August 7

Building Block or Stumbling Block?

Matthew 16:13-18 When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.

Matthew 13:21-23 From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and … be killed, and be raised the third day. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”

So many words have been written about this first passage, much of it focusing on the meaning of the word “rock,” which is the same word as “Peter.” Are they separate words with separate meanings, or are they really the same word? And if so, what does that suggest?

As linguistically fascinating as that can be, there is another connection with the word “rock” that has a lesson for us. Jesus calls Peter the “rock” on which he will build His church. The most commonly agreed-upon interpretation (outside of Catholicism) is that Peter’s revelation of who Jesus really is (given to him by God)—is the rock upon which Jesus will build His church.

But the impetuous apostle presents us with a great ironic contrast by following his holy revelation with a horrible suggestion—that Jesus not go to the cross to suffer and die for us. This was the opposite of a divine disclosure, and came from Peter’s own mind and emotions. Jesus made it clear that this time, it wasn’t God behind Peter’s words: “Get behind me, Satan!” But then Jesus actually continues the “rock” analogy with his next words, translated as either an “offense” or “hindrance.”

The more accurate, literal translation is “stumbling block.” Peter shifted from being a building block one minute to being a stumbling block the next. What’s the difference, since it’s the same person? It’s the motivation, the power behind him. When Peter is inspired and led by the Holy Spirit, he’s a building block. When he’s led by the enemy, he’s a stumbling block.

What an example to us all! When we are leaning on the Lord and His understanding (Proverbs 3:5), God can use us, building His kingdom with us. When we speak and act (or react, as Peter did) on our own understanding, we can become a stumbling block. These two passages in Matthew are a warning about not being a stumbling block, but even more, an encouragement to have open ears to hear what He is saying to us, speaking it, and being used by God to build.

Prayer: Lord, I want to be used by You to build, and never to be a stumbling block. Deliver me from reaction and thinking out of my own heart and mind. Teach me to hear and receive Your word, and to speak it in an edifying way.