What does this mean?
Jesus is teaching to a crowd of people along with elders, chief priests and scribes:
One day as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple courts and proclaiming the good news, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, together with the elders, came up to him. (Luke 20:1)Then Jesus had told them the parable of the landowner and the grape farmers. This is how they reacted:
When the people heard this, they said, "God forbid!" Jesus looked directly at them and asked, (Luke 20:16-17)Then after his statement of Luke 20:17-18, here is how the Jewish officials responded:
The teachers of the law and the chief priests looked for a way to arrest him immediately, because they knew he had spoken this parable against them. But they were afraid of the people. (Luke 20:19)But what and who is Jesus quoting with the statement about the cornerstone? It comes from David's Psalm 118 [excerpt bolded]:
The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? The LORD is with me; He is my helper. I look in triumph on my enemies. It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in humans. It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes. All the nations surrounded me, but in the name of the LORD I cut them down. They surrounded me on every side, but in the name of the LORD I cut them down. They swarmed around me like bees, but they were consumed as quickly as burning thorns; in the Name of the LORD I cut them down. I was pushed back and about to fall, but the LORD helped me. The LORD is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation. Shouts of joy and victory resound in the tents of the righteous: "The LORD's right hand has done mighty things! The LORD's right hand is lifted high; the LORD's right hand has done mighty things!" I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the LORD has done. The LORD has chastened me severely, but He has not given me over to death. Open for me the gates of the righteous; I will enter and give thanks to the LORD. This is the gate of the LORD through which the righteous may enter. I will give You thanks, for You answered me; You have become my salvation. The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. The LORD has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad. LORD, save us! LORD, grant us success! (Psalms 118:6-25)
David is not referring to Jesus
So we can see that David is not - as proposed by many of today's sectarian teachers - speaking of Jesus. He is writing about his own relationship with the Supreme Being. He is discussing how God is his refuge and how God saves him. The sentence right before the cornerstone sentence says, "You have become my salvation." Who is the "You" in this statement?
From this Psalm, we find that "You" is "the LORD." The word "LORD" is being translated from the Hebrew word יְהֹוָה (Yĕhovah). This quite obviously is referring to the Supreme Being - Yahweh, Jehovah, God.
But isn't Jesus the Supreme Being? We have discussed this many times. For example, here. Jesus is God's representative. He loves the Supreme Being and he is carrying out the will of God and was therefore united in will with the Supreme Being:
"By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but Him who sent me." (John 5:30)Furthermore, such a relationship with God provides the link between Jesus' statement and David's Psalm - and the meaning of his quoting David.
David is speaking of being attacked by enemies - "All the nations surrounded me..." and "They surrounded me on every side..." and "I was pushed back and about to fall..." These are all situations where David was attacked, by the people around him as well as enemies of the state.
And yet David knows he will be victorious because God is his refuge. God will always be there for him - while everything else in this world will perish. We can see this clearly from his Psalm.
The "stone that the builders rejected" is this refuge in the Supreme Being. The people in general dismissed taking refuge in God. But taking refuge in God is the only solid thing. It is the only thing that can be trusted. As David says, "It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in humans."
Taking refuge in God
God's refuge is a rock ("cornerstone") in the midst of the things and people of this world.
This is Jesus' point as he states, "Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed."
To fall on that stone means to dismiss it or disregard God's refuge. It means to take the Supreme Being for granted.
This is what was occurring with so many of the organized Temple officials who were questioning Jesus' authority. They were assuming the positions of God's representatives, but they weren't representing God. They hadn't taken refuge in God. Their focus was trying to maintain their authority in their respective organizations. And they were attacking Jesus because he threatened their authority.
When Jesus says, "anyone on whom it falls will be crushed" - he is speaking of those who offend God and God's representative - or otherwise interfere with someone's taking refuge in God.
The time of death is the critical point. Someone who doesn't take refuge in the Supreme Being during their lifetime will find that death will overwhelm them. We will be torn from our bodies and thrown into another place that brings pain and distress - to play out the consequences of our actions in this life.
But the person who takes refuge in the Supreme Being will meet another fate according to David:
"I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the LORD has done."You see, most sectarian interpreters of David's Psalms don't take David at face value. They don't see that David is writing prose to honor and praise the Supreme Being as he writes honestly about his personal life. He is glorifying God through his writings. He is referring to the miseries of the self-centered material world while expressing his love for the Supreme Being.
This is what Jesus is reflecting on, and trying to get across to his students. Many sectarian teachers interpret that David is prophesizing about Jesus. They claim that Jesus is saying - 'see, he was talking about me!' That is an absurd interpretation of both David's writings and Jesus' teachings - especially in light of Jesus' statements elsewhere, as he prays:
“My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.” (Matt. 26:39)Jesus isn't trying to glorify himself, and prove that David was writing about him. Jesus was taking refuge in God. He was wanting to please God - just as David took refuge and wanted to please the Supreme Being.
This is the link that ties David's writings to Jesus' teachings - and his activities. Surely, some of the things that David discussed, Jesus carried out. But this isn't because David was predicting Jesus' activities. It was because Jesus' life expressed the devotion that David wrote about - to please the Supreme Being and take refuge in Him.
In other words, Jesus carried out the devotion to God expressed in David's writings. David loves God, and Jesus loves God. And Moses loves God. And Jesus, who followed in Moses' and David's footsteps, expressed this love by his activities.
They all took refuge in their Beloved God.
This is why Jesus taught many of the things that the Prophets taught. This is why Jesus often quoted not only John and David, but Isaiah, Ezekiel, Moses, Samuel and others. Because Jesus was carrying forward the same central instructions these great Teachers before him taught. And Jesus also illustrated their teachings in his own life. He gave his life - his energy and his time - to the Supreme Being out of love and devotion.
This carries out the teachings of the Prophets because this is what they taught their students to do - to give their lives to the Supreme Being.
Doing this expresses the central instruction of Moses, which Jesus quoted in his teachings to his students, when asked what the most important teaching was:
"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. (Matt. 22:37-38)Moses made this teaching clear, as he stated:
Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. (Deut. 6:5)
Love the LORD your God and keep His requirements, His decrees, His laws and His commands always. (Deut. 11:1)
So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today—to love the LORD your God and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul— (Deut 11:13)
"If you carefully observe all these commands I am giving you to follow—to love the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to Him and to hold fast to Him— (Deut 11:22)
"because you carefully follow all these laws I command you today—to love the LORD your God and to walk always in obedience to Him—" (Deut 19:9)
"For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to Him, and to keep His commands, decrees and laws (Deut 30:16)
"... and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to His voice, and hold fast to Him. For the LORD is your life (Deut 30:20)Moses' disciple Joshua also taught this:
"But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the LORD gave you: to love the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to Him, to keep His commands, to hold fast to Him and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Joshua 22:5)
"So be very careful to love the LORD your God. (Joshua 23:11)And this is also what David taught within his Psalms:
"Love the LORD, all His faithful people!" (Psalms 31:23)