The rock of offense

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    Imagine a stone that was placed in the path way that many people walk through. Certainly, there is a natural tendency for unsuspecting passers-by going through that walkway to stumble on it and wound themselves. But for very careful passers-by, they are more likely to notice it and probably question why it was strategically placed there. More discerning ones might discover that the stone is serving a great purpose where is it located. It might actually be a stepping stone to greater heights. The stone might be placed there strategically so as to test how many people will stumble at it. It may be part of a screening process in order to select people that are very vigilant to notice the stone and why it was strategically placed there.

    This is exactly the case of Jesus Christ. Though He is the Chief Corner Stone and a Rock of shelter, He is also the stone of stumbling.

    “Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Zion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed. But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1Pe 2:6-9)

    Some years ago, I used to marvel at the prophesy that was given about Jesus by an old devout man called Simeon when Jesus was taken to the temple by His parents for dedication.

    “And Joseph and his mother marveled at those things which were spoken of him. And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed”. (Luke 2:33-35)

    Why should the child be said to be for the rising and falling of many in Israel? The reason is simple.

    Actually Jesus came to seek and save that which was lost. But the way He came and the peculiarity of His ministry and message ran contrary to the expectation of many in Israel (and the world in general). If He had come in a very grandiose manner with lightening and thundering (like when God gave the 10 commandments on mount Sinai), may be many people would have found it easier to accept Him as their Lord and Saviour. But contrary to this wish, He came in a very lowly manner. He was born in a manger, raised up by a carpenter as father and a poor innocent lady for mother. Apart from the astounding words he spoke while He was taken to Jerusalem at 12, He lived an arguably quiet life until He was 30 years when He began His earthly ministry. It was then astounding miracles began to follow Him. While at the height of His ministry, he was offered the opportunity to become a king so that He can rule His people politically and take care of their material and health needs as well; but He turned down the offer (John 6: 15). Before you know what was happening, he was brutally crucified on a cross like a criminal with a mock label “The King of the Jews” on His cross, (Mathew 27: 37). Even after His resurrection, instead of walking up straight to the midst of the Pharisees and Sadducee with His resurrected body to prove to them that He actually rose from the death, He chose to reveal Himself only to his disciples. Peter said;
    “Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly; Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead”. (Acts 10: 40 – 41)

    At His ascension to heaven, instead of ordering chariots of fire saddled by fiery looking angels amidst great earth quake and thunder in the full glare of the whole city to carry Him to heaven, He ascended before a small crowd very quietly (Acts 1: 9).

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    To many people this profile was not fantastic enough for Him to qualify as the Son of God. If ordinary prophets of God like Moses and Elijah wielded grandiose signs from the sky and the earth, they wanted something more grandiose, awesome and celestial from a person that calls Himself the Son of God. His life and message were too simple for many to believe (Mathew 16:1). That was it! That was where they missed it. That was where they stumbled and fell. People like Pontius Pilate, Caiaphas (the then high priest), the Sadducees, Pharisees and the scribes fell at that juncture. They thought He was a fake. They looked at the physical realities surrounding them and compared His life with Prophets like Moses and Elijah who showed grandiose signs from heaven to attest their ministries. On the other side, some people like Nicodemous (John 3), Joseph Arimathaea (John 19: 38), the disciples and a host of others rose because they chose to grab by faith what Jesus preached. These people rose into glory while others fell into doom by deciding to block their spiritual eyes with arguments questioning the divinity of Christ. Thus the rising and falling prophesy was ignited and fulfilled since.

    The two edged side of the Gospel has never changed since then. Many are still falling as a result of the testimony of Jesus after the manner of the Pharisee and Sadducees because they make a mockery of the simplicity of the gospel (by subjecting it truths and proofs to scientific, philosophical and metaphysical reasoning) while many are still rising today because they decide to grasp the gospel with the hands of faith.

    “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men”. (1 Corinthians 1:18-25)

    Interestingly, in my search of the scriptures, I discovered that Jesus did many raw signs and wonders in the presence of the doubters yet they did not believe Him. They did not take the evidence of healing, miracles and astounding wisdom He displayed in their presence as sufficient enough to proof His divinity. They were looking for something more grandiose (or more logical) to justify His claims of divinity.
    “Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee. But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonah” (Matthew 12:38-39 KJV+)

    However, He chose to perform some very grandiose signs only in the presence of His disciples (e.g. during transfiguration where Moses and Elijah appeared to Him physically with their celestial body, Luke 9: 30 – 36). On many occasions He even chose to speak to those doubters in parables.

    “And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this peoples heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.” (Matthew 13:10-15 KJV+)

    Isn’t this amazing? Yes, Jesus wanted the sinners to come into the kingdom of God; but he wanted them to come in by faith. It seemed Jesus had a principle; if you want something deeper you have to come deeper into the kingdom of God; you have to first grasp the little you have with your hands of faith and then you can have something deeper. This was the principle He was trying to emphasize to Thomas – one of His disciples who doubted His resurrection because He was not around when Jesus appeared to them bodily after his resurrection.

    “Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed”. (John 20:29 KJV+)

    Are you waiting to see more grandiose display of God’s power and might before you believe in His words for your salvation, healing, deliverance, prosperity, protection etc despite the fact that you cannot deny the demonstration of His divinity in the so-called small things in your life? Although God in His own sovereignty when he wants to achieve a special purpose can decide to bring the grandiose signs first before the person has the earliest sign of faith in His word (like in the case of Saul who God met on his way to Damascus in a grandiose way), but this is not His norm. He wants you to first pick up the truths of the word of God with the hands of faith, believing them and taking a few steps in obedience, and then you will begin to see His marvellous power turn loose in your life as you take further steps deeper in Him. If you want to wait for the grandiose sign first before believing, then you may never get it on this side of the divide, you would have fallen into the error of the Pharisees. In God’s Kingdom you start everything by faith, continue if by faith, fulfil and perpetuate it by faith. This is God’s standard in the kingdom.

    “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written. The just shall live by faith”. (Romans 1:17 KJV+)

    So the choice is yours. Do you want Jesus to be the Chief Corner Stone for you (by accepting His word first by faith so that you can afterwards experience His awesome power) or you want to stumble at the simplicity of the gospel by querying intellectually the validity of the word and its reality? Your answer to this question will determine whether you will rise into glory by the life and ministry of Jesus or you will fall into doom in life and eternity by this same Jesus.

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