High and Lifted Up

April 19, 2017

Obviously, a mistake was made. Well, maybe not a mistake. I’ll just call it a missed opportunity.

Looking at the lectionary texts for today, Psalm 118 speaks about the “stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone” (vs. 22).

Matthew 28 contains the story of the Resurrection of Jesus. An angel of the Lord rolls back the stone that sealed Jesus’ tomb and sits on it, scaring the guards almost to death (vs. 2-4). He announces that the tomb is vacant and that Jesus has risen.

Finally, the lectionary points us to Joshua 3:1-17. It is the story of Israel finally crossing the Jordan into the Promised Land.

Great story, but Joshua 3 shouldn’t be the text. It should have been the next chapter, Joshua 4:1-24. That’s my opinion, anyway.

In Joshua 4, God commands Joshua to have the Israelites to pick up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan and placed them on the spot where the priests had stood with the Ark of the Covenant. Twelve stones–one for each tribe of Israel–marking the place where God fulfilled his covenant promises and brought people into the land of milk and honey.

The editors of the lectionary apparently didn’t want to make it that easy. But, if you substitute Joshua 3 with Joshua 4, the devotional practically writes itself: God’s faithfulness displayed in a textual triptych of stone.

We read the foreshadowing story of Yehoshua (Joshua), who under God’s direction, leads Israel to the Promised Land and marks with stone the place where God fulfilled his promises. A new, eternal Kingdom is revealed to us through God’s Son, Yeshua (Jesus). He is our Savior, the Cornerstone of our salvation.

So, if it isn’t stone, what ties these readings together? In the Old Testament text, God assures Joshua by telling him that, “Today, I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, so they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses” (vs. 7). Joshua is lifted up before the people, foreshadowing the Messiah to come.

In Matthew, the angel greets the women at the tomb, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay” (v. 6-7).

Jesus is exalted, breaking the grip that death held over life.

When reading these two stories, Psalm 118 then becomes the hinge that connects them together. We can sing with the psalmist, “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His love endures forever!” (Psalm 118:1)

While I might critique the lectionary on particular choices of texts, one thing I truly appreciate from the tradition of those who use the lectionary throughout the liturgical year is that the celebration of Christ’s resurrection is not limited to one day or one week. There are seven weeks of celebration, from Easter Sunday until Pentecost, where the Good News of Christ’s victory is remembered and celebrated.

We need to continue to hear that message of life in a cynical world that wants to convince us that hope is fleeting and security is nowhere to be found. God’s message to us hasn’t changed. God has lifted up His Son. Through Him, we are lifted up.

Let us continue to sing, “You are my God, and I will praise you; you are my God, and I will exalt you. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” (Psalm 118:28–29)



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