Revive Our Hearts Radio

The Cornerstone

Leslie Basham: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth reminds you: The baby we celebrate today isn’t just a sweet holiday symbol.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Jesus is a dividing line. The eternal destiny of every human being is determined by their response to Jesus. Those who reject Him, even if they're churched and religious, if they don't receive Him as Master, as Savior and Lord, those who reject Him for who He really is will fall to their doom because of Christ. They will trip over Christ and end up falling into eternal judgment.

But those who receive Him for who He is, as the Master and Lord and King, for them He becomes a precious cornerstone, and they will be raised spiritually to eternal life, again, because of Christ. 

Leslie: Merry Christmas! This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of The Wonder of His Name.

We sing a lot about joy this time of year. That's because the birth of Jesus was a joyful occasion. But we always need to keep in mind why Jesus came. Surrounding the first Christmas, there were reminders of the difficult life that lay ahead for the Jesus. Nancy will describe some of them continuing in a series called "My Eyes Have Seen Your Salvation."

Nancy: We’re continuing today in our study of Simeon from the Gospel of Luke chapter 2. As I was coming into the studio today, one of our technical crew said, “You hear the Christmas story and you hear all the other people talked about—the shepherds and the wise men who weren’t even there at the manger scene, at the birth of Christ, but they always make it into the Christmas story—but Simeon and Anna seem to get neglected and overlooked.

So we are highlighting them this year. I think you’ll agree with me that it’s been just a rich study and God opening our eyes to see more of Christ and more of the gospel as we look at the series of events that took place just very shortly after the birth of Christ.

If you’ve not been with us, you know that Mary and Joseph brought the baby Jesus into the temple when he was forty days old to fulfill some Old Testament requirements and to dedicate him to the Lord. God brought into the temple a man who was a godly man. We assume him to be elderly, but Scripture doesn't say that for a fact. He had been all his life longing, waiting expectantly, anticipating the coming of the Messiah.

God brings him in the Spirit into the temple at the very time when Mary and Joseph come in with the baby and opens his eyes to see this is the One he's been waiting for. Simeon just launches into this hymn of praise as he takes this baby up in his arm. He blesses God, and here’s what he says: “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word” (Luke 2:29).

What was according to God’s Word? What we read earlier. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death until his eyes had seen the Messiah. He says, "Lord, now I can die in peace, a happy man, no fear of death, because my eyes have seen Your salvation. This child is Your salvation. God in the flesh come to save the world."

“Thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21 KJV). “My eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel” (Luke 2:30–32).

Then we come to verse 33 that says, “And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about Him.” Marveled at what was said about Him.

Here’s a total stranger, as far as they know—somebody they probably never met before. Here’s Mary (a young teenage girl), Joseph (we don’t know how old), and Simeon (probably at the very end of his life). He comes up; he holds this baby. You have this juxtaposition here of ages and man and woman and people in different walks of life, and this total stranger comes up to them and blesses God about this baby and adds to their knowledge of the baby.

Now remember, Mary’s already seen an angel. Joseph has seen an angel. They’ve been told some things. Mary has heard some things from Elizabeth. They know this is an unusual child. They probably know this is the Messiah, but Simeon has added to their knowledge the fact that this salvation is not just for the Jews, but is also for the Gentiles.

So they’re putting all this together, and Mary, who’s been pondering all these things in her heart—it’s just amazing to her. How could this man know all these things? Well, she knew God had revealed things to her and so the same God, Jehovah, had apparently been revealing things to this elderly man as well.

Now this concept of being amazed or marveling, depending on your translation there, at what was told them is a word, a concept, that Luke uses frequently in his Gospel. In fact, twelve times in the Gospel of Luke you have this word: to be amazed, to marvel at, to be astonished, to wonder. It’s this sense of amazement at the proclamation of the Messiah. It’s a thread that runs through the Gospel of Luke.

In fact, earlier in this very same chapter you have the story of the shepherds coming to Bethlehem after the angel told them. They saw the baby, and then they went out and told people what they had seen. It says those who heard about this newborn Savior marveled. They were amazed. It's the same root word. They were astonished at what they had seen.

