JESUS: DOES HE TRIP YOU OR LIFT YOU?
This week everyone is thinking about Jesus. Personally, I am thankful anytime
people have Jesus on their minds. When people think about Jesus, they create a
People thinking about Jesus are reflecting on the unbelievable. How could God
place such value on us that He would allow a part of Himself be born as a human baby?
People who rarely read a Bible are thinking about that.
So this week people will think a lot about the things that happened the first few
weeks of Jesus' life.
This morning I want you to consider some things we don't think much. Eight days
after Jesus was born he was circumcised in a religious ceremony (Luke 2:21).
Approximately 2000 years before Jesus was born, Abraham accepted an agreement
that God offered him (Genesis 17:9-12). Circumcision was the symbol that Abraham
accepted God's agreement. So every Jewish baby boy that was born was circumcised
the eight days after his birth.
Thirty-three days after Jesus' birth, Mary, his mother, went to the temple for two
reasons. First, she went to fulfill the rites of her purification (Leviticus 12:4,5). Second,
she and Joseph went to present Jesus to God because he was their first born son
I want you to focus on something that happened when they visited the temple.
- At this time there was a very godly man named Simeon living in Jerusalem
- This was a righteous, devout man to whom the Holy Spirit spoke.
- God promised the nation of Israel that He would send them the Christ, a
special person who would bring a blessing to everyone who lived.
- Simeon was expecting the Christ to come.
- The Holy Spirit told him that he would not die before he saw the Christ.
- The day that Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple, the Holy Spirit
guided Simeon to the temple.
- When Simeon saw the infant Jesus, he went to Mary and Joseph, took the
baby, blessed God, and said, Now Lord, do let your bond-servant depart
in peace (die), according to your word. For my eyes have seen your
salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a
light for revelation to the Gentiles (all people who are not Jews), and the
glory of your people Israel.
- Mary and Joseph were astounded by what Simeon said about their baby son.
- Simeon then blessed Mary and Joseph, and made this astounding statement
to Mary: Behold this child is appointed for the fall and rise (resurrection)
of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed--and a sword will pierce
even your own soul--to the end that the thoughts of many hearts may be
- Simeon, what did you say to Mary?
- "It has already been determined that this child will cause many in Israel to
fall and many in Israel to be resurrected."
- "This child is a sign (from God) to be opposed."
- "Mary, in all this your soul will be pierced."
- "But the end result is this: the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed."
- Simeon's statement seems just plain strange when we consider the messages
that surrounded Jesus' birth.
- When an angel told Joseph that his fiancée was pregnant, the angel told him
that she conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, that she would have a son
to be named Jesus, and that he would save his people from their sins
- When the angel Gabriel told Mary that she would have a child, she was told
that the child would be called God's son, that he would sit on the throne of the
great king who was his ancestor, King David, and that Jesus' kingdom would
be endless (Luke 1:31-33).
- The night that Jesus was born, the angels sang to the shepherds, "Glory to
God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased"
- And what did Simeon say?
- Many in Israel would fall because of Jesus.
- Many in Israel would rise or be resurrected because of Jesus.
- That Jesus would be opposed.
- That Mary's soul would be pierced.
- That Jesus would cause the thoughts of many hearts to be revealed.
- Matthew 21:23-44 tells us about something that happened to Jesus during the
last week of his life.
- Jesus was teaching in the very same place that Simeon saw him when he was a
baby--in the temple in the city of Jerusalem.
- This time, just as Simeon said, Jesus was being opposed.
- The chief priests and the elders, religious leaders, came to him as he
taught in the temple and asked, "Who gave you the authority to do this?"
- Jesus responded, "I will answer your question if you answer my question
first: did John the baptizer baptize by the authority of heaven or by the
authority of men?"
- They knew that they did not dare answer his question; if they said John
baptized by heaven's authority, Jesus would ask them why they didn't obey
John; if they answered John baptized by human authority, the people
would turn against them.
- So they said, "We don't know."
- Jesus said, "Since you won't answer my question, I won't answer yours."
- In this same conversation, he gave them a parable.
- A man who owned some land spent a lot of money building an excellent
vineyard, complete with walls to protect it and a wine press to process the
- The man rented his vineyard and took a long journey.
- When harvest time came, the man decided to collect his rent.
- He sent some slaves to collect the rent; but the renters beat one slave,
killed one, and stoned another.
- The owner sent a bigger group of slaves to collect the rent, and the renters
did the same thing to them.
