that is safe to build on. Whoever believes need never be shaken. Whoever believes in Him will not be put to shame. Remember, a trusting life will not topple. No one who relies on this firm foundation stone will ever stumble. He who trusts need never fear.” (Isaiah 28:16).

No wonder this messianic prophecy starts with Behold! Listen up! For the words that follow that important exclamation are a crucial theme repeated over ten times in the Bible. This message has been a reference point in Scripture time and again, and has been announced by prophets, apostles, saints, and by the Messiah Himself. Yes, Jesus proved Himself to be the promised cornerstone in our house of faith. But what exactly is a cornerstone? It is a specially chosen stone that is placed onto the foundation, and it is used to join the two walls together into a stable support system for the building. Without a perfect cornerstone, the walls would be unstable, crookedly placed and unevenly joined. Builders have to be specially choosy when they select a cornerstone, or their walls would sooner or later collapse. Jesus Himself claimed to be the chief cornerstone that was actually rejected by the builders. In reality, Christ is the Living Stone with which we build our life and salvation. He is the only One who could join the two walls of Jew and Gentile, of justice and mercy, of grace and truth.

There was no doubt whatsoever that the earliest Christians affirmed Jesus as the prophesied Stone. Paul says so in 1 Corinthians 3:11“No other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” Paul also states in Ephesians 2:20“… Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.” Peter agrees with Paul, as you can see in his affirmation in 1 Peter 2 above. And Luke repeats this messianic claim of Jesus as he refers to the Stone in Acts 4:11“… By the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, this is the Stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.” 

Jesus is associated with four types of “living stones” in the Bible: foundation stone, cornerstone, capstone, and keystone. These last three seem to be interchangeable in Scripture, and cornerstone could just as easily be translated as capstone or keystone. Most translations, though, have centered on cornerstone.

Foundation Stone. One interesting facet of the idea of foundation stone is something familiar to all Jews regarding the Holy of Holies. According to rabbinic and mystical tradition, there is a sacred rock called “The Foundation,” a stone that is slightly elevated off the ground, sitting in the center of the Holy of Holies, which is in the center of the Temple, which is historically considered to be the center of the world. It is considered the rock that was the foundation rock during Creation. There is still a Foundation stone to this day in what was once the Holy of Holies on the Temple Mount. The idea of foundation stone is also at the center of Jesus’ famous parable about the two builders. The wise builder built his house on the stable foundation rock under the ground. The foolish builder didn’t bother digging for solid rock, but settled on his house being built on the shifting sand. In all this, Jesus has proven Himself to be the sure foundation stone… of Creation, of our personal faith, and of the collective faith of the Church. Our lives and the life of the Church is built on nothing less than Jesus, our true Foundation Stone.

Cornerstone. (See above)

Capstone. “The stone that the builders rejected and discarded has now become the capstone.” (1 Peter 2:7, NIV). Jesus could just as well be the capstone in a house of faith. Capstones are vital in construction, for they are the solid stones that are placed at the very top of the new walls. Capstones finish off the walls up top and provide a stable place on which to build the roof. Without solid capstones securing the highest point of the walls, the walls would be incomplete and unstable. Once the capstones are in place, the roof can be securely built and the residents can be protected from weather and predators and pests. Without solid capstones, the roof would be insecure and unstable. Without the well-placed capstones, the house would not be a place of peace and protection. Christ is the priceless capstone, the invaluable part of the faith’s support system, turning a house into a sanctuary.

Keystone. “The stone that the builders rejected has now become the keystone.” (Luke 20:17, NRSV). As the Living Stone, Christ has become the foundation stone, the cornerstone, the capstone, and now the keystone in the house of faith. The keystone is one more vital way that Jesus is essential in faith construction. The keystone is that wedge-shaped stone that fits perfectly into the very top center of the entrance arch. Without a well-selected and shaped keystone, believe it or not, everything would collapse. It is the final piece placed during house construction, because it serves the function of locking all the stones into position. The keystone allows the arch to bear the weight of all the construction. Without a perfectly fitted keystone, the unstable shelter would fall. Without Christ as the keystone, the house of faith would not hold together, for He makes everything fit together perfectly.

Only Christ is the trustworthy foundation stone, the cornerstone, the capstone, and the keystone, building materials used for the structure of the universe. “Trust in the Lord forever, for in Yahweh God we have an everlasting Rock.” (Is. 26:4). Without Christ as the living Stone, the world itself would collapse.