33 “Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country. 34 When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants  to the tenants to get his fruit. 35 And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. 36 Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them. 37 Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38 But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ 39 And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. 40 When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” 41 They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.”
42 Jesus said to them, “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’?
43 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. 44 And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.” 
45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them. 46 And although they were seeking to arrest him, they feared the crowds, because they held him to be a prophet. (Matthew 21:33-46 (ESV)
“The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone, this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.”
Jesus Christ, set for the fall and rising of many, the stumbling stone that breaks to pieces those who fall on him, and crushes those upon whom he falls, this Jesus Christ is the stone that the builders rejected, the stone retrieved from the rejects, resurrected from the rubble of failed plans and projects where it had been buried to become the cornerstone of God’s temple built upon the foundation of prophets and the apostles. The builders reject him, and God builds his temple upon him. It is as true today as it was then.
Then it was a matter of the leaders of Israel, these elders and chief priests upset at Jesus for turning tables and driving out animals, for cleansing the temple to be a house of prayer rather than a den of robbers. They challenge his authority to do these things, they are intent to get rid of him. They reject him so he rejects them. They reject him because he is a challenge to their prestige, to their plans, to their efforts to build righteousness in their lives and the lives of others.
These people were respected, and morally upright. They were men who had what Paul has talked about as confidence in the flesh. What is meant by that? Paul starts listing sins of the flesh here. All sins are sins of the flesh. Paul here talks about the things most would consider good, and not to be sin at all. All his life he strove to do everything just right. His parents sent him to all the right schools. Oh, Paul knew what it meant to stumble on this rock of Jesus Christ and be broken to pieces, to have this cornerstone fall upon him and be crushed. Everything by which he thought he had standing before God to be counted righteous, everything that gave him confidence in his flesh was lost in his encounter with Christ. Everything by which he thought he was better off than others, thrown away like skubala, the type of rubbish dogs leave for you to clean up in the yard. But it was in this skubala, this rubbish of human endeavor by which these men planned to build the temple of God, the kingdom of God. And for this reason they rejected Christ. For Christ would not allow them to have their righteousness, if they were to have his. You can’t enter the house, the kingdom of God with skubala, you have to scrape it off your shoes, or better yet, as God tells Moses at the burning bush, take them off, leave them outside for this is holy ground. Their own sense of righteousness led them to kill Jesus, just as Paul’s zeal led him to persecute the church. For to accept the forgiveness of Christ is to count all your efforts at righteousness to be of the same value as dog droppings in the back yard. That is what we learn from Paul.
And it isn’t just the Pharisees that have a problem with this. To this day people try to find some place for themselves, for their flesh even in the Christian faith. And when confronted with the reality that even our good works need forgiveness, the response is, then why should I even bother? The response reveals the hollowness of the flesh and its confidence, the hypocrisy of the righteousness. Why bother? Love that’s why bother. But that is what we miss. And it is precisely why Jesus needed to die, so that when our hate killed him, his love could shower us in grace and kill our hate, drown our old Adam. That finally out of it all, there in the midst of the rubbish pile the cornerstone resurrected we could stop trying to build ourselves, and be built in Christ, each one of us a living stone hewn and shaped by the work of God, roughed over by his mercy, shaped by his grace, polished by his unfailing love and patience and fitted together into the temple of God, laid on the foundation of the prophets and apostles, and shaped by the cornerstone that is Christ.
Now the piece of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.