THE STONE THE BUILDERS REJECTED
The following is a quote from a well respected minister: “…It amazes me that we believe this, that God would crush and kill his own son but let you slide. “
Did God kill his only Son? According to the New Testament, Jesus taught his disciples that his death would come from the hands of sinful men, and this is exactly what the apostles preached, including Paul, throughout the book of Acts. Jesus is the Stone the builders rejected, and before his death on the cross, Jesus prepared his disciples for the things he was soon to suffer. After his resurrection, Jesus revealed to them how all things written in the Law of Moses, the Psalms, and the Prophets concerning his death and resurrection were fulfilled by the events they had just witnessed.
And he said unto them, these are the words which I spoke unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the Law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning Me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise again the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things. ~ Luke 24:44-48
Jesus opened the understanding of his disciples, and they comprehended that the things they had just witnessed was the fulfillment of the scriptures concerning his sufferings and the glory that should follow.
Jesus began to prepare his disciples concerning his death and resurrection while at Caesarea Philippi, the very same place where Jesus asked his disciples “who do you say that I am?”
From that time forth began Jesus to show unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. ~ Matthew 16:21
Soon afterwards, Jesus was transfigured on the mountain known as the Mount of Transfiguration. Peter, James, and John all witnessed as Moses and Elijah appeared and spoke with Jesus concerning his death which was soon to take place in Jerusalem. ~ Luke 9:31
After this, Jesus and the disciples with him made their way down the mountain. As they journeyed, Jesus said to them, “the Son of Man is going to suffer and be put at naught as it was written of him.”
When they arrived at the foot of the mountain, they were met by a crowd of people, along with nine anxious disciples who seemed a bit overwhelmed regarding the father of a young man who had epilepsy. They had tried to cast out an evil spirit from the epileptic boy but to no avail. Jesus had compassion and cast out the demon and presented the young man back to his father.
As the crowd rejoiced, and the disciples wondered why they could not set the boy free, Jesus turned to them and said, “Let these sayings sink down into your ears: for the Son of man shall be delivered into the hands of men.” ~ Luke 9:44
The disciples did not yet understand what Christ was teaching them, yet they were being prepared because Jesus knew the time was approaching when he would offer his life for the sin of the world. Luke tells us “It came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem.” ~ Luke 9:51
Not long afterwards, while in Galilee, Jesus again rehearsed to his disciples how he was going to suffer. Matthew tells us, “while they abode in Galilee, Jesus said unto them, The Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men: And they shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised again. And they were exceeding sorry.” ~ Matthew 17:22-23
Still, the disciples did not comprehend these things. It wasn’t until after Jesus had arisen from the dead and opened their understanding to the scriptures that they fully understood.
Nonetheless Jesus was preparing them because they were going to be eye witnesses of the fulfillment of the scriptures concerning the Messiah and they would testify of him with boldness in the power of the Holy Spirit.
As they made their way towards Jerusalem, Jesus again pulled his disciples aside and rehearsed to them what he was about to suffer.
Now Jesus, going up to Jerusalem, took the twelve disciples aside on the road and said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death, and deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify. And the third day He will rise again.” ~ Matthew 20:17-19 NKJV
Luke gives us a little different insight and says, “He took unto him the twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished. For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on: And they shall scourge him, and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again. And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken.” ~ Luke 18:31-34
Notice that the things the Jesus endured from the hands of men is described by Jesus as the accomplishment, or fulfillment of “all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man.”
REMEMBER WHAT HE SAID
In Luke 24:1-8, we read of certain women who came to the empty tomb on the day that Jesus was raised from the dead. They were greeted by an angel of the Lord, who said the following to them:
He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spoke unto you when he was yet in Galilee, Saying, the Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. ~ Luke 24:6-8
When the angel of the Lord said this to the women, the Bible says, “they remembered his words.”
Later, in Luke 24:13 -31, we read of two of Jesus’s disciples who traveled along the road to Emmaus. As they walked and talked together, they spoke of “all these things which had happened.”
As these two disciples discussed what had happened, a stranger suddenly came along for the journey. They had no idea their new traveling companion was none other than Jesus himself. The Bible says, their eyes were kept from recognizing him. ~ Luke 24:16
Jesus then asked them what they were having such an intense discussion about. One of them whose name was Cleopas answered Jesus and said, “Are you only a stranger in Jerusalem and have not known the things which have happened in these days?”
Jesus responded, “what things?”
Then they said to Jesus, “concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people: And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him. But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, today is the third day since these things were done.” ~ Luke 24: 19-21
Notice that, these things, of which these two disciples were speaking includes the betrayal and trial along with the crucifixion. It was now the third day since the Jesus had been betrayed.
As they proceeded to tell Jesus all that had happened to him and how they had hoped that he would have been the one who would have redeemed Israel, they still had no clue it was Jesus with whom they were talking. They even told him that they had heard reports of his resurrection, yet they were still in disbelief. Luke continues the narrative of Jesus’s response to their report of his death and resurrection.
Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. ~ Luke 24:25-27
Notice how Jesus describes these things which they had witnessed as being that which all the prophets had spoken concerning himself (i.e., his death). The context of this passage shows that Jesus revealed nothing other than his sufferings, beginning with the betrayal by Judas into the hands of men and their condemnation of him as the fulfillment of all that the scriptures had foretold of His death.
Jesus expounded to them those things in the scriptures relating to his sufferings and the glory that was to follow. Jesus literally schooled these two disciples on the meaning of the scriptures beginning with Moses and continued through all writings of the prophets to show them that what they had just witnessed was the fulfillment of the scriptures.
THE APOSTLES DOCTRINE
The Lord’s closest disciples were his personally appointed apostles, and they preached the cross throughout the book of Acts exactly as they had been taught by Jesus that what they had witnessed was the fulfillment of the scriptures.
As we read through the book of Acts, we see that the apostles laid the blame for the death of Jesus upon the people of Israel. As the apostles preached the gospel, their message was filled with overtones of “look at what you have done to him and repent.”
Consider the words of Peter in Acts 2:
Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it. ~ Acts 2:23-24
Later, in verse thirty-six, Peter says, “… let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made this same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.” ~ Acts 2:36
In Acts 3, after the lame man was healed at the gate called Beautiful, a crowd quickly assembled around Peter and John. The people were amazed at what had happened because the man had been lame his entire life, more than 40 years. Peter quickly defused any attention towards him and John and preached the following to the people.
… Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk? The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go. But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses. And his name through faith in his name hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know: yea, the faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all. And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers. But those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled. Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord. ~ Acts 3: 12b-19
The remainder of Peter’s sermon is recorded in verses 20-26, but from the verses above one can clearly see that Peter blames the people and not God for the death of Jesus.
As we read into chapter four, we see that Peter’s boldness for Jesus invoked trouble from the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees. Peter and John were taken into custody because these leaders were angered that they had taught and preached about the resurrection of Jesus which resulted in approximately 5,000 people being saved.
The next day, Peter and John were placed on trial before the High Priest and were asked, “By what power, or by what name, have ye done this?” Peter’s response is worth examining because it again reveals how the apostles understood the cross and resurrection of Jesus:
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel, If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole; Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. ~ Acts 4:8-12
Notice that Peter again directs the responsibility for the death of Jesus towards those who rejected him. He then attributes the resurrection to God showing how God had overturned what the people had done in condemning Jesus. God had raised him from the dead. Peter speaks of Jesus as the stone which his audience at that time had rejected and says the stone which they had rejected is the stone which has becomes the cornerstone of God’s house!
Peter would later write about this in his first epistle.
You are coming to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple. He was rejected by people, but he was chosen by God for great honor. And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God. As the Scriptures say, “I am placing a cornerstone in Jerusalem, chosen for great honor, and anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.” Yes, you who trust him recognize the honor God has given him. But for those who reject him, “The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.” And, “He is the stone that makes people stumble, the rock that makes them fall.” ~ 1 Peter 2:4-8 TNLT
Peter is telling us the same thing in his first epistle as he preached to the religious leaders in Acts 4. Jesus is the Stone whom the people rejected. Not the one God rejected. In his death, Jesus suffered unjustly at the hands of sinful men, and in his resurrection he was vindicated by the justice of God, for God exalted him to the highest place of honor at his own right hand.
After being threatened by the council and let go, Peter and John returned to the other believers. The Bible says they reported to them all that the chief priests, and the elders had said to them. After hearing this, the whole crowd of believers began to lift up their voices in unity to God in prayer. Among other things their prayer contained the following words.
And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done. ~ Acts 4:24-28
Here we can see the disciples declared that it was not only Jesus that the people opposed but God as well. Those who condemned Jesus to death were gathered against the Lord and against his Christ.
The Lord and his Christ is a reference to God and his Son Jesus!
In John 15 Jesus had taught his disciples that the world hated him because it hated his Father in Heaven and interprets the scripture, “they hated me without a cause,” as hatred aimed at both he and his Father, God. Consequently the world would hate them as well.
This is what we are seeing in Acts 4 as well as the entirety of the book of Acts. The unrepentant religious hierarchy within Jewry were hell bent on silencing the testimony of Christ being witnessed by the apostles.
Yet, the power of the Holy Spirit could not be quenched, for Christ had overcome this world and was now the exalted King seated at the Father’s right hand. Christ’s gospel is unstoppable by the kingdoms of this world for it is not preached in man’s strength but in God’s, for the Kingdom of God is not in word but in power. (see 1 Corinthians 4:20).
