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May 10, 2020 Sermon

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1 Peter 2:4-10

  “You Rock!” You might say that to someone who was able to get you tickets to your favorite band, or to your favorite team’s sold out game. It’s what you might say to someone who has done something really great for you.

  I don’t think that expression was popular in Peter’s day, but it’s kind of what he is saying about Jesus. “Jesus, you rock!”

  First, he calls Jesus a living stone. That strikes you as odd doesn’t it? Stones aren’t alive. Yes, people in the 60’s had pet rocks, but they were not alive. Stones are inanimate objects. But they are often used as metaphors. Jesus was as dead as a rock when they took him down from the cross. The soldier had made sure of it by piercing his side with a spear. Joseph and Nicodemus had carried his dead body to a tomb made out of a rock and rolled a large stone in front of the entrance of the tomb. But early Easter morning an angel came and scared off the guards and rolled the stone away. He sat on the stone and proclaimed to the women what had happened. Why are you looking for the living among the dead? Jesus has risen just as he said.

  Jesus is a living stone. Because he is living, he is the cornerstone laid by God in Zion. He is the one who shared God’s life-giving word with the Apostles and commanded them to teach everything he had taught them to others. He is the cornerstone and the words he gave the Apostles are the foundation upon which the true church is built.

  Because Jesus died and rose again, because he is a living stone, he has become for many a stumbling stone. As Paul said, Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles (1 Cor. 1:22-23 NIBO) How could Jesus of Nazareth be the promised Messiah if the Jewish leaders, the builders, tested him and declared that he was worthless, a false messiah? How could Jesus of Nazareth be the way to God, how could he know the way to eternity? He was just a lowly Jew from a dinky little town in Galilee. How could he know more than the great Philosophers? And besides, who can believe that he actually rose from the dead?

  It is just as Isaiah foretold. The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone, and, a stone over which they stumble and a rock over which they fall. Because they continue to disobey the word, they stumble over it.  And the very words that Jesus spoke will condemn them on the last day.

  It’s the same today. We heard Jesus say it. “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father, except through me.” That’s a claim that is rejected by men. It’s rejected by our sinful nature. We think, “that doesn’t seem fair. Shouldn’t there be other ways to the father? Shouldn’t there be more than one way?” Jesus’ claim that he is the one and only way to salvation is often rejected by men. People constantly stumble over it. They think it’s too easy. They think that spiritual enlightenment has to come from years and years of study, hard work and meditation, not by simply trusting in a person who supposedly died and rose again. They think it’s foolish to believe that a lowly Jewish man who was executed 2000 years ago could do anything to save you.

  But, by his words, twice proclaiming from heaven he was well-pleased with Jesus, and by his actions, raising him from the dead; the father declared Jesus to be his chosen, precious cornerstone. He has declared that the one who believes in him will certainly not be put to shame.

  Man’s opinion doesn’t really matter. Those who reject Jesus will be rejected by the Father. Those who honor Jesus will be honored by the Father. God’s opinion is the only one that really matters.

  You rock, Jesus! Because you left heaven, came to earth and lived and died in my place, and then rose again from the dead, you have won eternal life for me. Because of what you have done for me I will not have to be ashamed when I stand before God in the judgment. But do you know what else Peter says? He lets us know that when God looks at us through Jesus, he says to us, to you and to me, “You Rock!”

  Peter says that, as we hear God’s word and are led by the Holy Spirit to come to Jesus the living stone, we also, are living stones. We are being built as a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood. We are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

  When we were born into this world, we were not God’s people. We were as dead as rocks, spiritually. The Bible often describes our hearts as stones, stones that need to be shattered to pieces by God’s law so that we humbly admit that we are lost and foolish, wandering in the darkness, and cannot save ourselves. But at our baptism the holy Spirit united us with Jesus. He made us alive in Christ. He caused his light to shine in our hearts. We have become living stones because we have been joined with the living stone, Jesus, in his death and resurrection. Because we are connected to Jesus God now considers us his chosen ones, his precious possession.

  When we hear those words, we can’t help but think of Old Testament people of Israel who were called God’s chosen people. Peter wants us to remember what that meant for them and what it means for us. It means that God has placed his name on us. We are his precious possession. It means that he is with us always. It means that he is going ahead of us and following after us to guide us and to protect us. It means that he is always going to provide for our needs, even if it takes a miracle like manna or water from a rock to do it. It means that he is going to discipline us when necessary, because he wants to bring us safely through the wilderness of this world with all its trials and temptations to the promised land of heaven.

  Peter reminds us that we are declared by God to be his holy, royal priests. As those who know what God has done for us in Jesus, we rejoice that we are able to offer spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God, not because what we do is perfect, but because all we do is perfected by Jesus.

  Did you notice that both times Peter reminds us that we are priests he follows with a statement of purpose? God has made us his priests so that we can offer spiritual sacrifices. He has made us his priests so that we can come to him directly in prayer, not just to ask him for things, but to offer him thanks and praise for all he has done and continues to do for us. He has made us his priests so that we can intercede for others, as a Christian mother does for her children. We can intercede for others as Moses did for Israel, asking God to be merciful toward our family, our friends, our neighbors, our country, our world, especially toward those who do not yet know him. He has made us his priests so that we can offer ourselves as living sacrifices. We can come to him each day and say, “Lord, I am yours. You purchased me with the blood of Jesus to be your holy priest. Use me to do your will.”

   He has made us his own, his royal priests, so that we may proclaim the praises of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light. He has caused his light to shine in our hearts, calling us out of the darkness of sin and unbelief into his glorious light. Now he says, Let your light shine. Let everyone know what God has done for you in Jesus. Let everyone know that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, the only way to the Father. Let everyone know that this life won’t last forever, but the next life will. The consequence appointed for those who reject Jesus and his word is eternal suffering, so don’t harden your hearts. Don’t reject the living stone. Put your trust in Jesus and you will never be put to shame. In Jesus alone you will be able to stand before God unashamed because in him you have been declared not guilty of every sin.

  You Rock, Jesus! You are the living stone. You are the one who lived and died in my place and rose again. You are the rock, the cornerstone, the foundation of my faith, the only reason I have the sure hope of eternal life and the confidence that I can stand unashamed before God.

  You Rock, Christian! Because the holy Spirit joined you to Jesus the living stone, you too are a living stone. You were dead in sin, but God made you alive in Christ. You were filled with the darkness of unbelief, but God caused the light of faith shine in your hearts. You were God’s enemies, but now, because of Jesus, you have been reconciled to God, you are God’s chosen people. You are his priesthood, left here on earth to offer yourselves to him each day, and to declare his praises to all.