As I think about Mary and Joseph and people who listen to the shepherds and others through the Gospel of Luke being astonished, amazed, marveling as they heard the proclamation of the Savior’s birth, I wonder if we have lost any of the wonder.

Do you still marvel at the gospel? Some of us, like me, have heard this told ever since . . . Well, I've been hearing the Christmas story since I was in the womb—since nine months before I was born. 

I’ve grown up in the church—never known other than to hear the Christmas story, the gospel story, the story of Jesus as the Savior of the world. That’s a great privilege and blessing, but the danger is that we lose a sense of the wonder. We lose the awe.

I mentioned earier in this series about a woman who came to church and sat next to me, and I looked over and tears were just streaming down her face. She had heard the same message that I had heard. To tell the truth, I had been sitting there thinking about some other things. My mind was drifting, and I thought, It's just another message. But she had sitting there marveling in awe and in wonder. When I look at that woman I think, I want that kind of heart.

When I hear about Christ, when I hear about the gospel, I want to be able to be freshly touched, to be still amazed and in wonder, in awe at what God has done in sending Jesus Christ.

Having blessed God and having offered up this psalm of praise about the Messiah, Simeon now turns, in verse 34, and blesses Mary and Joseph. Simeon blessed them it says. It’s the same word that was used in an earlier verse where it says Simeon blessed God.

We said this is the word from which we get our word eulogy, to speak well of, to give a tribute to. He blessed them. He spoke well of them. He spoke well of God. He blessed God, and then he blessed Mary and Joseph.

Now Mary and Joseph are not on a par with God. Why was he blessing them? Why were they blessed? They were blessed because of their relation to Christ, through whom all the world, Jew and Gentile alike, would be blessed.

As I think about how Mary and Joseph were blessed . . . You say, "Well, of course, they were blessed. They got to be the mother and the earthly adopted father of the Lord Jesus. Of course, they were blessed." But are we any less blessed, those of who’ve been given the privilege to have a relationship with Jesus Christ? We are blessed. I want us to remember that as we’re in this time of celebrating the Christmas season. We are blessed.

Then having given the psalm of praise and blessing God and Mary and Joseph, Simeon now speaks a prophecy to Mary that is given to him by the Holy Spirit. Let me read beginning in verse 34. We’re in Luke chapter 2,

Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, "Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed."

If you’re reading this whole passage in one sitting, you see the psalm of praise, “My eyes have seen your salvation, a light that you have prepared for the Gentiles, the glory of your people Israel.” It’s just this euphoric benediction, blessing, psalm of praise.

Then you read this paragraph of this prophecy. This child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel and for a sign that is opposed and a sword will pierce through your own soul? The tone is very different in the second part of what Simeon says than it was in the part we’ve been looking at for the last few days.

It’s different from the psalm of praise that precedes it. Now Simeon speaks under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of pain, anguish, suffering, opposition. Notice that these words follow right on the heels of Simeon blessing Mary and Joseph. He blessed them and then he said to Mary his mother, "behold this child will be a fall; he will be a sign that will be opposed. The sword will pierce through your own soul."

You think, he blesses them and then he speaks these words of pain and anguish. Some blessing. It’s a reminder that blessing is often accompanied with pain. The blessings of God. What greater blessing could Mary and Joseph have had than to hold this child Jesus. Mary to give birth to this child Jesus, the son of God.

What a huge blessing and what greater blessing could we have than to have God live in us in the person of Jesus Christ? To have God bring us His salvation and we come to know the Lord sometimes, if we’re brought into the family of God, the family of faith, we come to believe in Jesus Christ, and we say what a blessing.

But sometimes we’re not anticipating that with that blessing will come pain. Blessing is often accompanied by battle, by blight. That goes for the blessing of parenthood, as we’re seeing Mary experience here. She has got the blessing of being a mother, the blessing of being a mother of this child who is the Son of God. But that blessing of motherhood, whether your son is Jesus or whether your son is whoever your son is, that blessing of motherhood is accompanied with pain. We’ll talk about that in the next couple of days here.

The blessing of knowing Christ comes sometimes with pain. Simeon speaks prophetically here of the path that lies ahead for Christ in order for him to be the salvation of the world. He also speaks prophetically of the path that Mary will have to follow as the mother of the Lord Jesus.

