Saturday, November 13, 2010

Jesus - stumblingstone or millstone?

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Luke 20:1-26

TO CHEW ON: "Then He looked at them and said, 'What then is this that is written:
"The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone"?
Whoever falls on that stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.'" Luke 29:17-18.

When Jesus identifies the religious leaders of the day as the rebellious vine dressers in the story He tells, they take exception. But when He claims to be the rejected cornerstone of Psalm 118:22 they become incensed -- to the point of plotting His arrest.

The verse from Psalm 118 is quoted five times in the New Testament as a reference to Jesus being rejected by Jewish leadership (e.g. 1 Peter 2:7). Here Jesus follows the quote with an interesting statement: "Whoever falls on that stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder." It seems that whatever way we encounter this stone, it injures us.

Paul is an example of a Jewish leader who stumbled on this stone but allowed it (Jesus) to break him and change the course of his life. Jesus' identity and claims altered his paradigm so completely that the things he once depended on as his ticket to eternity with God became mere rubbish. Read his testimony in Philippians 3:4-15.

That stone continues to stumble us. Here are two ways:

1. Jesus in his role as the cornerstone of God's plan, died to pay the penalty for our sins.  His death, not our works, is our way to heaven. Ask most people who don't have a personal relationship with Jesus on what grounds they think they will be accepted into heaven and they'll say something like — "I do my best. I'm sure someday the good things I've done will outweigh the bad." But that's not how God evaluates. He calls our righteousness "filthy rags". They don't save us.

Try to explain to someone how the most brutal murderer can get into heaven if he trusts Christ, even in his dying moments, while someone else who has done good things all his life will be denied entrance if it is sought purely on the basis of those good works. It doesn't seem fair. It's a stumbling block.

2. After we come to God, again we stumble on this stone as all the common-sense principles on which we've built our lives — love your friends, hate your enemies; look out for yourself first; forgive only when your enemy is really sorry and asks for forgiveness, get things to amass them for yourself etc. — get turned on their heads by Kingdom principles. We are required to change our point of reference from ourselves to God and His ways.

But how dreadful to not let Jesus stumble and break us, to resist Him, only to find that He becomes, at the end of time, not a stumblingstone, but a millstone of judgment, grinding us to destruction.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank You for coming and making a way for me to be right with God. Deal with my human pride, self-sufficiency and everything else that needs breaking as I make You the cornerstone of my life. Amen.

MORE: Bible millstones

The Illustrated Manners and Customs of the Bible explains about mills and millstones:

"The simplest kind of mill used to grind grain into meal was called a mortar — a hollowed-out stone that held grain to be pounded by another stone. A more efficient mill consisted of two stones, 60 cm. (2 ft.) in diameter and 15 cm. (6 in.) thick The nether (or lower) stone was raised in the centre. The upper stone was hollowed out and had a hole in the middle. Grain was poured into the hole and the upper stone was turned by means of a handle. The grain was crushed as it fell between the two stones."
— Illustrated Manners and Customs of the Bible, edited by J. I. Packer, M. C. Tenney, p. 469.

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