Jesus the Stone of Stumbling
“But the LORD (Yahweh) of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.” (Isa 8:13-15)
Paul quotes this passage and applies it to Jesus:
They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, as it is written, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” (Rom 9:32-33).
Paul also pulls in Isaiah 28:16: “and the one who believes in him will not be put to shame” (NETS, LXX). In Isaiah 8, Yahweh is said to be the One who will become a stone of offense and rock of stumbling. In Isaiah 28, “believes in him” refers to trusting in Yahweh. Jesus fulfills these passages as Yahweh incarnate. Peter, likewise, combines Isaiah 8 with Isaiah 28 and applies it to Christ:
“As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture:’ Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.’
So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” (1 Pet 2:4-8)
These sentiments are echoed by Simeon when Jesus was presented at the temple as an infant. To Mary he said, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34-35). Later, Jesus, citing a similar passage in Psalm 118:22-23, says: “Have you never read in the Scriptures:
“‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.” (Matt 21:42-44)
These passages show us that Jesus, God manifested in the flesh, is the stumbling stone and rock of offense. He is the cornerstone, the stone that is rejected, the stone on which people fall and are broken and crushed. He is God the Son. He is the Son of Man. He is the Stone of stumbling but also the rock in whom we can trust. He is the crucified and risen Savior. If you believe in Him you will not be put to shame. If you do not believe in Him, you will stumble over Him and be broken.
Now going back to 1 Peter 2, Peter says that we ought to come to Him who is the living stone, “rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious.” Yet we must not miss the next statement: “you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (v. 5). As Jesus is the living stone over whom people stumble, those who believe come to him as living stones themselves. The imagery here is the temple, God’s house, and we are not only stones in the structure, we are also the priests who attend to the temple and offer up sacrifices through Christ.
Peter says that while many “stumble because they disobey the word” (v. 8), in contrast, Christians “are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (v. 9).
We either stumble over Christ or we become living stones in His temple proclaiming His glory. We are not given the option of being neutral. As Paul wrote, “we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. (1 Cor 1:23-24). Is Jesus the stumbling block or is He God’s power to salvation in your life? Will you be a living stone in His house?