In the early days of the 1stcentury church Peter and John were apprehended by the Sadducees and temple authorities for “preaching in Jesus the resurrection from the dead” in Acts 4:2
As we know from the scriptures that the Sadducees did not believe in the doctrine of resurrection in any form as that distinguished them from the Pharisees. So for the disciples to declare Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and gaining followers was a main threat to them. The Sadducees became desperate to put a stop to the preaching of Jesus! They understood that the preaching of Jesus’ resurrection meant had great implication to the relevance of the Jewish leadership.
28 saying, “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name. Look, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood on us! (Acts 5:28)
In their defense Peter and John affirms, right in the face of the Sadducees, that God had raised Christ from the dead. He then said, “This is the stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.”
This employment of the Stone motiv is something that scriptures from of old have spoken in prophetic terms about the Messianic age. Not only were they declaring their faith in Jesus but they also declared the replacement of an age and a transfer of kingdom ownership which was long foretold. In other words, they were saying “God has left your house desolate because He has built another.”
Peter in Acts 4:11, quotes from Psalms 118
Open to me the gates of righteousness;
I will go through them,
And I will praise the Lord.
20 This is the gate of the Lord,
Through which the righteous shall enter.
21 I will praise You,
For You have answered me,
And have become my salvation.
22 The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone.
23 This was the Lord’s doing;
It is marvelous in our eyes.
24 This is the day the Lord has made;
We will rejoice and be glad in it.
The “Stone” theme in scripture is very significant, and especially in the way Peter calls it to mind. Declaring Jesus as the chief cornerstone stone was to declare his life and ministry as the ordination of the LORD. This was the gate of righteousness that can men could enter into God’s kingdom.
Psalm 118 is commonly known as a Song of Ascent, which is sung on each of the three major festival occasions as the travelers approached the city. The reference as to the identity of the stone has been a subject of heated debate in Israel. Many reference it to Abraham, some David, while others to Israel as a people, or, to the Messiah. For Peter, it was a clear revelation. Jesus was the rejected cornerstone, rejected by the leaders. For the astute listener of Peter’s speech, to hear him say that Jesus had become the chief cornerstone, after being rejected, meant one thing; that Stone was going to now crush them. That is why he said “and you intend to bring this man’s blood on us!”
Peter’s reference is also drawn from the original prophecies of the Stone, and how those prophecies are used in the New Testament.
Isaiah the prophet spoke of the coming Suffering Servant as the Stone of stumbling and rock of offence. Many would be offended by Him and fall away only to be destroyed.
14 He will be as a sanctuary,
But a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense
To both the houses of Israel,
As a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
15 And many among them shall stumble;
They shall fall and be broken,
Be snared and taken.” (Isaiah 8)
This scripture was cited by Simeon in Luke 2:32f when he carried the infant Jesus at his dedication. Simeon knew by inspiration that Jesus was set for the rising and falling of many in Israel. The underlying tone of judgment for those who reject was present.
Prophet Isaiah again, foresees the laying of the cornerstone, and states that those who accepted (approved) of it would not be ashamed. On the other hand, those who rejected the Stone would be the recipients of the work of judgment against them.
16 Therefore thus says the Lord God:
“Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation,
A tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation;
Whoever believes will not act hastily.
17 Also I will make justice the measuring line,
And righteousness the plummet;
The hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,
And the waters will overflow the hiding place.
18 Your covenant with death will be annulled,
And your agreement with Sheol will not stand;
When the overflowing scourge passes through,
Then you will be trampled down by it.
19 As often as it goes out it will take you;
For morning by morning it will pass over,
And by day and by night;
It will be a terror just to understand the report.”
20 For the bed is too short to stretch out on,
And the covering so narrow that one cannot wrap himself in it.
21 For the Lord will rise up as at Mount Perazim,
He will be angry as in the Valley of Gibeon—
That He may do His work, His awesome work,
And bring to pass His act, His unusual act.
22 Now therefore, do not be mockers,
Lest your bonds be made strong;
For I have heard from the Lord God of hosts,
A destruction determined even upon the whole earth.
This determined destruction was fulfilled in the destruction of the city and temple in AD70.
The NET Bible puts it this way;
22 So now, do not mock,
or your chains will become heavier!
For I have heard a message about decreed destruction,
from the sovereign master, the LORD who commands armies, against the entire land.
In Daniel 2:44 we Daniel foresaw the time when a stone cut out without hands would grow into a mighty kingdom, crushing all who opposed it. Jesus referenced this prophecy when he told them the Parable of the wicked vinedressers in Matthew 21. This is how he explains to them;
42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:
‘The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone.
This was the Lord’s doing,
And it is marvelous in our eyes’?[j]
43 “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. 44 And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.”
45 Now when the chief priests and Pharisees heard His parables, they perceived that He was speaking of them.
Paul also saw this being fulfilled in his time and wrote in Romans 9
30 What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith; 31 but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness.[n] 32 Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law.[o] For they stumbled at that stumbling stone. 33 As it is written:
“Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense,
And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”
The Stone theme in Bible prophecy is a motif of judgment. Those who rejected the stone would be crushed; the rejected foundation stone would crush those who rejected it. The scoffers would be destroyed in the Day of the Lord. The day of the Lord being the judgment of that Old covenant age in AD70.
For us believers it represents the kingdom where we are currently living. This kingdom cannot be shaken because it founded on Jesus and His finished work. The Old testaments sought after this but it is now fulfilled in Christ and in us. This unshakeable kingdom will continue to expand and impact our world till the glory of the Lord is seen all over the earth. Halleluyah.