Session 6: Psalm 118:22-23 / Mark 12:10-11
Psalm 118:22-23 / Mark 12:10-11 - One of the most popular parables, and one that is crucial for understanding the way the leaders rejected Jesus.
- Play: Session 6 Video
Psalm 118:22-23 / Mark 12:10-11
- One of the most popular parables, and one that is crucial for understanding the way the leaders rejected Jesus.
- Mark 12 comes towards the end of Mark's presentation of Jesus.
- The parable itself probably alludes to Isaiah 5 and the parable of God's vineyard.
- However, the focus this time is not on the wicked vineyard, like in Isa 5, but on the wicked tenants who keep it.
- So, Jesus says, what will the owner do? He will cast out those tenants and give the vineyard to others.
- Of course, the leaders don't like this, and within just a few short days, they have Jesus arrested, tried and crucified.
In order to understand the quote, I think we need to understand Ps 118.
- Falls at the end of Hallel Psalms sung as part of Jewish festivals.
- Probably a Psalm written by a royal leader, though we don't know if it was David.
The structure moves back and forth between lament and praise.
- Verses 5-9 detail the distress of the Psalmist.
- However, even in the midst of this, God's presence was with him. So, God's presence is better.
- Verses 10-12 return to the topic of his complaint, how the nations even have surrounded him like bees.
- Verses 19-21, then, mark an entrance of the King into the temple. We will later see the Psalmist at the altar, so it makes sense that this is where he is when he is speaking these words.
- Verse 22, then, is the Psalmist's summarizing experience.
What does this "cornerstone" mean, though?
- Woodenly, the original language reads "head of the corner."
- Perhaps we'd best translate it as "prominent corner."
- It is a stone used in a building process. But, we can only guess, it is misshaped or deformed or just unfit. So, it is rejected.
- Now, however, later in the project, it is found to be essential...in fact, it comes to a prominent corner. Probably, this would be like a capstone used at the top of a building, on a corner, on display for all to see.
Isaiah 28:16 develops this idea. There, it reads “Therefore, thus says the Lord God: "Behold, I am he who has founded a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious stone of a prominent corner of a sure foundation.’” Basically, God is laying a stone, that of a prominent corner, in Zion.
- But it is described as "precious," the same word used to describe many of the stones used to build the temple. If this is the case, Isaiah might be saying that God is going to one day rebuild his temple his way, and he'll use a stone of a prominent corner to do it.
One other passage, from late in Israel's history, also speaks to this. Zechariah, one of the last prophets in Israel, spoke often of the coming Messiah.
- It seems, then, that Zechariah is reading passages like Ps 118:22 and Isa 28:16 typologically. That is, he is saying, these speak of a coming Messiah! He will be the stone of a prominent corner!
So, then, how does all this fit into Mark 12? Well, at first, the quote from Ps 118 doesn't seem to connect to the parable. We were talking about tenants and then builders, a son and now a stone.
- Jewish writings in the first century often referred to religious leaders as "builders." So, perhaps there is a connection there.
- In addition, the Hebrew for "son" is ben, while the Hebrew for "stone" is eben. Surely there is a little bit of a play on words here...the ben is the eben.
So what is Jesus doing? Well, I think he is applying Ps 118 to himself through typology. It meets our criteria:
- Occur in history? Yes.
- Looking forward? Yes, it seems to be true of the Psalmist's life, even into the future.
- Developed later? Yes, totally, in Isa and Zech.
If then, Jesus is the "stone" of Ps 118, then this means several things
- First, he is the royal, divinely appointed heir. That's bad news for the religious elite who don't like him.
- If the "son" is the "stone," and God is the owner of the vineyard, then he is God's divine son. This is even worse news for the religious leaders.
- But even more, since it seems that Jesus delivers this parable inside the temple, it suggests he is saying that he is the "prominent corner" by which God will rebuild his temple. Jesus himself is the one announcing, and even bringing in, this new temple God is building.
- You can imagine, then, why the religious leaders wanted to kill this guy.
If this is all the case, then God's end-time plans have started to unfold in Jesus.
- And we are left, as the original hearers of this parable were, with a choice. What will we do with God's cornerstone?
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