Read This Page in My Language
Sermon: 1 Peter 2:4-10
Lent Midweek 2 – March 4, 2020 – Rev. Steven J. Radunzel
I grew up in a time when a woman’s, or, more specifically, a wife’s identity, was entirely wrapped up and even eclipsed by who her husband was. For example, my father’s name was Ralph Radunzel. One day I saw a check that my mother had signed, and she signed it Mrs. Ralph Radunzel. I thought that it was rather strange for my mother to call herself by my father’s name.
Women seldom identify themselves any longer by using both their husband’s first and last name. And the thinking is that a woman’s identity should not be so wrapped up, covered up, or hidden behind her husband’s name and identity. In addition to being a wife she’s also her own person. She has an individual identity too.
There remains though another area where our identity, the identity of both men and women, the identity of Christian men and women, is determined by the identity of someone else. We are who we are, we are what we are, we believe what we believe, because of Jesus Christ. We might say that our identity is entirely wrapped up in and defined by who Jesus is. And that’s a very good thing.
Tonight we continue our Lenten devotional series based on readings from the 1st Letter of the Apostle Peter. Peter went from being a denier of Jesus to a defender of Jesus. He had grown up and matured a great deal since that night when he denied knowing Jesus. He now understood very well that his identity and his purpose in life were completely determined by who Jesus was. He wasn’t afraid or ashamed to be identified with Jesus.
Tonight we consider
THE LIVING STONE AND A CHOSEN PEOPLE
So who is the living Stone? Obviously Peter is talking about Jesus. Peter bases his identity of Jesus as the living Stone on the words of Isaiah: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”
Zion is a reference to the city of Jerusalem. There were lots of buildings in Jerusalem, almost all of them built with stones. One very notable building was Solomon’s temple built. You can visit Jerusalem today, and there will be many Jews praying at the Wailing Wall which they claim is the base of Solomon’s temple built in about 950 B.C.
And they could be right in this claim. These stones used to build large buildings were huge and very difficult to move. They would be considered difficult to lift and move even by today’s standards. So it was reasonable that even after the Babylonians destroyed Solomon’s temple in 587 B.C. and after the Romans destroyed Herod’s temple in A.D. 70 the foundational stones still remained from the days of Solomon.
Peter’s point for us is that Jesus the living Stone is unmovable, rock-solid, something we can depend on, something, someone, who will endure. That’s why Peter writes, “Now to you who believe, this stone is precious.
Is Jesus precious to you? I’m sure he is to most of you. You probably wouldn’t be here tonight if he were not precious to you. Or maybe some of you are not so sure that Jesus is precious.
This whole season of Lent is designed to remind us every year why Jesus is so precious. And it’s a pretty simple story, but a simple story with very profound meaning. Jesus is precious because he is the eternal Son of God who came to this world to die on a cross. He gave up his life for us to atone for our sins, to pay for the guilt of our sin. He took away our sin so that God the Father has forgiven us and promises to give eternal life to all who believe in Jesus.
So Jesus is precious to all of us who believe that he is our Savior from sin, and if you’re not so sure that Jesus is precious I would say tonight is the night on which you look very seriously at Jesus and see how precious he is. I say that tonight is the time to see and believe how precious Jesus is because Peter gives us a very serious warning in these words: “But to those who do not believe, ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone,’ and, ‘A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.’ They stumble because they disobey the message – which is also what they were destined for.”
To disobey the message of the gospel is to not believe it, to not believe in Jesus, to not believe that he is the Son of God and Savior of the world, to not believe that he is precious. And there’s a lot of people today who don’t believe the message. There’s always been a lot of people who don’t believe the message of Jesus’ forgiveness. And for them the Stone is not living, it’s not precious. Rather it’s a Stone that they stumble right over, failing, rather, refusing, to believe that Jesus is the precious Son of God and Savior. Millions and millions today are stumbling and falling right over Jesus
Don’t let your identity be wrapped up in unbelief and rejection of Jesus Christ. Don’t be ashamed to let who you are be wrapped up with and determined by who Jesus is. Don’t be ashamed to be just like Jesus.
Peter calls Jesus the living Stone. Therefore he says, “You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” Jesus is the Stone. We who believe in him are stones that are put together to form a new temple, a holy temple. We are stones that are put together to form God’s spiritual house, God’s kingdom, God’s holy Christian Church. And just as Levitical priests served at the temple in the Old Testament and offered sacrifices to the Lord, so we believers in the New Testament are like those priests bringing our offerings and worship to God, not only on Sunday morning, or in a Lenten service, but every day in our lives in everything we do.
So Jesus is the holy Son of God, chosen, precious, and he indeed is a Priest, not a Levitical Old Testament priest, but an eternal Priest who offered himself as a sacrifice for our sins. That’s why Peter describes us in the following way: In what some have called the second most important verse in the New Testament he writes, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”
Notice how our identity, who we are, is almost identical to Jesus’ identity. Who we are is completely wrapped up in and determined by who Jesus is. Just think what God is telling us in this verse. We are chosen. We’re chosen by God. We were chosen by God before the world was created. God knew us and chose us for his kingdom through faith in Jesus.
God calls us a royal priesthood. In the Old Testament only men from one clan in the tribe of Levi could be priests. Even Jesus wasn’t a Levitical priest. He was from the tribe of Judah. But in the New Testament Jesus calls us a royal priesthood who have the privilege anytime that we want, on a Sunday morning, a Wednesday evening, or anytime in our private lives to bring sacrifices of prayer, offerings, and worship.
God calls us a holy nation. He declares us holy. That’s because he’s forgiven all our sins in Jesus’ name. He has covered us with Jesus’ holiness at our baptism.
And now he allows us, he commands us, to proclaim the gospel message just as Jesus preached it, “. . . . that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” Jesus didn’t remain visibly in this world to proclaim the gospel. He gave that responsibility and privilege to those he called out of the darkness of sin into his wonderful light of eternal life. He gave that responsibility to those who believe in him, those who identify with him.
Our identity, who we are, is completely determined by who Jesus is: A living Stone and a chosen people. That’s who Jesus is, and that’s who we are. Amen.