I think in a way by application, he’s also speaking prophetically of the path that lies before those of us who know and love the Lord Jesus. It’s not a bed of roses—the Christian life. If you thought it was when you turned your life over to Christ, when you surrendered to Him as Lord, then someone misled you.

I think we do people a disserve when we present the gospel by only focusing on the blessings and benefits of coming to know Jesus as our Savior. Now there are blessings and benefits galore, and we shouldn’t leave those out. But we don’t give people the whole picture if we don’t tell them what Jesus taught, and that is:

  • There will be persecution.
  • There will be suffering.
  • There will be struggle.
  • There will be conflict.
  • There will be issues to deal with.

Now, in this prophecy Simeon uses three images—two explicitly and one implicitly. Today we’ll look at the first one. It’s the image of a stone. That word is not actually used here, but as we open this up I think you'll see that's what it is talking about. Then in the next session, we’ll look at the other two images—that of a sign and a sword. A stone, a sign, and a sword.

Let’s look at that first image—a stone. Verse 34: “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel." Some of your translations read it this way. “This child is destined to cause the fall and rising of many in Israel.” Simeon is saying that this child’s coming would result in judgment for some—the fall of many, and it would result in salvation for others—the rising of many.

There’s a picture throughout the Scripture, even though it’s not explicitly stated here, that Jesus is God’s stone. The very same stone, the foundation stone, the cornerstone, He’s called, was to become for some an occasion of falling, for some an occasion of judgment, but for others this Stone would be an occasion for salvation and rising.

Isaiah chapter 8, verse 14, puts it this way: “And He will become a sanctuary [for some is implied] and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel.” You see, He is both. For some He is a sanctuary. Christ would be a refuge, a place of safety for those who would believe in Him. But for those who did not believe, He would be the stone, the rock on which they would stumble and ultimately would be destroyed.

Most of the Jews did not believe in Jesus, then or now. Most of them rejected Him, just like most of the rest of the world, by the way—Jews and Gentiles. But this is speaking specifically initially of the Jews here. Most did not believe. Most stumbled over Him and fell. But God always has a faithful remnant. Some Jews did believe. They found Christ to be a sanctuary.

Now among those who did not believe were included in Jesus’ day many of the most pious religious leaders, the most respected religious leaders. Most of them stumbled over the stone—the Lord Jesus. They fell and they ended up in judgment.

On the other hand—this is God’s divine paradox—included among those who found Christ to be a sanctuary, those who found Him to be a refuge and a place of safety, were prostitutes, tax collectors, publicans, sinners—the people you would have least expected to end up in heaven. The thief on the cross. Those are the ones who found Christ to be a sanctuary. They believed and they were saved.

Now let me read a couple of passages of Scripture that I think expand this concept for us. Luke chapter 20, beginning in verse 17, “He [Jesus] looked directly at them and said,” and now he is quoting from the Psalms, “The stone that the builders rejected . . .”—the stone that the builders discarded as useless. They said we don’t need this stone. Throw it out. It’s not necessary to the process. That stone—of course He’s speaking of Himself—“has become the cornerstone.”

If you think about the cornerstone of a building, the foundation stone, that’s crucial. It’s indispensable. It has a determinative role, and Jesus is saying the one they thought they didn’t need, the one they thought they could crucify, get rid of, He became the cornerstone, the foundational stone to the whole building.

Jesus said everyone who falls on that stone—speaking of Himself—will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him. He’s speaking of those who would refuse to believe, those who would stumble over Him and would not believe, those who would reject Him would be broken to pieces. They would stumble. They would fall. They would be crushed.

You see a similar concept in 1 Peter chapter 2 beginning in verse 4. Peter says,

You come to him [speaking of Jesus], a living stone, rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious.

For it stands in Scripture: "Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” [He will rise. This is a quote from Isaiah chapter 28.]

So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe [now He’s quoting from Psalm 118], "The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” [Then verse 8, a quote from the book of Isaiah] “A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.”

Do you see how to some Jesus is the cornerstone? He’s chosen. He’s precious. To others who refuse to believe in Jesus—they reject Him—He becomes the stumbling stone, the rock of offense. Verse 8 of 1 Peter 2, “They stumble because they disobey the word.” Who is the Word? Christ Jesus. “They disobey the word as they were destined to do.”

