Christ Above All
Robert C. Shannon
(c)opyright 1989, Robert C. Shannon.
The Gospel According to Psalm 118

    We are all familiar with the three R's, but try explaining that to someone for whom English is a second language!  Writing and Arithmetic don't begin with R.  The person who coined the phrase should have taken a fourth course:  Spelling.  Still, it's proverbial now to speak of the three R's, and there are three in this text (Psalm 118:22, 23).  There is the rejection of Christ, the raising up of Christ, and the reign of Christ.

    In the parable of the vineyard, Jesus spoke of a man who sent servants to check on his vineyard.  They beat his servants and drove them off.  So, he sent his son.  They killed him.  Just after telling that parable Jesus quoted Psalm 118.  "The rejected stone is become the head of the corner."

    When Peter and John were threatened and told never again to preach in the name of Jesus.  They said they had to obey God rather than men.  Then they quoted this text from Psalm 118.  When Peter wrote that lovely book, which nearly brings to a close our New Testament, he commented on this text.

    Let's look first at the rejection of Christ.  They rejected Christ as a teacher.  They would not accept His truth.  They would not accept His view of life.  Instead, they tried to argue with Him!  There was the all-wise Lord of the universe, revealing profound truth to finite human beings, and they argued with Him!  They rejected Him as a teacher.

    They rejected Him as their Lord, like the Hebrews long ago who said to Moses, "Who made thee a lord and divider over us?"  "By what authority doest thou these things?" they challenged Jesus.  They would not accept His lordship over their lives.  The story of their rejection is written so poignantly in the first chapter of John.  "He came unto his own, and his own received him not."  We might have accepted it if He had been rejected by strangers, but "he came unto his own and his own received him not."  That goes to the heart!  He came unto His own world, the world of His creation: the world formed by His fingers, the world sustained by His power.  His world received Him not.

    He came unto people made in His own image, into whose nostrils He had breathed the very breath of life.  They would not have Him.

    He came unto His own nation; a nation whose spiritual expectancy had been honed to a fine edge.  They looked for a deliverer and did not know Him when He came.

    He came to His own hometown, to the streets where He'd played as a boy, to the very synagogue where as a youth He had studied the Scriptures, to the very people who had known Him all His life.  When He declared himself to them, they dragged Him from the synagogue and tried to kill Him.  He came unto His own village and they received Him not.

    The ultimate rejection of Jesus did not occur when they argued with His teaching, when they refused to accept His lordship, or when they dragged Him from the hometown synagogue at Nazareth.  The ultimate rejection was at Calvary, where they nailed Him on a cross and lifted Him up as a spectacle.  Have you ever pondered the reason why?  We cry out with Pilate, "Why?  What evil hath He done?"  What was it in the hearts of men that drove them to destroy Jesus?  He had committed no crime.  He had done no sin.  He had harmed no one.  His whole life had been devoted to doing good.  Why?  Why?  What was in the hearts of men that caused them to nail Jesus to a cross?  The question has already been answered.  His very perfection spelled His doom.  Our world is so evil it cannot abide perfection.  If ever there should come again a perfect man, the world would destroy Him, too.  It was His very sinlessness they could not abide.

    If they could have recalled a sin He'd done or a mistake He'd made, they might have let him live.  Finding none, this sinful broken world in which we live drove perfection to the cross.  We had better be thankful that none of us will achieve sinless perfection.  If you ever got to that place they'd do the same thing to you!  The nearer you come to it, the more you're going to experience the world's rejection . The purer you are, the deeper will be the world's rejection of you.

    The cross was the ultimate rejection of Christ.  We marvel at it until we come across that poem by Studdert-Kennedy:

When Jesus came to Golgotha
They hanged him on a tree.
They drove great nails through hands and feet
And made a Calvary.

A crown of thorns was on his head.
Red were his wounds and deep.
For those were crude and cruel days
And human flesh was cheap.

When Jesus came to Birmingham
They simply passed him by.
They never hurt a hair on him.
They only let him die.

    And then in the last verse of that moving poem the author pictures Jesus in the cold rain, crouching against a wall facing our rejection and longing instead for Calvary.  Studdert-Kennedy thought Jesus would prefer the suffering of Calvary to the cold indifference of our rejection.  Perhaps such a view is too extreme, but the author was certain that Jesus would prefer to go to the cross again rather than face our rejection of Him our rejection of His teaching, our rejection of His lordship, our rejection of His place in our lives.  To one man it seemed that Calvary was not so painful as that.

    We make fun of the pagan bowing before His image and bringing food and flowers to a dumb idol, and yet does not that mark more reverence for his handmade god than we hold for the creator of Heaven and earth?  Doesn't that pagan revere more highly the nonsensical laws of his idolatrous religion than we revere the wisely given laws of ours?

    Rejection!  Not a pleasant story, but a story that must be told.  But the stone the builders rejected has been raised up and made the head of the corner!  The cornerstone was no formality then.  It was the very instrument by which the building was squared and leveled.  It was the one true stone by which all others were judged.  That was the cornerstone!

