13.03.05 Mt. 21:42-44 (See also Mk. 12:10-11; Lk. 20:17-18) In the Temple
THE STONE THE BUILDERS REJECTED
42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:
The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
This came from the Lord
and is wonderful in our eyes? (Ps. 118:22-23)
43 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing its fruit. [44 Whoever falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whoever it falls, it will grind him to powder!]”
This passage is part of the preceding parable of the wicked tenants. And Jesus included an Old Testament quotation and the Jews knew precisely what He was talking about. Early in His ministry Jesus gave hints of who He was and the consequences to those who opposed Him, but now He was more direct. Three times Jesus had just announced His Messiahship in a firm and unmistakable manner.
- Jesus had ridden a donkey into Jerusalem, thereby reflecting the image of a king.
- He then cleansed the temple again, as if He owned it.
- Now He said He was “the stone that the builders rejected.” The cornerstone was critical to the integrity of the building, as Jesus was critical to the integrity of life. The “stone” that was rejected was the cornerstone – meaning Jesus. Furthermore, the name of the chief builder (tekton) was often inscribed upon it.
In this tense social-political environment, were Jesus to have made a public announcement of His divine office, a riot would have ensued and the Romans would have killed many innocent people, along with the disciples. But Jesus showed Himself to be a master diplomat in how He announced His Messiahship.
This was the final point of conflict with the Sadducees and the upper Pharisee echelon. They understood that Jesus was telling them they would be destroyed and their position of religious authority would be given to others. Jesus saw Himself as the smiting stone of Daniel 2, which would bring destruction upon them. He used the imagery of Isaiah (5:1-7) to describe the Sadducees as the vineyard which produced bad fruit. They realized He was predicting judgment upon them. This explosive accusation caused them to determine to put Jesus to death. The prophetic words of Jesus came true. When the Romans destroyed the temple, they also destroyed the entire priestly caste of the Sadducees and the upper Pharisee echelon, both of whom were the policy makers of first century Judaism.
Ironically, the prophetic messengers of God were killed by those who were to be the beneficiaries of the message. The words of the Hallel (Ps. 114-18) included a phrase that pertained to the Messiah at this time.
“The kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing its fruit.” This phrase means that the Kingdom of God would be taken from the Jewish people and given to the Gentile church, although not all messianic scholars would agree with that interpretation. They state that the Kingdom of God was taken from the Jewish leaders and given to different leaders (who, by the way, comprised the first century church).
Finally, this parable has not been without its share of controversies. It is considered to be one of the most complicated and debated parables and some critics have even said that all or parts of it were probably additions by the early church fathers. However, their opinions have no foundation, and furthermore, there are two significant details that attest to its authenticity, especially the Psalm quotation.
- An important feature of the parable is the son/stone wordplay. Jesus often used wordplays, as did many others – at times it is a normal part of conversation. The wordplay is obvious only in Hebrew or Aramaic language, but is lost when translated into another language.
- Mark and Luke used the word “beloved” to describe “son,” as part of the broader “son” theme. As one scholar said, it is clear that the gospel writers associated the parable’s “beloved son” who is the key figure of the parable with the “stone,” the “Son” figure, and Jesus Himself. 
. Examples of other titles for Jesus are the chief cornerstone (Eph. 2:20; 1 Pet. 2:6); the head of the corner (Ps. 118:22; Lk. 20:17; Acts 4:11; 1 Pet. 2:7); The head of the body (Col. 1:18; 2:19); the head of the church (Eph. 1:22; 5:23); the firstfruits (1 Cor. 15:20); The firstborn from the dead (Col. 1:18); the captain of our salvation (Heb. 2:10); the first and the last (Rev. 1:17); the firstbegotten (Heb. 1:6); and the firstborn (Rom. 8:29; Heb. 12:23).
. See”Cornerstone” in Appendix 26.
. Bookman, When God Wore Sandals. CD Trac 12; Issler. “Exploring the Pervasive References to Work in Jesus’ Parables.” 327.
. For the identifying connections of Jesus with the Hallel (Ps. 114-118), see 04.06.01.
. For an exegetical study on this passage, see Lanier, “The Rejected Stone in the Parable of the Wicked Tenants: Defending the Authenticity of Jesus’ Quotation of Ps. 118:22.” 733-58.
. Another example of a wordplay is a statement by Caesar Augustus when he spoke of the cruelty of Herod the Great. The Roman historian Macrobius wrote in his Saturnalia (2.4) that Augustus said, “I’d rather be Herod’s pig than his son.” The words “pig” and “son” sound similar in Latin. (See 03.06.04)
. Lanier, “The Rejected Stone in the Parable of the Wicked Tenants: Defending the Authenticity of Jesus’ Quotation of Ps. 118:22.” 738.