Jesus the cornerstone and Good Shepherd will save us- by Richard Cussons
5 The next day their rulers, elders, and scribes assembled in Jerusalem, 6with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John,* and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. 7When they had made the prisoners* stand in their midst, they inquired, ‘By what power or by what name did you do this?’ 8Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, ‘Rulers of the people and elders, 9if we are questioned today because of a good deed done to someone who was sick and are asked how this man has been healed, 10let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth,* whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead. 11This Jesus* is
“the stone that was rejected by you, the builders;
it has become the cornerstone.”*
12There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.’ ________________________________________
This Jesus is the stone rejected by you, the builders; it has become the corner stone.
I’ve been involved in some building work over the years, and my builders, thankfully, are a fussy lot. I still have a pile of bricks that they rejected; they are shaped like this: (example of mis-shapen brick)
Difficult to use and not really fit for purpose, which is why I still have them in a pile, asking every time I see them if there aren’t any they want to use. And every time they reject them, saying to me: “Not those again, you keep asking us, and we keep telling you.
Perhaps the Priests questioning Peter in the Acts passage, felt the same way; we keep being asked about this man Jesus who was crucified, but our answer is always going to be the same; he died. He was crucified. He had a spear put in his side. We put a Roman guard on the tomb. So, get this: He is not alive. At least that’s what the priests kept on saying.
But a bit like the Russians keep on saying they didn’t use a nerve agent to attempt the murder of the Skripals, for daring to defy them, so the statements of the priests interviewing Jesus didn’t make them right that Jesus was dead either. Disinformation is nothing new.
So how do we know that Peter is right? After all, it matters not how many times I ask my builders about using these bricks as cornerstones, they aren’t going to. So what makes a stone that has been rejected into one that can be used as a cornerstone? A miracle, that’s what.
For Jesus’ rising from the dead is nothing short of a miracle. We don’t just rise from the dead once we are dead and buried. That is it. That is part of being human.
And yet Jesus did just that; That is why Jesus is central to everything we do. No Jesus, no faith. Jesus, our risen Lord, is our cornerstone. The way that Andrew White, previous Vicar of Baghdad , put it in a story he tells of one of his adopted Iraqi daughters: When asked why she is happy amidst the devastation of her country, she replied; when everything else has been taken away, Jesus is always there with me. Our cornerstone. And at this Pentecost, we remember that Jesus and our Father God left us the Holy Spirit to be our comforter and protector at all times, living within us.
11 ‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. 14I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. 16I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 18No one takes* it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.’
I talked to a bit about Jesus as our cornerstone earlier. Now I want to ask you:
What does it mean to say that Jesus is the good shepherd?
It’s not a question that you would have had to ask in a preindustrial age; everyone knew what a shepherd does. There were probably many shepherds in every community; looking after their flocks of sheep and goats, and so Jesus’ using the idea of the good shepherd would have made total sense to everyone.
What happens when the flock are allowed to roam free because there is no shepherd?
Well, listen to what Ezekiel says in chapter 34: (slide 2)
5So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd; and scattered, they became food for all the wild animals. 6My sheep were scattered, they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill; my sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with no one to search or seek for them.
7 Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: 8As I live, says the Lord GOD, because my sheep have become a prey, and my sheep have become food for all the wild animals, since there was no shepherd; and because my shepherds have not searched for my sheep, but the shepherds have fed themselves, and have not fed my sheep; 9therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD.
It rather reminds me of our current times, and perhaps goes to show that there is nothing new under the sun. Because people have abandoned God, they have become prey for any old thing that comes along; you name it, us humans have tried it at some point; atheism, consumerism, dawkinism, Darwinism, Marxism, familyism. And have any one of these beliefs solved humankinds problems? of course not, because they all lead to nothing. In actual fact, there is no such thing as atheism; everyone believes in something, makes a god of something that brings some sort of meaning to their lives; family, science, consumerism, self even. For without a shepherd, we tend to go wandering off, just like real sheep and so wow, do we need a shepherd to bring us back. This is why Jesus as the Son and God the Father left that third person of the trinity, the Holy Spirit, to be our guardian, to live within us, and to help us to live more like Jesus himself.
