The New Testament Greek Lexicon gives the following concise definition for this word: “royal power, kingship, dominion, rule; not to be confused with an actual kingdom but rather the right or authority to rule over a kingdom.” In other words a more literal translation of Jesus’ words would be “Therefore I tell you the royal power of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing its fruit.”
In another post we will deal further with what is entailed in this “royal power of God.” But for now let us continue with the question of who the Christian nation Jesus refers to might be.
What is the “stone of offense?”
Our opening verse occurs towards the close of a chapter detailing one of the most monumental turning points in history. Matthew 21 opens with the account of the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. He does this to the adoring cries of the same crowd that in a few short days would call for His crucifixion. Matthew tells us that this was in fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9: ““Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”
He then goes on to recount Jesus’ cleansing of the temple, and how children were acknowledging His right to the throne of Israel as the “son of David.” Next we have the cursing of the fig tree, followed by the leaders of Israel disputing His authority. We then come to the Jesus’ sharing of two parables. The first reveals the hypocrisy of Israel’s lip-service to God, and the second foretells His own death at their hands just a few days later.
It is in this context that Jesus utters the words that opened our post. Here is the context:
Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This came from the Lord and is wonderful in our eyes? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing its fruit. Whoever falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whoever it falls, it will grind him to powder!” When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they knew He was speaking about them. Although they were looking for a way to arrest Him, they feared the crowds, because they regarded Him as a prophet.—Matthew 21:42-46
This clearly answers our first question. The nation from whom the royal power of God was being taken was Israel—not as individuals, but as a nation. But it raises a second question—what is this stone, or rock that is being spoken of? This will also provide a topic of a future post. For now we need only consider two passages.