As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ… “a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” (1 Peter 2:4-6, quoting Isaiah 28:16)
As I read the Apostle Peter’s teaching at Evening Prayer tonight, I wondered if Peter was building upon what Jesus said to him years before,
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:16-18)
Roman Catholics argue that the rock on which the church is built is Peter himself; the Protestant position is that the rock is Peter’s faith.
But Peter deftly shifts the building analogy back to Jesus himself. Jesus is the foretold corner – or capstone. Interpreters debate the precise meanings of Isaiah’s Hebrew and Peter’s Greek, but whichever translation one takes, Peter is not the stone on which the church (the human gathering of believers, not a literal building) depends.
Peter’s outburst of faith might have positioned him as the first of the “living stones” built into the holy temple of believers, but Peter points to Jesus as the stone without which the structure falls apart.
Peter knew all too well that he was more sandstone than granite. Right after his volcanic affirmation of Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God, Peter’s faith seemed to go stone cold.
And when Jesus was arrested and put on trial, Peter denied knowing him.
Yet Jesus foretold Peter’s crumbly quality, and chose him just the same,
Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers. (Luke 22:31-32)
Peter, well acquainted with shame, knew that the faith given by Jesus would not fail. So it is that he borrowed from the Prophet Isaiah to write that those who believe in Jesus, the true stone on which the “temple” of believers hangs and stands together, will not be put to shame.
Let us pray:
Jesus, chosen and precious living stone, pray for us.
We are weak and faulty material for the spiritual house you are building. We have fissures running through us and we crumble at the forces that Satan applies.
But you scoop up what is broken down. Your hands that dabbled in wood and stone in Joseph’s workshop now repair us, and rebuild with us, even from dust.
We are not yet perfect, but we are being built up to be part of you forever, as living stones that blunt Satan’s blasts and roll through his gates in this age, and in the age to come beautify the heavenly city where with the Father and the Holy Spirit you live and reign, one God, world without end. Amen.
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