…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” (Romans 9:33 ESV).
A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense is not often how we think of Jesus. But Paul says He is those things, and that God Himself laid this stone right in the midst of His people. This stone of stumbling and rock of offense breaks down all that God’s people of old thought He was. To a people depending on their own righteousness — on their performance of the law, their better sacrifices, their rituals, and their goodness — Jesus Christ and Him crucified is nothing other than a cause for complete confusion and even mockery.
And the rock laid by God in Zion still causes offense and stumbling. To some in the world it appears strange and laughable. Once, when the mission house Die Brücke first opened in Leipzig, Germany, an older German man walked in, saw the crucifix, laughingly pointed it out, and incredulously asked the pastor, “You believe in that?” A dead God, a God who hangs on a cross. Foolishness, indeed.
To some in the world, confident in their own righteousness, the stone is one of stumbling in just the same way as it was for the Jews about whom Paul wrote. They are basically “good people.” They have nothing to worry about, no need for a God who comes in to rescue with a strange and bloody death on a cross. They rely on themselves and their righteous deeds, their Law-bound obedience, their ability to be pretty good. They give to charity, stop and help their neighbor, are nice to those around them. Some of them are even nicer than those Christians they know, anyway. Obviously, their righteousness will get them where they need to go in this life and beyond. There’s no need for any help on that count.
To some in the world, their religion of law is their comfort and their confidence. They follow the rules, complete every ritual. They hand out pamphlets, keep the law, show their dedication to their deity through various means, enact all the necessary actions. After all, this is what is required. They have done enough. They are righteous in their own right and have no need of Christ Jesus and Him crucified.
All of these may laugh and scoff at we Baptized who know our sinfulness and from whence our true righteousness comes. They may try to tell us that we must DO more and BE more. Perhaps they outright scorn a dead God. But Paul promises that those who believe in this rock of stumbling, this stone of offense, will not be put to shame! Why? Because this rock of stumbling, this stone of offense, is Jesus Christ, dead and raised for the forgiveness of all of our sins. And when the Last Day comes, and the self-righteous, the mockers and the scoffers have spent all the energy they have, it is the Baptized who will follow their Lord, their Rock, through death into the resurrected life.
Let us Pray: Lord Jesus Christ, You are a stumbling block for many, we pray, dear Lord, that all would be brought to see You not as a stone of stumbling or a rock of a offense, but as their Lord and Savior. Help us to cling to You, our Rock, and to proclaim You to all those around us, so that all may be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth; in Your name we pray, Amen.