Jesus said to them (the chief priests and the elders), “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”

--Matt. 21:42 NIV

 

A few years back, I made a pilgrimage to visit relatives in the small town where I was born. Over lunch, a cousin reminisced about the town’s distinctive landmark, an old stone bridge, which once spanned the Elk River in Lincoln County, Tennessee.

Built in 1858, the multiple-arched structure was the largest of a very small number of dry–stone arch bridges built without use of cement or steel. Legend has it that during the Civil War, Gen. Sherman marched across that bridge on his way south and spared it. A hundred years later it collapsed under its own weight during a flood. The month I visited was the 40th anniversary of its demise.

As a child, I never lived in the town but relished the chance to visit my grandparents there. My grandmother had a framed black and white photograph of people in horse drawn buggies lined up along the river bank. When I asked her about it, she said it was a picture of a baptism she witnessed as a child. 

Maybe that’s when the charming stone arches first captured my imagination. I wanted to see them, so she took me - in her big Buick Roadmaster, circa 1955. We drove alongside it from the safety of a newer bridge. The quaint span showed its age. It had been closed twenty years earlier, unable to bear the load of modern traffic. I couldn’t understand why someone didn’t try to save it, but “Mimi” said it would cost too much money.

Years later, when my grandmother came to live with our family, my own daughter was captivated by the same picture. She often showed it to her friends. Until this past weekend, I never knew the old bridge had fallen. My daughter is grown now, my grandmother is in heaven, and this weekend I was in the attic looking for that old picture. My cousin said the bridge fell because it was built without a capstone.

Was a capstone like a cornerstone? I wondered.

According to Wikipedia.com, a capstone is “a coping stone” that forms the top of an exterior masonry wall. It is also the name of a stone made for covering archeological tombs. I like those definitions. It sounds like a good thing to have for the living and the dead.

No amount of money could save the old bridge, or you and me. We will all fall under the weight of our inadequacies. But a Coping Stone has been provided to absorb the stress of daily living so that we can fulfill our purpose here. Jesus Christ is also the Rock of Ages who covers our sins when we die.

There is, however, a third definition which I like best of all. The Capstone is a high point or crowning achievement - something that holds everything together. Like me, the people under the bridge may not have known that capstones and cornerstones are the same. But they did know why we need one and how to find Him.

1 Peter 2:4-6 points the way:

As you come to Him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to Him—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says: ‘See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.’ (Isaiah 28:16).

I can’t wait to take a picture of that.