For the proclamation of the Gospel and the edification of the Body of Christ
Christ, the Stumbling Stone
The Lord Jesus Christ is a stumbling block for builders, but for those who believe, he is beautiful.
"When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples to ask him, 'Are you the one who was to come or should we expect someone else?' Jesus replied, 'Go back and report to John what you hear and see; The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me." (Matthew 11:2-6).
In the days of the Lord's incarnation, many people found a stumbling stone in him. Today, his person, his work and message remain and many continue stumbling in him.
Let us look at the Word in Romans 9:33: "As it is written: See I lay a stone in Zion that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame."
This same word is also used in 1Corinthians 1:22-24 which says, "Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God."
Here is a great contrast: for some the Lord came to be a stumbling block, and for others he came to be power; for some he came to be a rock that made them fall, and for others he came to be a rock of salvation. This continues to be the case today. The Lord Jesus, the light and salvation for all men, turns out to be a tremendous stumbling block for many.
The contrast between Caiaphas and Simeon
The high priest Caiaphas vehemently interrogated the Lord Jesus, "I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God." The serene response was, "Yes, it is as you say… But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven." (Matthew 26:63-65). Then Caiaphas, in an act of religious zeal, tore his clothes saying: "He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? ... He is worthy of death, they answered." What a stumbling block! The Light came; it was in front of him and he was not capable of recognizing it! He was in front of his Messiah ... and he condemned him!
Simeon's case was different. Already an elderly man, he went into the temple on the precise day, guided by the Holy Spirit, and approached a very simple couple, who were carrying a small child. Simeon, moved by the Spirit, asked to take the child in his arms and blessed him, saying to God: "You now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation." (Luke 2:28-30). Simeon did not find a stumbling stone in Christ! He had the privilege of recognizing him and worshipping him.
The Reason for Stumbling
Dear brothers and sisters, why is the Lord Jesus Christ a stumbling stone? Why is it that He who came only to be of benefit to us, turned out to be a problem for so many people? Even in our days the Lord continues to be a stumbling stone for many. Why? Because all who draw near to the Lord will have to recognize that they themselves are weak. They will have to accept that their pride and their ego are destroyed.
When we come to the Lord Jesus, we find ourselves before a cross; we find that which ends our life, that which destroys our plans. In a sense, it is as if life itself were taken away from us.
Many people stumble because being associated with Him who was crucified on the cross means shame and scorn. Being a Christian, associating with Him who died on the cross is not popular. To be associated with a great thinker of the world such as Heidegger, for example, or to declare oneself a disciple of Sartre or Jacques Maritain, results in prestige and honor in academic circles throughout the world. Our society is based on the exaltation of man's attributes, but whoever comes to Christ, encounters someone that says.. "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." (Matthew 16:24).
What a stumbling stone the cross is! What a great problem! The world today has found a tremendous stumbling stone in the Lord Jesus Christ. "We could accept - the world will say - the teachings regarding loving one's neighbor, caring for the poor, and feeding the starving multitudes. We like that about you, Jesus Christ; this love is good, it is useful for the plans of our society, but if you come to speak to us about the necessity for a kernel of wheat to fall on the ground and die (John 12:24) ... then Christ is no longer convenient for us! What a stumbling stone the Lord is for all the systems of the world! He is a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall!
Broken to Pieces
Let us now look at more of our Lord Jesus Christ's words. Matthew 21:42b: "Have you never read in the Scriptures: The stone the builders rejected, has become the capstone..? .. He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed."
Brothers and sisters, one of two things will happen to all mankind! We will fall on this Stone or sooner or later it will fall on us.
"Broken to pieces...." Yes, it is impossible for you to come to the Lord and remain whole. Otherwise, you would continue being a merely religious person. If you have still not been broken to pieces, then you are still "whole" (remaining in your natural way of seeing things), still arrogant, proud and haughty. But he who has truly fallen on this Stone, who has truly been broken to pieces, has become docile in the Lord's hands and in his Spirit. This is where many stumble: they do not want to be broken. They want to remain unscathed; they want Christ's benefits, he who multiplies bread and cures the sick, etc. "We only want him so that he can help us." This is unworthy of the Lord!
"Broken to pieces..." The one that falls on this stone is no longer the same. Many stumble because they are afraid, because they feel that judgment is approaching: demanding an absolute change in their way of being, thinking and living. Blessed is he who does not find a stumbling stone in the Lord!
Not a Stumbling Stone: Salvation
Finally, brothers and sisters, let nothing prevent us from understanding the glory of this word. The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor." These six expressions define man's condition. This is how the Lord sees all mankind. Those who do not have eyes to see God's salvation in Christ are blind. We were like this! "The lame... " This was our condition; until we met the Way, the Truth and the Life... "Those who have leprosy are cured." In the Bible leprosy is often a symbol of sin, and what son or daughter of Adam has not sinned? Only one righteous person has walked on this earth: Jesus, the Son of God! We all had this leprosy.
This is man's condition: dead in "transgression and sin." We were once dead until the Lord came to give us life. When the poor are mentioned here, no rich individual in this world is excluded, because if they die without knowing the wealth of God's grace in Christ, they will appear before him as wretched, poor and naked.
Beloved brothers and sisters, we were once without Christ. But now, instead of being a stumbling block for us, the Lord has come to be our light and our life! Instead of a stumbling stone, he has become our way and our sustenance, our hope and glory, our Redeemer and Great High Priest, our head and foundation, our Beloved and our Lord!
Brothers, we continue preaching his glorious gospel without being deterred. We understand that for many hearing about Christ is a stumbling stone. If we preach the gospel, we will be freed from our responsibility, and simultaneously, we will have the compensation and joy of seeing many hearts receiving God's salvation. We will hear them praising God saying, "You opened my eyes, you cured my lameness and my leprosy, you forgave my sins, you died to give me life, you enriched me, you adopted me. I am your son, I am your daughter. Hallelujah, I am a child of God!".