- The owner decided to send his son to collect the rent thinking surely that
the renters would respect his son.
- But the renters said, "This is the person who will inherit the vineyard.
Let's kill him, and then the vineyard will belong to us."
- So they captured him, took him outside the vineyard, and murdered
- Jesus asked the religious leaders, "What will the owner do to these
- They answered, "He will bring their miserable lives to a miserable end."
- "Then he will rent the vineyard to someone who will pay the rent."
- Jesus then asked them, "Haven't you read the scriptures?"
- The stone that was rejected as a stone to be used in the building
became the most important stone of the building.
- "God's kingdom will be taken away from you and given to a nation who
will produce fruit."
- "The person who trips over this stone will be broken into pieces."
- "The person on whom this stone falls will be scattered like dusts
scatters when a rock falls in it."
- What did Simeon say? Many will fall in Israel because of him?
- Paul in Romans 9:33 referred to Jesus as the stone of stumbling and the
rock of offense.
- Peter in 1 Peter 2:8 also referred to Jesus as the stone of stumbling and
the rock of offense.
- In words that we use, Jesus was called the stone that causes some people
to stumble, the rock that causes some people to fall.
- How could that be? How could Jesus be God's great gift to all people and at
the same time be the gift that would cause many to stumble and fall?
- To understand, start with the nation of Israel before and during Jesus' lifetime.
- They knew who they were.
- They were the descendants of Abraham.
- They were the chosen people of God.
- They were the people who had received God's promises.
- Because they placed their faith in who they were, they had turned inward and
become very selfish in their religious, spiritual desires.
- They knew what they wanted.
- And they were sure that when the Christ came, they would get what they
- That is why the Christ would come--to give them what they wanted.
- Jesus in his ministry had an alarming way of revealing hearts, attitudes, and
- Those who opened their eyes and hearts to Jesus and repented received
- Those who reacted against Jesus stumbled, fell, and broke.
- Jesus can be our stepping stone to God, or the rock in the path that causes us to
fall and break.
- The selfishness that causes us to fall and break is a specific kind of
- Your material unselfishness touches me and moves me--you are such a
- It moves me to see you respond to the family who recently lost their business.
- It moves me to see the big box of coats you have given and to know that
some of you will see that people who are cold gets the coats.
- It moves me to see our food distribution efforts.
- It moves me to see the things that CURE is doing.
- It moves me to see how you support our mission programs, to consider the
$141,000 you gave a month ago to fund that work.
- In all our generosity, we still need a deep awareness.
- We must never think that Jesus came to give us our desires instead of
ministering to our needs.
- When I think that Jesus came to give me what I want, he becomes the
rock I trip over.
- We need to be concerned about our attitudes and hearts as Christ's servants.
- It is easy to do something when Christ wants me to do what I want to do.
- It is much harder to let Christ reveal my heart to me to let Christ make me
who he wants me to be.
- What determines if Jesus is my stepping stone to God or the rock that I trip over?
The combination of my heart, my attitude, and my perspective.
- If I see Jesus as someone who can rescue me from my evil, someone who
can turn my life around, and someone who can rebuild my emotions and my
heart, he becomes my stepping stone to God.
- If I see Jesus as someone who can give me what I want, do what I want him
to do, and be what I want him to be, he becomes the rock I trip over.
This is the astounding thing: when Simeon said that Jesus would cause many to
fall, he was talking about religious people. When Jesus said that some would trip over
him and be broken to pieces, he was talking to religious people. When Paul and Peter
called him the stumbling stone and the rock that causes people to fall, they were writing
to Christians. When Christians say to Jesus, "Remake me; rebuild my life; make me
who you want me to be," Jesus lifts them up. When Christians say to Jesus, "This is
who you must be, and this is what you must do," he becomes the rock they trip over.
He came to be our Savior and he can be our Savior. But it is our hearts, not him,
that determines if he lifts us up or we fall over him.
God, our Creator, specializes in creating. Since we broke everything He made,
His creative power had to be used to put things back together.
The God that provided Jesus Christ, provides a way to put us back together again.
If you bring the pieces to Him, He will surely put the pieces back together.
He can put your broken life back together.
God will be in the process of putting you back together--to make you whole, as only God can make you.
See what God did for you through Jesus. Trust Him.
Be willing to be born again into His Kingdom through faith and baptism.
Let God put the pieces back together. We invite you to Jesus.
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 21 December 1997
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