So turning to our passage from John, Jesus says that the hired hand does not care for the sheep. He’s in it for himself; he gets paid his wages and that’s it. He’s most certainly not going to risk himself getting injured when the wolves come and attack the sheep, no real commitment to them. There’s nothing like commitment to something to make sure you do the best for it; the commitment of someone who really cares about their sheep. And a good shepherd would have known his sheep individually; known which ones are more likely to run away, which ones will get lost, which ones will straggle behind the flock, which ones are greedy, which ones give the best wool, which ones are aggressive, and which ones will stay close. They may look all the same to a casual observer, but to the shepherd, each one is very individual. A bit like seeing a football crowd from afar at the football cup on telly; they may look alike with their country colours draped around them, but each person there is very individual.
And that’s what Jesus says to his followers: (slide 3)
verses 14 & 15 say: 14I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep.
Now that’s something pretty special; each and every one is known, and they too know Him. Sometimes we hear this story so often that we miss the immensity of this statement from the Son of God: Jesus knows us just as the Father God knows the Son. I just struggle sometimes to appreciate this statement. God the Father and God the Son are two parts of the trinity; they are so close that they are one and yet they are distinct. They are so part of each other that they know immediately what each is thinking, what each is doing. That intense, intimate, spiritual relationship between the Father and the Son is the same type of relationship that we can have with Jesus Christ, the Son. If you ever thought that God was some distant person that was so remote that you could never know, think again; this statement changes everything. Jesus wants to dwell within us as part of us by the Holy Spirit, the third part of the Trinity, who is always with us when we commit our lives to God. And he also wanted to lay down his life for us, just as the shepherd would for his flock. (slide 4)
He says in verse 18: 18No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again.
Jesus removes the doubt that might linger in anyone’s mind that he died involuntarily, or was sent to death. He chose to lay down his life, make no mistake. He wasn’t coerced into it. Which is pretty staggering considering that he knows us so intimately that he also knows all our faults; and yet he still laid down his life for us sinners. When I was teaching, students would often say to me: There’s no way I would ever be good enough to get to heaven. To which I would reply: And there’s no way that I am good enough to get to heaven either. That’s what is called grace. The completely undeserved sacrifice that Jesus makes for us when he makes that free choice to die for us.
Wow. Wow. Just what have we done to deserve such a sacrifice? Absolutely nothing. How can we ever repay Jesus Christ for what he did in laying down His life for us? Christ died for us, he suffered for us, He won the battle over sin for us, and all through his free will choice to do that for us. And then He rose from the grave and was victorious over death so that we can live forever. A love so great that absolutely nothing can separate us from the love of God: as Paul says in Romans 8.38:
38For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Jesus implants in us, through the power of the Holy Spirit, the desire to be like Him. And that means to love like He did. To live like He did. Bishop Michael Curry reminded us at the royal wedding – by the way, wasn’t that a great sermon? – that when Jesus said, in John 15.12: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this; to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” That this is such a powerful command from our Lord, that it can change everything in our lives. that it rather pales all relationship difficulties into insignificance, doesn’t it? Now I want to ask you; is there someone in your life that you don’t really get on with? Someone perhaps who you wish would change their ways? And now can you imagine laying down your life for them? no? Jesus did. /
/ Maybe you aren’t going to go that far. But will you at least love them enough to tell them about the Gospel story? To tell them that God loves them so much that he sent His Son to earth, and that His Son chose to die for us sinners because He loves us so much? Perhaps invite someone to church next weekend at ………., or just have a chat with them about your faith journey, or…………………………. Whatever it is that you do, know that the Lord is with you and His Spirit will direct you to the people he Hs bene working in already; he will prepare your path. As a Christian, full of the love of Christ, how can we stand by and see our fellow humanity go through life being unsaved?
So, if you are sitting in this congregation now, and are feeling a nudge from God’s Holy Spirit to respond to His prompting, to say Yes to Jesus Christ, and no to dissatisfaction with life, let’s say this prayer together:
Thank you Jesus, for dying on the cross
Thank you Jesus that I can come to you now because you are alive
I admit that I have lived my life without you and that I have sinned
I commit myself to you and I ask for your forgiveness
I receive you into my life by your Holy Spirit
Help me to submit my life to your teaching
and to your direction from this moment on. Amen
And if you’d like to talk to someone more about the step you have taken, or just talk to someone about their faith journey, then the prayer team are at the back, and feel free to go and talk to them now or later.
In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All,
Here in the love of Christ I stand.
Blessing – on screen
Minister: The Lord give strength to his people
The Lord bless his people with peace. Amen
Together: We go into the world
to walk in God’s light
to rejoice in God’s love
and to reflect God’s glory