Have you ever thought about Jesus as a stumbling stone? Though it may be strange to use this kind of language, it is actually firmly rooted in the scriptures. One such passage is found in Romans 9:33:

See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes people to stumble
And a rock that causes them to fall,
And the one who believes in him will never be put to shame

These words, which come from Isaiah, refer to Jesus. He is the stumbling stone.

In the context of Romans 9-11, Jesus is a stumbling stone because the majority of Israel had metaphorically “stumbled” over him. “Christ,” Paul tells us in 10:4, “is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.” This was an unexpected turn in the story of salvation, and much of Israel held fast to the Mosaic Law for righteousness rather than embracing Jesus. In effect, they “stumbled” over the new thing God was (and is) doing in Jesus because they did not expect it and failed to accept it.

For those of us who have accepted Christ, though, the stone God has laid has a very different function. Rather than being a stone of stumbling, Christ becomes the precious cornerstone on which God is building his church. For those in the audience who aren’t stone workers, that basically means that Jesus is the most important stone in the building because he gives shape to everything else (all other stones are place in relation to him). And, beyond the corporate aspect of Christ as the cornerstone, there is a personal aspect as well. We who believe in Jesus accept him as the cornerstone for salvation and for living. One way or other, Jesus is a stone laid by God. He will either be a cause for stumbling or the cornerstone of new life.

One challenge we who have accepted Christ as the cornerstone face is that we can still run the risk of stumbling over him. There is a poignant story in Matthew 11 where John the Baptist asks if Jesus really is the Messiah. This is how Jesus replied:

The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me. (emphasis mine)

What an interesting way for Jesus to end his reply! John the Baptist has already identified Jesus as the Messiah, yet Jesus sees that John still runs the risk of stumbling. The same can be true of us. Though the ultimate choice has been made about Jesus as the cornerstone, Jesus can nevertheless surprise us by working in unexpected ways. The question in these moments then becomes, will we stumble or continue to build our lives on him? May we continue building on the precious and sure cornerstone!