Of course, Peter was the first one to say it out loud. He always said what others only thought. Except sometimes he didn’t think before he spoke. “Act first, think about it later.” That’s how Peter rolled. But when he said this thing, everyone was still calling him Simon.

The Rock was just starting to roll.

A Rock

Matthew 16:13-20.

Jesus turned his piercing
gaze onto them and asked
what they thought.

Jesus, in a strange twist of concerns, asked the disciples what people were saying about Him. (Usually, it appears Jesus couldn’t have cared less about others’ opinions.) They’d heard people speculating that He was an Old Testament prophet or maybe John the Baptist. Having drawn them into the conversation, Jesus turned His piercing gaze directly onto them and asked what they thought. Simon answered first.

“But what about you? [Jesus] asked. Who do you say I am?”

“You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”  –Matthew 16:15-16

We’re looking at the first time anyone ever said it aloud. At least, the first time we know of. (Martha would say it a few months later—John 11:27.)

This time, Simon’s hasty, don’t-think-about-it-just-answer approach paid off. Jesus gave him a new name—Petros (Greek for ‘Rock’)—and promised Simon Peter great spiritual power.

That part we know. But when did Peter, the Rock, start calling Jesus “the living Stone” (1 Peter 2:4)?

A Stone

1 Peter 2:4-8.

Maybe it was during that last week in Jerusalem, when Jesus tells a scathing parable about some vineyard workers who killed the owner’s son. At the end, He applies Psalm 118:22 to himself.

The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. Psalm 118:22/Matthew 21:42

In front of the Sanhedrin, Peter
called Jesus the “cornerstone.”

Maybe it was shortly after Jesus went back to Heaven, when Peter and John were arrested and called to testify before the Sanhedrin (that is, the Jewish governing council). Peter quoted Psalm 118:22 there, and I’m confident he was thinking about Jesus when he said it.

I don’t know when it happened. About thirty years later, however, as Peter wrote his first letter to the churches, it’s clear he had given the subject some thought.

You come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him…

For in Scripture it says: “See I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” [Isaiah 28:16]

Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” [Psalm 118:22] and,

“A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall” [Isaiah 8:14].  –1 Peter 2:4-8

Some Scattered Shards

Matthew 21:42-45. It’s the middle of the week before Jesus was crucified (Passion Week), and He’s telling a bunch of parables. This part is at the end of a scathing parable about the vineyard tenants who kill the owner’s son.

IMG_5237
Carefully laid my mug on the sidewalk. (c) Carole Sparks

I have a bad habit of taking my ceramic coffee mug to the car in the mornings. I walk across our concrete porch, down our concrete steps, and onto our asphalt driveway. If I were to drop my mug on the concrete, not only would I spill my coffee—a bad enough offense—but my mug would shatter into a hundred pieces! Little shards would lodge in the exposed aggregate of our concrete, and there would be no gluing my mug back together.

IMG_5241
No crushing here! (c) Carole Sparks

In our backyard (since I’m over-sharing today), we still have a big stack of bricks left over from last year’s house addition. If I dropped one of those bricks on my very-precious coffee mug, the brick would crush the mug.

So it is with religiousity when it encounters Jesus.

Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.  –Matthew 21:44

This statement comes immediately after Jesus calls Himself the cornerstone (Matthew 21:42), so “this stone” in verse 44 is Jesus. That means the “scattered shards” are all that remains of a works-based life after it stumbles over Jesus. Paul said it mostly plainly:

The people of Israel, who pursued the law as the way of righteousness, have not attained their goal. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone.  –Romans 9:31-32

Paul goes on to quote Isaiah 8:14, just as Peter did in 1 Peter 2.

The Pharisees said something like, “It can’t be. It’s not possible that our Messiah is someone like Jesus.” They rejected the stone which God was using to build his church (Matthew 16:18). Then they turned around, forgetting it was there, and stumbled over it. Their misplaced faith would shatter them.

The “Rock” is Peter, or more specifically, Peter’s declaration, “You are the Messiah” (Matthew 16:16).

The “Stone” is Jesus. (See also Ephesians 2:20.)

The “scattered shards” are what happens when we stumble over the truth of Jesus rather than standing on it.

Kinda makes we want to sing…

Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.Psalm 95:1

This stumbling stone will do more than stub your toe. The truth of Jesus shatters and scatters our carefully crafted lives. The #RockofAges is #NotAboutMe, via @Carole_Sparks. (click to tweet)

Now I want to sing Rock of Ages. If you know this old hymn, think through the lyrics with our understanding of “rock” as “Jesus is the Messiah.” I know this post is mostly Scripture, but I hope I’ve connected some dots. How is the Holy Spirit leading your thoughts right now? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

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