Jesus the Stumbling Block

Jesus is the Standard Over Which Many Men will Fall

The prophet Isaiah knew the Lord well. He had a keen ear to hear the voice of God and the tenacity to speak the words to God's people. That's not to say that he always found great pleasure in it. In fact, many times the words he spoke were saturated with the promise of gloom and destruction for the rebellious nation of Israel. Nonetheless, Isaiah faithfully announced God's messages.

Yet one message that Isaiah received from God included more than just future destruction; it was a message of hope for the oppressed and spiritually enslaved. God had not forgotten His promise for a Redeemer, and through Isaiah He reminded the people of this promise. There was One coming who would be called Immanuel, “God with us.” This was a prophecy of the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ the Son of God.

While Jesus was certainly going to bring light to God's people, and while He was to be the Prince of Peace and have all power and rulership, His ministry was also going to be marked with a very distinct conflict. It was this conflict that Isaiah spoke of when he spoke the message: “He will be as a sanctuary, but a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense to both the houses of Israel, as a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 8:14)

There were two significant truths of Jesus' ministry that created the conflict: the lack of His militaristic triumph over the Roman Empire, and His pattern of spiritual conduct that contradicted their existing religious system. Both in the flesh and in the Spirit, Jesus did not measure up to the Messiah that the people were expecting. Jesus literally became a stumbling block in all areas for many of the people of Israel.

The Israelites had preconceived ideas of who God was and what His plan was for them. Then, in the midst of their distorted beliefs came the Truth. Many of them didn't believe that Jesus could possibly be the promised Messiah, since He didn't fit the bill. They thought, since He was the Son of David, that He was coming as a king to re-establish the kingdom of Israel in the physical realm. This was only partially true. Yet the way in which Jesus conducted Himself went against everything that the people expected. Even though Jesus literally fulfilled the Scriptures, and manifested God Almighty to them, the nation of Israel did not readily accept Him.

Jesus moved in wisdom, truth and healing. He cast out spirits, and healed all that were oppressed of the devil. While some marveled and praised God, others vehemently opposed Jesus, questioning if this was really what the Messiah was supposed to do. They couldn't reconcile their expectations for a king with the Word of God made flesh. This was what Isaiah meant when he spoke of Jesus being a rock of offense and a snare for the people of Jerusalem.

Jesus was a very purposefully placed, spiritual roadblock for those who thought they were on the path to righteousness. Jesus was in their way, so to speak, and they could not understand that He was the Way. Their unrighteousness blinded their spiritual eyes. They could not see that Jesus came as the only way to righteousness. His teachings were founded in both truth and mercy, two things about which the religious leaders of Israel knew nothing.

They laid heavy religious demands on the people, keeping them in absolute subjection to their mostly manmade and incredibly faulty religious system. Jesus came to set Israel free from this unbearable yoke of bondage. But because He spoke against the hypocrisy and unfruitful works of darkness of the religious leaders, the people of Israel violently refused their right to spiritual freedom in the name of religious piety and preservation. How sad that many individuals today can stumble over this same trap.

The apostle Peter referred to Isaiah's prophecy in his letter to the Christians who were dispersed throughout Asia Minor. These believers were suffering from persecution because of their obedience to Christ. Yet Peter exhorted them, stating that just as Christ was rejected by Israel because of the truth that He represented, so were they rejected by the world because of the truth in which they walked. “Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient -- a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense. They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed.” (I Peter 2:7-8)

For believers today, there is no guarantee of acceptance by the world. In fact, Jesus promised that those who followed Him would be hated by the world. Instead of being a source of contention, it should be a source of great joy. If one is hated by the world, it means that they are walking faithfully in the truth of God's Word. It is guaranteed that the standard of holiness they set will be the stumbling block for many, just as Christ was.

Written by: Amy Miller