After the company of believers in Acts 4 prayed, God shook the building and filled them all with the Holy Ghost. God answered their prayer and did many signs and wonders among the people through the hands of the apostles. This caused quite a stir with the high priest and those with him. The Bible says they were filled with considerable resentment toward the followers of Jesus. Once again they tried to stop the work of the Holy Ghost, but this is how Peter and the other apostles answered them:
Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him. ~ Acts 5:29-32
The apostles not only blamed them again for the crucifixion of Jesus, but they declared that God, in opposition to what they had done, had raised Jesus from the dead. They made it clear they had been witnesses of all this themselves as well as the Holy Spirit.
This declaration by Peter and the apostles was met with such resistance by the high priest and his associates that they wanted the apostles dead just as they had wanted Jesus dead. Acts 5:33 says, “When they heard that, they were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them.”
It wasn’t the apostles only whom they wanted to stop. It was the work of the Holy Spirit through the apostles that they were opposing. We can see this in the case of Stephen. Stephen was not an apostle, but a faithful disciple and deacon in the church. Stephen had been chosen as a deacon because he was of an honest report, and he was full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom. In Acts 6:8 we are told that “Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.”
Yet there were some Jews from the Synagogue who stirred up debate with Stephen but when they could not stand against the wisdom and the Spirit with which Stephen spoke, they persuaded some men to lie about him. They accused Stephen of speaking blasphemous against Moses and God. This resulted in stirring up more trouble with the people, the elders, and the teachers of religious law.
They then came and arrested Stephen and brought him before the high council and they publicly accused him falsely. It was in this setting that Stephen preached his last sermon before dying as a martyr for the Lord Jesus after being stoned to death by his accusers.
Yet, we need to ask, what exactly made them so angry? What did Stephen preach that so infuriated them that caused them to stone him to death? Stephen testified of the long history of Israel’s continued rejection of God and Israel’s rejection of those whom God sent to them, which culminated in their rejection of Jesus.
Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers… ~ Acts 7:51-52
Stephen says to those who were about to stone him that they were betrayers and murders of Jesus, the Just One. Their fathers had persecuted the prophets who had showed beforehand his coming, and they had followed in their footsteps by their rejection of Christ. Stephen actually says that what they did to Jesus was that of resisting the Holy Ghost!
In Luke 11:46-52, Jesus had said to the leaders of the Jewish people that by their rejection of him they would be accounted as guilty of the blood of all the prophets from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah and by resisting Stephen’s preaching about Jesus, those who killed Stephen had also fallen into the same category because they too were resisting the Holy Ghost.
This is a major theme that runs consistently throughout the New Testament. God sent Christ to turn the hearts of his people back to him. Those who repented received the remission of their sins through the Messiah who died for them and rose again. Those who refused to repent were condemned by their rejection of Jesus.
In Acts 13, the Apostle Paul also preached this same Gospel when he said, “Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work, which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you.”
These words by Paul refer to the resurrection of Christ as the work of God which the scriptures foretold God was going to do. Here is the context of Paul’s message:
Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent. For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him. And though they found no cause of death in him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain. And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre. But God raised him from the dead: And he was seen many days of them which came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are his witnesses unto the people. And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David. Wherefore he saith also in another psalm, Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption: But he, whom God raised again, saw no corruption. Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses. Beware therefore, lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets; Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you. ~ Acts 13:26-46
The apostles always preached the resurrection of Jesus as the work of God in contrast to what sinful men had done to Jesus. It was this testimony that the Holy Ghost affirmed with signs, wonders, and miracles.
In Acts 8, Philip the evangelist preached Christ to a high ranking Ethiopian. The Bible tells us that he was a eunuch and had great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians. He had oversight of all her treasure, and he had come to Jerusalem to worship God. On his way home he was reading from the prophet Isaiah as he sat on his chariot. The Spirit of the Lord spoke to Philip and said, “Go near, and join thyself to this chariot.” Philip ran to him, and heard him reading from Isaiah and asked him, “do you understand what you are reading?” See verses 29 and 30.
The Eunuch replied, “How can I, except some man should guide me?” He then urged Philip to come up into the chariot and sit with him. The passage of Scripture he had been reading was this: “In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth.” See verse 31-33.
It was this place in scripture that Philip began to declare to him about Jesus. What’s significant here is the phrase, “In his humiliation his judgment was taken away,” is a reference to the unjust treatment that Jesus endured.
Here is what some other translations of Acts 8:33 says,
- He was humiliated and received no justice… (NLT)
- In His humiliation He was taken away by distressing and oppressive judgment and justice was denied Him… (Amplified Bible)
- In His humiliation justice was denied Him… (Holman Christian Standard Bible)
Now, here is what some other translations of Isaiah 53:8 says, which is the verse quoted in Acts 8:33:
- Unjustly condemned, he was led away… (New Living Translation)
- By oppression and judgment He was taken away… (Amplified Bible)
- He was condemned to death without a fair trial… (Contemporary English Version)
Later, in Acts 10 when Peter was sent to the house of Cornelius, the message was the same. Peter preach about Jesus and said the following:
And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree: Him God raised up the third day and shewed him openly; Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead (the living and the dead). To him give all the prophets witness that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins. ~ Acts 10:39-43