Rejection as Identity, Emblem, and Beginning

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[dropcap3]“B[/dropcap3]egin with a rejected foundation.” It is hard to imagine architects in training hearing such things from their professors. It is easier to imagine the administration letting go professors with strange views like these.

Everyone has heard of the importance of beginnings. Good buildings require good foundations. Who would decide to begin a building with a rejected stone? What kind of building could be built on a stone that builders discarded?

Far from being an embarrassment, New Testament writers frequently cite the “rejected cornerstone” as an emblem.1 The imagery of Christ as cornerstone comes from the last of the hallel or “praise” psalms (Pss. 113-118).

I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Save us, we pray, O Lord! O Lord, we pray, give us success! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! We bless you from the house of the Lord (Ps 118:21-26 ESV).

When our Lord made His way up to Jerusalem on a donkey the people shouted “Save us (hosanna)! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Mark 11:9). Early that week Jesus stood in the temple courts and told a story of rebellious vine grow­ers. The rebels killed the son of the vineyard owner and tossed him out. Jesus captured the sense of the appalling parable with a poetic verse from the very psalm the people had chanted during His triumphal entry into the city of God. “Have you not read this Scripture: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’” (Mark 12:10 ESV).

What is the function of a cornerstone? Ancient cornerstones are not like the showpiece cornerstones of today, often sporting the date of a building and installed during some kind of ceremony. The cornerstones of antiquity were oversized support stones which functioned to bear the weight and stress of the key wall or walls of buildings.2

The deep irony and surprising reality of the gospel is that the people of God in Christ are built upon the rejection and humiliation of Christ. The identity and responsibility of God’s people come from the cornerstone upon which they are built. The rejection, death, and resurrection of our Lord is who He is and what Christianity is all about. The servant is rejected in becoming the guilt offering.3 The rejection of Christ bears witness to the miracle of forgiveness of sin and new life to all who believe.

The humiliation of Christ provides a prototype of the Christian life.4 In this day of self-promotion and over-confident “trash talk,” an identity built on rejection and sacrifice may seem strange and counter-intuitive. But even as Paul is “not ashamed of the gospel” and seeks to testify “nothing…except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” so too should those who seek to serve Christ today. The problems with today’s brazen self-promotion are legion. The Christian who walks in the path of arrogance and self-service disfigures the work of the Savior.

What does it mean to serve Christ? Christian service grows out of the rejection of our Lord. We serve Him the way He served us. He accepted the humiliation of the cross to grant grace and hope to His followers. Followers of Christ are called to live out the Gospel.

What kind of building begins with a stone that builders discarded? The only kind that matters. The glory of God in Christ shines brightest in His sacrificial rejection.

[framed_box]Dr. Gary Schnittjer began serving as the Director of the Degree Completion program in 2012. He has been a faculty member in the School of Divinity since 1997. He can be reached by emailing

1 See Matt 21:42; Mark 12:10-11; Luke 20:17; Acts 4:11; Eph 2:20; 1 Pet 2:6-8.
2 See Joseph A. Fitzmyer, The Acts of the Apostles (Anchor Bible 18C; New York: Doubleday, 1998), 301. See Isa 53:3-5, 10. See Phil 2:5-11.
3 See Isa 55:3-5,10
4 See Phil 2:5-11