Broke on the Rock!
Text: Matthew 21:42-46
Proper 22, A
I was watching a history show about the fur trade as it followed a team of modern people recreating the York boat route from Winnipeg to Hudson Bay. One riveting part of the series happened just days before the end of their several month long journey. Having overcome so much and struggled for so long the crew was racing down one of the last of the sections of rapids they would have to face. Then disaster struck. They hit a rock. Sideways. From the following cameras it didn’t seem so scary, but for those in the boat it was a matter of life and death. As the pressure of the water splintered their boat against that immovable rock they could only hang on for dear life and watch as all the precious cargo they had hauled for thousands of kilometres simply floated away, never to be seen again.
You may never have been stranded in a river in Northern Manitoba before, but you know how they felt. Broke on a rock. Life is going along great and then in a matter of weeks, days, hours or mere minutes something un-looked for happens, everything turns sideways and begins to crumble around you. We have all come hard up against the rocks of this life, or will before all is said and done. Losing a job, getting that bad news from your doctor, the family phone call in the middle of the night ... and your feet are knocked out from under you, the world spins, and all you can do is watch as everything you worked so hard for floats away.
But what do you do when that rock that crushes all your plans is God?
Both Isaiah and Jesus tell the same basic story. It is a story of plans dashed and lives forever changed. And make no mistake, if you lived in Israel in the 9th century BC or belonged to the Pharisees of the first century AD, you would have been just as upset to hear this story. Upset because you were doing what you thought was right, only to be told you were wrong. Dead wrong. The problem in both times was that those in both who were trying to build an earthly kingdom of God actually rejected Him as the only means of getting to heaven. They were building, but not on the rock. Therefore they must be broke on the rock instead.
Whether in the Old Testament or the New, God’s salvation find its only meaning in Jesus. He is the rock on which it is all built. The very foundation, the cornerstone on which the whole thing stands; the capstone upon which everything leans for support. Without the promised Messiah at the heart and center of it all it can only crumble and fail. We know this as surely as all our ancient forefathers did. And yet, just like them we are still surprised when so much crumbles around (and in) us after having been built on anything and everything but our Lord and Saviour.
7For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting; and he looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, an outcry! The vineyard in both the OT reading and the Gospel is, of course, the kingdom of God. That kingdom was taken away from the people of Israel. God’s chosen people today are all those from every nation whom God has chosen to believe in Him and be saved. The fruits they will produce are the many and wonderfully varied fruits of faith like patience, peace, kindness, gentleness, joy, self-control and the like, but chief among them is the fruit of repentance!
So what if your life still doesn’t bear these fruits of faith? What if you have built your days and your deeds upon someone else, anything else? What if, like the Pharisees, you know better, but won’t change now because your course is set and no one will tell you otherwise? Then beware Jesus says. Beware! 42...“Have you never read in the Scriptures: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes? 43Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. 44And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.
Many of us have had this experience. And rightly so. We have fallen on that Stone (Christ) and have been broken. We have stubbed our toe, so to speak, and it hurts. We have built our life one way, only to find out that it is a dead end. We have placed our trust in things and people who have let us down. We have raced headlong after the prizes of this life and world without thought to the destruction we are hurtling toward. But then Christ has tripped us up short and stopped us in our path. He has caused us to see the shoddiness of our thinking and the ugliness of our living. His Word, “sharper than any two-edged sword” has cut us to the quick. The skinned knees, the road rash, the bumps and bruises of our tumble over the Rock of the Lord hurts bad. But we are still alive. And what’s more, Christ picks us up. And, oh, the bliss of recovery under His gentle care! What we first regarded as punishment turns out to be the first stage in the healing process. The first limping steps back onto the only true and right path of life.
And that fruit of repentance allows us to take Christ’s hand and humbly get up after our tumble, thankful that we didn’t face the alternative of being Broke on the Rock. For God’s warning also states that on whomever the stone falls it will crush! And may that be a warning that we all take to heart as we continue to plan and build our lives. Although God has a love and a patience beyond the farthest reaches of our imagination, the Bible does confront us with the possibility that one can spurn God once too often. It reminds us, together with assurances of God love, that our God is a consuming fire and that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Better to be broke on the Rock now than crushed by it in eternity!
God is indeed gracious and merciful. He is patient beyond all reason. But He cannot be patient forever. One day it will all end. Our life will be over or this present age will. Disease, danger, accident or old age will take us, or the Lord will come to judge the quick and the dead. Our Lord will return and the harvest will be due. The end will come and the journey will be over. On that day, whether it be sooner or later, know this ... only that which is first broke on the rock and then re-built on that rock will stand the test of time and continue on into eternity. The only inheritance unto everlasting life is Christ’s to give, not ours to take. Yet give it He has, and it is marvellous indeed! Let this knowledge grant you peace in your fears, confidence in your struggles, patience in your stumbles and failings, and hope in your future! Nothing is so broken that it can’t be re-built in Christ our Rock.