    This text came to me often in my youth.  Not only did Jesus quote this text, my mother quoted it to me over and over.  Her application was somewhat different than that which we see in Scripture.  If there was an individual who had been passed over and then finally recognized, my mother's comment would be, "The rejected stone is become the head of the corner."  If some object thought useless suddenly turned out to have value after all, some broken tool you almost threw away, then she'd quote this verse.  She meant no disrespect for Scripture.  Yet here is a proverb that belongs in a much higher realm than any human experience.  There is no human event that is halfway worthy of this splendid verse.  It applies to Jesus and to Jesus alone!  When men had done all that they could do to Him, God reached into that damp tomb and brought Him forth.  He broke the bonds that bind us all.  Death was no match for Him.  His resurrection is the lifting up of the rejected stone.  God did not reject that which men disallowed.

    On a day in January in 1977, thousands upon thousands of pilgrims streamed across the face of India.  They were all bound for a single city - the city where the Jumna and the Ganges rivers come together.  To them that is the holiest spot on earth.  And that day was the holiest day in history.  On that day, they said, all the heavenly bodies were in exactly the same configuration as they were at the dawn of Creation.  Thousands bathed in the river to wash away their sins.  But they were mistaken.  The holiest day in history was not a day in January, 1977.  It was the day of the resurrection when Jesus Christ came forth from the grave.  That was history s holiest day.

    Celsus was the first great skeptic.  He once asked, "What has Jesus given to the world that no one else has given?"  Someone answered, "Himself!"  Yes, that's Jesus magnificent, stunning gift to the world.  He gave himself!  Not only did He give himself in submission upon the cross, but in power at the resurrection.

    But the raising up of Christ goes beyond the resurrection.  That's part of it; an essential part of it. But the raising of Jesus did not end with the resurrection.  That's where it began.  Having raised Him from the dead, God raised Him from the earth, raised Him to Heaven itself, and Jesus sat down on the right hand of God.  "Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow . . ." (Phiippians 2:9, 10)

    There is no way to imagine it.  The resurrection we can picture.  We can see two men walking down a dusty road with a "stranger."  We can see the disciples huddled in fear behind locked doors and Jesus appearing in the midst.  We can picture them fishing on the Sea of Galilee and then joining Jesus for breakfast by a bonfire on the shore.  All of that we can imagine.  But when the conquering hero returned to glory, when the Son came back to the bosom of the Father, when the eternal Word was once more in the eternal city, what then?  Some say Psalm 24 pictures that occasion.

Lift up your heads, O ye gates;
and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors,
and the King of glory shall come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The Lord strong and mighty,
the Lord mighty in battle . . .
he is the King of glory."
                                (Psalm 24:7-10)
    That, say some, is the fanfare.  That, say some, is the processional march when Jesus came home.

    It was three precious scenes rolled into one.  It was homecoming.  We've all experienced that; the table ready, all the favorite dishes prepared, all the good times of old remembered.  Friends come, and it's a time of joy and festivity.  Homecoming!

    The second picture is reunion.  I've been to some family reunions.  It's such a pleasure.  It's a simple, yet profound joy.  Some come from afar.  Some have been away for years.  It is a time of renewal and rejoicing.

    The third picture is that of coronation.  Perhaps you watched on television the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.  Then you watched the 25th anniversary of it, too.  She rode again in the golden coach in which she'd ridden a quarter of a century before.  It was a great, happy, solemn day.

    Take the best of all three pictures, put them together, multiply them ten thousand times, and you have some notion of the exaltation of Jesus.  From that place He now rules the world.  Sixty-three people have sat on the throne of England if you don't count Oliver Cromwell.  Fifty-eight kings and five queens have ruled England.  But only one King has ever sat where Jesus sits.  None sat there before Him.  None will sit there after Him.  Forever He reigns there, not as king of a nation, nor an empire. nor a planet, but as the King of all that is!  One can count twenty who sat on the throne in Jerusalem.  In the new Jerusalem only one King has ever ruled, . . . or ever shall!  Don't forget that third R.  Rejected by men, raised by God, Christ is ruling now!  He will continue to rule forever.

    When Queen Elizabeth was crowned they brought to her a sceptre.  On the top of it was the star of Africa, the largest diamond in the world.  Before that they brought to her a staff.  On the top of that staff was a dove, a symbol of their prayer that the Holy Spirit would be her guide.  But before that they brought to her a ring, like a wedding ring.  It symbolized the union between the queen and her people.  But before that they brought to her an orb.  It was a globe of the world made of solid pure gold.  And over it there was a cross.  It said, even to the queen, "It is Christ who rules the world.  It is not you, nor any other mortal.  It is Christ who rules the world!"  When Peter and John used this verse to defend their right to preach, they went on to say, "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under Heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved," (Acts 4:12).  Christ stands in an absolutely exclusive position.  No one can take His place!

    There is no salvation in any other name.  There is no salvation in Buddha.  There is no salvation in Mohammed.  There is no salvation in Zoroaster.  There is no salvation in Confucius.  There is no salvation in Sun Myung Moon.  There is no salvation in any name but His!

    If you do not acknowledge His exclusive right, you do not acknowledge Him at all.  He will not take His place in some pantheon of gods.  He stands alone.

    There really is a fourth R to our religion.  I want only to suggest it.  It is Returning.  The Christ, rejected by men, raised by God, ruling over the world, is returning.  Two little girls were playing church.  One was playing preacher.  She was preaching on the return of Christ.  She said, "Jesus is coming back again.  Maybe today.  Maybe tomorrow.  Maybe never."  We smile at it because we know that the one absolute certainty is that Jesus is coming back again.  The one haunting question is, "Are you ready for Him?"

The Text That Comforted Jesus
Table of Contents
The Inescapable of Christ

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