2.39 - Stones

Hello and welcome to season 2 episode 39 of The Berean Manifesto, brought to you by The Ekklesian House.  This is Pastor Bill and over the next 10 minutes or so we are going to be talking about stones; stumbling, mill, and corner.

 

There’s this event in the Gospels where Jesus is riding a donkey into Jerusalem and a very large crowd spread their clothes on the road while others cut palm branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The disciples began to loudly praise God for all the miracles they had seen saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest heaven!”  Some of the Pharisees told Jesus to rebuke His disciples and He answered, “I tell you, if they were to keep silent, the stones would cry out.” Then the crowds, which were there when He called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead, who went ahead of Jesus and those who followed began to shout, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord – The King of Israel! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

 

That phrase “Hosanna” is the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew words:

H3467 יָשַׁע yâsha‛ yaw-shah' A primitive root; properly to be open, wide or free, that is, (by implication) to be safe; causatively to free or succor: -  X at all, avenging, defend, deliver (-er), help, preserve, rescue, be safe, bring (having) salvation, save (-iour), get victory.

And

H4994 נָא nâ' naw A primitive particle of incitement and entreaty, which may usually be rendered I pray, now or then; added mostly to verbs (in the imperative or future), or to interjections, occasionally to an adverb or conjugation: - I beseech (pray) thee (you), go to, now, oh.

This is what the crowd would yell at the coronation of a new Israeli king as he would ride into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey while they cut palm branches and laid them on the ground in the donkey’s path, “Yâsha‛ nâ'.”  There was also an anti-Roman militant group in Jerusalem at the time who had taken up “Yâsha‛ nâ'” as the rallying cry for their movement.

 

However, the portion of this passage that really pertains to this episode is when Jesus says, “if they were to keep silent, the stones would cry out.”  This isn’t the only time we see this type of sentiment in the Gospels, in Matthew 3 John the Baptist is preaching repentance and baptizing people in the river.  This message cuts crosswise of everything that the religious leaders were teaching and undermines thousands of years of ceremony. John was teaching that ALL should repent and turn to God to prepare for the arrival of the Messiah. The religious line of the day was that gentiles couldn't repent and turn to God, for no other reason than that they were born gentile. And Jews, well, they didn't believe they needed the repentance that John was preaching because of the yearly sacrifices covering sin and because they were descendants of Abraham and heirs of the covenant that God made with Abraham.

 

Now the Pharisees and Sadducees were two groups who historically were in constant contention about the finer details of Jewish theology, but both agreed that John and Jesus were off base.  John sees some well known members of each group get in line to be baptized and he openly rebukes them, "Matthew 3:7-9 [7]..."Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? [8] Therefore produce fruit consistent with repentance. [9] And don't presume to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I tell you that God is able to raise up children for Abraham from these stones.”  That word “stones” in both scriptures is the Greek word:

G3037 λίθος lithos lee'-thos Apparently a primary word; a stone (literally or figuratively): - (mill-, stumbling-) stone.

 

A stumbling stone is pretty self explanatory, there’s a stone in the dirt of the path and it trips you. A millstone is a large round stone that rests in a shallow basin with a rod through it to a center kind of like the wheel on a car, but with a rod sticking all the way out.  And that rod is connected to a vertical rod. It's set up so that when you push the horizontal rod the stone rolls around the circle of the basin. You throw grain or whatever you want to crush in there in the path of the stone, and as the stone rolls it crushes it. In both these scriptures, the reference is the un-orthodox and the Gentiles.

To the point of view of the Pharisees and Sadducees, the Gentiles and anyone who didn't agree with their ultra-orthodox interpretations of the law was considered a stumbling stone - tripping up the faithful, or a millstone grinding away at the truth.  Isaiah prophesied about these two groups and their relationship to Jesus in Isaiah 8:13-15 read, ”[13] You are to regard only the LORD of Armies as holy. Only he should be feared; only he should be held in awe. [14] He will be a sanctuary; but for the two houses of Israel, he will be a stone to stumble over and a rock to trip over, and a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. [15] Many will stumble over these; they will fall and be broken; they will be snared and captured.”

 

When John says, "God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham," and when Jesus says, “if they were to keep silent, the stones would cry out,” you should get a mental image not of John or Jesus gesturing down into the edges of the river or the road where there were physical stones on the ground, but know that they are talking about you and I.

I am a stone that they were talking about there. Most of you are stones that John and Jesus were talking about there. Not born an orthodox Jew, not legally qualified to walk in the blessings of Abraham.  But God... But Jesus... Through the redemptive work of Christ; I have been, you have been, or could become. We have been raised up to the status of Children of Abraham. We have been raised up to heirs of the covenant that God started with Abraham that was finished through Christ on the Cross.

 

This whole concept goes a step further when we consider Psalm 118:19-24, “[19] Open the gates of righteousness for me; I will enter through them and give thanks to the LORD. [20] This is the LORD's gate; the righteous will enter through it. [21] I will give thanks to you because you have answered me and have become my salvation. [22] The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. [23] This came from the LORD; it is wondrous in our sight. [24] This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”  That stone, the one that the builders rejected, that’s Jesus. The builders there being the Jewish religious leadership during Jesus time.

 

We know this passage is about Jesus because Jesus is quoted as referencing Himself using this passage in Matthew 21, Mark 12, and Luke 20 after telling the parable about a landowner who planted a vineyard and entrusted it to farmers to care for.  The owner sent multiple servants to collect the fruit from the vineyard and the farmers abused and killed them. Finally, the landowner sent his son thinking they would surely respect him. The farmers seized the son, threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.  You’re intelligent people, but I’m not going to assume you caught all the hidden references there. The Landowner is God. The vineyard is the divine inspiration of God given to mankind in the Torah; Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The farmers are the biological descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who rejected and slaughtered the prophets sent to them.  Then doing the same to the son of the landowner, the son of God, Jesus. In Matthew 21:43-44 Jesus lays it out for those rejecting Him, “[43] Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruit. [44] Whoever falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will shatter him.”

 

We as Christians, heirs of His mantle are the stones who are the descendants of Abraham.  Like Christ, we are, “a stone to stumble over and a rock to trip over,” we lead people to The Stone that breaks their walls to pieces and sets them free.

 

This is Pastor Bill saying, “Until next time…”

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