Summary: We see in Scripture that Jesus is the Rock of Ages: He is a stumbling stone, a foundation stone, and a smiting stone…
“The Three Stones” Pastor Bob Leroe, Cliftondale Congregational Church, Saugus, Massachusetts
Jesus is the solid Rock on which we stand! God is often called a rock in the Old Testament, eg. Isaiah says “There is no rock like our God” (2:2). It’s also a Messianic title. We see in Scripture that Jesus is the Rock of Ages: He is a stumbling stone, a foundation stone, and a smiting stone…
1. Stumbling Stone>
When we consider the humble birth of Jesus, it amazes us that a poor, helpless baby is to be our deliverer. Before Christ, no writer ever used the word “humble” as a tribute. When Jesus came before His synagogue in Nazareth as a young man, declaring Himself the fulfillment of messianic prophecy, the town rejected him outright, because they only saw His humanity, and could not conceive that one of their own townsfolk might emerge as the hope of Israel and the revelation of the glory of God. The townspeople likely thought back to the glory days of David and Solomon, and wondered, “How could this local kid bring about that kind of glory?” Even our Lord’s Name was a stumbling stone, a very ordinary Jewish name, like “Jim” or “Joe” today. We sing how marvelous the Name of Jesus is, but in His day it was a common name. “Jesus” is a form of the Hebrew name “Joshua”; both mean “he shall save”. Our Lord’s neighbors didn’t think the meaning applied to Him. How might we have responded to the extravagant claims coming from such an ordinary-looking man?
As I progress through the study of Matthew’s Gospel I’m leading at the Senior Center, I’m constantly challenged by the teachings of Jesus. His words are not always easy to grasp. He made many provocative statements, often expressed truth through stories and symbols, and didn’t make it easy for people to grasp His meaning. He makes us think and ponder His intent. For some, His very words are a stumbling stone.
After His Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem, and the days prior to His betrayal, Jesus taught the people through a series of parables. In one of them, the parable of the Tenants, He hinted at His rejection, yet the people listening were so caught up in the story they didn’t realize that He was talking about them. Jesus then quotes from Psalm 118, a chapter the crowds also quoted from when welcoming Him into the city: “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” Isaiah writes of the Messiah, “He will be a sanctuary, but for Israel and Judah He will be a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall” (8:14).
When Jesus didn’t follow up His Triumphal Entry with a civil revolt, when He appeared to not satisfy the political expectations of Israel; when it became obvious that He wasn’t about to raise an army and drive Rome out of the land, the nation turned against Him. They wanted a revolutionary, not a holy man. Jesus the stumbling stone disappointed the short-sighted masses. He came, not with political might, but the power of love.
To modern-day Israel, Jesus remains a stumbling stone. Paul writes, “We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews” (I Cor 1:23). This past week I was reading an article by Moshe Rosen, a CCCC minister and founder of Jews for Jesus. He talks about how he’s been regarded as an outcast by his people, how they regard him as one who has forsaken Judaism. He argues that nothing could be further from the truth. Moshe insists that he is more Jewish than ever, that Jesus has made him kosher--because he is following the Jewish Messiah. He writes: “I am a member of the people to whom Jesus chose to be born. I am Jewish just as Peter, Paul, James and John, who brought the message of the Messiah to the world. I was born a Jew and will die a Jew.” The most Jewish thing a person can do is believe in Jesus.
Another reason Jesus is a stumbling stone is that, before we receive Him as Savior, we have to admit we need one; we have to confess our spiritual poverty. Many people are too self-reliant to humble themselves before God. The Lord says in Isaiah, “I will bless those who have humble and contrite hearts, who tremble at my word. But those who choose their own ways, delighting in their sins, are cursed” (66:2-3).
2. Foundation Stone>
Jesus is the Rock upon which our faith is built. He’s the cornerstone of the Church. Every denomination has some sort of hierarchy. When I served in the military, my chain-of-command included a series of high-level and high-ranking Chaplains, all the way to the Chief of Chaplains, a Major General at the Pentagon. In the CCCC we have an Area Representative, a Northeast Regional Representative, an acting President and our Conference Minister. These leaders would gladly proclaim that the Head of our Church is Christ. It helps having organizational structure, but we understand that we are accountable to Christ and led by His word.