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David, in Psalm 18, uses the image of a rock to refer to God and the security he found in God. Similarly, in 1Peter 2:4-8, Peter uses the image of a ‘stone’ to refer to Jesus.

He speaks of five different truths connected to this image.

The first truth is about Jesus as he is in himself: He is the living stone. He is not like a natural ‘stone’ – he is not lifeless and unfeeling. While having all the positive qualities of a stone or rock, such as stability, strength, endurance, Jesus is, in addition to that, living: vital, feeling, communicating. Not only this, but Jesus is actually the source and giver of life. Indeed, he is ‘life’ [John 14:6]. Without him nothing that exists would exist. Without his sustaining, life-giving word everything that exists would dissolve into nothingness [Colossians 1:17; Hebrews 1:3].

Peter speaks secondly of Jesus as God sees him. From God’s perspective Jesus is a chosen and precious cornerstone. Peter has already used the word ‘chosen’ to describe Jesus: ‘He was chosen before the creation of the world’ [1:20]. And he has also used the word ‘precious’ – ‘you were redeemed ... with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect’ [1:19]. God chose Christ. Both Christ and his blood are precious to God. Peter is so impacted by these two truths that he mentions them twice within three verses.

The third truth concerns the significance of Jesus Christ. He is both the ‘cornerstone’ and the ‘capstone’. By ‘cornerstone’ Peter tells us that Jesus Christ is the foundation stone – the stone from which the whole building depends on for its direction and alignment. By ‘capstone’ (a reference to the central larger stone at the top of a stone arch) Peter tells us that Jesus is the stone that holds all of the other stones in place, and upon which the integrity of the structure depends. Both of these images sourced from the building industry indicate that Jesus is the most important ‘stone’ of all. His is the key role in God’s eternal saving purpose.

Fourthly, Peter teaches us about Jesus as he impacts those who believe in him. Those who trust in him ‘will never be put to shame’. They are built into a spiritual house. They are a holy priesthood. They, and all that they offer to God, are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Never again will they be rejected by God. Never again will they be banned from God’s presence. Like Jesus, those who believe in him are precious to God. Like Jesus, those who believe in him drawing their identity from him, are also called ‘living stones’.

Fifthly, Peter speaks of Jesus from the perspective of those who refuse to believe in him. To those who refuse to believe the good news about Jesus Christ, to those who disobey his command to believe in him, he is ‘a stone that causes men to stumble’ and ‘a rock that makes them fall’.

How incredibly sad this is! That this same Jesus - the Living Stone who could have given them eternal life, the chief cornerstone, the capstone, from whom they could have gained integrity and identity - this Jesus offends them. This Jesus trips them up. Not intentionally, but through their refusal to believe. His claims about himself are too big for them. Too exclusive for them. Too blasphemous for them. They do not want him to be so big, so important, so authoritative. They cannot stomach his claims to be God. They cannot accept his substitutionary death because it exposes their own inability to save themselves. If he were less than he is, they would accept him. But they do not want a Jesus who is God. And they do not want a Jesus who dispenses grace not merit.

As Jesus himself expressed it:

‘This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil’ [John 3:19].

And grieved over it:

‘Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem ... how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing’ [Matthew 23:37].

We each need to ask ourselves ‘What is Jesus to me? Is he Jesus, the living stone, the cornerstone, the capstone from whom I gain secure and complete salvation? Or does Jesus offend me? Is Jesus, for me, a stumbling stone, a rock that has made me fall?’

May we all stand firm in Jesus Christ, the Rock.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2018