The Sixth Sunday of Easter May 5, 2013
1 Peter 2:6-7
1 Peter 3:15-22
211, 464, 465, 727 [TLH alt. 363]
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, “Behold, I lay in Zion. A chief cornerstone, elect precious, and he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.”Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.”
How people like to honor other people! In schools this is the time of year for awards banquets and recognition of achievements. The top students are given honors. On television the most talented musicians are honored with special programs. In science, literature, medicine, and many other fields the top researchers receive honor.
But true honor is actually given before an award is ever presented. For when we honor someone, it really means first of all that we think highly of them, doesn’t it? Consider it for a moment: to honor someone really means to give that person a high place in your heart. When you regard someone as valuable and precious then you are honoring them. Honor isn’t just about presenting someone with an award or a reward or some other recognition—that is only an outward result of honor. Honor toward someone must begin on the inside because it is with our hearts and our minds that we first think of a person as precious to us.
It is with our hearts and our minds that we first think of a person with great respect. Before a student receives recognition at a banquet, before the talented musicians are presented on television, before the scientist receives a Nobel Prize, honor has already been given—people have already honored the worthy ones in their hearts. Honoring someone is a matter of the heart.
In the Apostle John’s vision recorded in the book of Revelation, the angels gathered around Jesus Christ and said, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive…honor” (Revelation 5:12). They were talking about heartfelt honor. Jesus deserves, not just an outward show of praise, but genuine and true honor. He deserves the honor of our hearts. This is the honor given Him when we think of Him highly, when we in our minds give Him the most important and highest place, when we regard Him as the most valuable and precious thing in all our life, and when we place Him at the top in our minds. Peter says by inspiration, “But sanctify (set apart) the Lord Godin your hearts” (1 Peter 3:15).
Sadly, Jesus does not always receive the true honor that He ought to receive.
You probably remember the time Jesus talked about the Pharisees and said, “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me” (Matthew 15:8). Christ was not concerned with the outward show that the Pharisees gave. They walked around pretending that they thought highly of Jesus, but the Savior knew that on the inside they did not really honor Him at all. They did the things they did only to gain attention for themselves.
This can happen today too—that people make an outward show of spiritual things without really thinking too highly of the Lord in their hearts at all. This is not honoring Christ. Our own sinful flesh, in fact, would much rather think highly of itself than of Jesus! Even we who want to give Christ the highest place in our hearts can get sidetracked sometimes and begin to think of ourselves more highly than we ought (cf. Romans 12:3).
Wherever Jesus has gone, there have been those who have not given Him honor, those who have not regarded Him as precious, who have not thought of Him as someone of value. To them the Apostle Peter says that He is “the stone the builders rejected.” [v.7] He is that essential building block for the soul that has been cast aside. When the heart rejects and refuses to consider the Lord Jesus with highest regard there is trouble indeed.
It is difficult at times to keep Jesus “number one.” Giving honor to Him is not something that necessarily comes naturally to us, especially when we are surrounded by many in life who do not honor Him. Perhaps our own neighbors and friends do not regard Christ as anyone special. We are certainly not given much encouragement from television, movies, and other media. There is pressure to push Christ to the bottom of the priority list in our hearts.
This is why we need to hear Scripture like that which is before us today from Peter’s first letter. With these words God moves our hearts to honor the Lord Jesus. He gives us the basis—the reason—why we can think of the Son of God so highly.
There are two things. First, see that God the Father honors Jesus. He says “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone…” [v.6 NIV] The Father calls His Son precious. You can’t see it in the English translation so easily, but the original Greek word behind “precious” is the same word that is used for “honor.” God the Father Himself thought highly of Jesus—considered Him valuable and, therefore, honored Him.
The Father saw Jesus as a precious cornerstone—the foundation for everything He intended to do for mankind. This was also made clear when Jesus was baptized as Peter said in his second letter “He received honor…from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased’” (2 Peter 1:17 NIV).
The Father held His Son as a person of great value and worth and rightly so too. Jesus was honorable, wasn’t He? He came as the perfect, sinless Son of God. He came and did everything that man was required to do. He came according to God’s holy Law and fulfilled every single requirement of that Law. He came as a man, placed under every obligation that men are under; and yet, at the same time, He was God and able to produce perfect obedience which man could never produce. The Father called Him “precious, honorable,” and with good reason.
Let’s look also to the cross where this same Jesus gave up His life. He did that also as the valuable one—the one chosen by God to bear the sin of the world. When He offered Himself as payment for our guilt, the “money” He offered—the currency of His own life—was precious enough to cover all our debt, all our sin. How thankful we can be that God the Father esteemed Jesus so highly and regarded His life, His death, and His offering as sufficient enough. You see, we are saved from our sins because the Father honored His Son. “See I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone…” Jesus was worth something in the eyes of His Father, so through His sacrifice He was able to render Himself in our place.
Can we honor the Son? Surely He is worthy of honor. He is the Lamb who was slain. His Father thought so highly of His death that He released us from the punishment of our sin. We have every reason to give Jesus true honor because the Father in Heaven has thought well of Him.
We said before that the Apostle Peter gave two reasons to honor Jesus. The second is in verse seven where Peter writes: “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.” [v.7] We have reason to give Jesus our highest honor because He has become the cornerstone, the capstone—the most important part of our lives. He was once rejected and dishonored and even dead, but then He rose from the dead and in His resurrection He becomes most precious to us.
When Jesus came back to life, when He stepped out of the tomb on Easter Sunday morning, He became the capstone because without Him everything would fall. Without His resurrection there would be no forgiveness of sins, there would be no life after death, there would be no hope. But in His resurrection He proves that we are forgiven—that His sacrifice on the cross to God was sufficient. He further proves the resurrection of all the dead, and He gives us hope even in our darkest hours. The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone.
God has seated Jesus at His right hand in the heavenly realms. Jesus the conqueror of death has all authority in heaven and on earth. He is the Head of all—the most precious of all—the most honorable of all. Jesus is alive from the dead so that He can be the most important part of your life, so that He can make His victory your victory, so He can make His Word resound in your ears, so that He can guard you and guide you with His eye, so He can calm troubled hearts and give you blessing.
“To you who believe, this stone is precious.” [v.7] It is, isn’t it? We do not go along with the men and women who treat Jesus as a myth or a fable. We do not go along with those who think that, “Well, Jesus is just another thing to add to my busy life. I can spend time with Him when I have the chance. No, we believe that this stone is precious. We believe that the honor of our hearts goes to Jesus Christ, to think more highly of Him than of anything else, to put the work of His kingdom first in our minds, to be thinking with everything that we do whether at work or at home or at church or at school: “Is what I am doing pulling me away from my Savior, or is He still first in my heart?”
He is precious to us. Our hearts are moved to honor Him, first, because we see how God the Father thought highly of Him, and secondly, because we see how in His resurrection from the dead He becomes the capstone—the most valuable piece—in God’s plan of salvation for us.
O Holy Spirit, help us to set our hearts apart for our Lord Jesus, giving Him the true honor that He deserves. Forgive us when we fail and move our minds to see and understand that He is worthy to receive our honor because He died and rose again to give us endless blessing. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.