As I was preparing for this session this morning and just meditating on these notes, I was reminded of the passage in John chapter 6. Let me read that to you.

Jesus had been, throughout the sixth chapter of John, showing Himself, manifesting Himself. This is where He did the miracle of the loaves and the fishes and the feeding of the multitude. The people had been impressed by Him. They had been drawn to Him. They had followed Him. Crowds were just being drawn to Him like a magnet.

Some were following Him because He did miracles. Some were following Him because of the meat, so to speak, because He fed them—the blessings and benefits of being a follower of Jesus Christ.

Then Jesus began to teach about the conditions and the fact that He was the Master, that He was the Lord. When He began to tell them what it really meant to follow Him—not just for the miracles, not just for the meat, but because He was the Master—some of them got disillusioned.

They said, "Oh, we’re not interested in that kind of faith. If that’s what You’re going to require of us, if that’s what it means to be a follower of You, if we have to receive You as Lord, we’re not interested."

So you see in verse 66 of John chapter 6, “After this many of his disciples . . ." Now that should probably be in quotes—so-called “disciples.” Those who were on the fringe, those who wanted all the blessings and benefits of being with the crowd that followed Jesus. Many of those "turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, ‘Do you want to go away as well?’ Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life’” (John 6:66–68).

Do you see the two kinds of people here? The crowd who had followed Him initially—and I think our churches are loaded with this kind of person, so-called “disciples” who say, “Yes, we’ll follow Jesus.” They want Him for the meat. They want Him for the miracles, but they don’t want Him for the Master.

So they follow Him at a distance. They don’t follow Him as Lord. They trip over Jesus, and ultimately He becomes to them a rock of offense, a stone of stumbling. He becomes the occasion for their falling and their ultimate judgment.

They may be churched. They may be religious. They may be respected as religious leaders, but they are not righteous. They are not believers in Jesus as the Master and Lord. They stumble over Jesus even in the midst of religion and church. They are not believers. They fall away in times of testing.

Then there are those like the disciples—eleven of the twelve, at any rate—who say, “Lord, You are Lord. You are the Master. Where else can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe. Not just for the meat. Not just for the miracles. But because we know that You are the Master.”

So we see that Jesus Christ, prophetically Simeon is saying, looking at this baby here, this child is appointed for the fall of many—those who stumble on the stone. For them the stone becomes a rock of offense, a stone of stumbling. They reject Christ as Master.

But You’re also appointed for the rising of many—those who believe. For them He is the precious cornerstone, the foundation stone, the one they build their faith and hope upon. Those will be raised up to eternal life.

Jesus is a dividing line. The eternal destiny of every human being is determined by their response to Jesus. Those who reject Him, even if they're churched and religious, if they don't receive Him as Master, as Savior and Lord, those who reject Him for who He really is will fall to their doom because of Christ. They will trip over Christ and end up falling into eternal judgment. But those who receive Him for who He is, as the Master and Lord and King, for them He becomes a precious cornerstone, and they will be raised spiritually to eternal life, again, because of Christ.

The Lord Jesus Christ, the one whose birth we celebrate at this season, is the one on whom your eternal destiny rises or falls. He’s appointed for the fall of many and for the rising of many. Will you fall to judgment, or will you rise to eternal life? It all depends—it all depends on what you have done with Jesus.

So Father, I pray for many this day who are listening to these words that You would become the precious foundation stone, the cornerstone, the occasion of rising to eternal life, that many would believe in Jesus, would not trip over Him, would not reject Him for the Lord that He is, but would receive Him gladly in repentance and faith and would find that they are raised to eternal life. May this be a day of salvation for those whom You have appointed to be raised through Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray, amen.

Leslie: If you just prayed with Nancy to put your faith in Christ, would you let us know? We’ll share some literature with you about your newfound faith. Just visit ReviveOurHearts.com. Or call 1–800–569–5959 and ask for free literature about coming to know Jesus personally.

You know, people say strange things to new mothers like, “Just wait until their teenagers. Then you’ll have trouble.” Tomorrow hear about one of the strange, yet true and prophetic, things said to Mary near the first Christmas. Be back tomorrow for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgmeuth wants to help you truly know Jesus. It's an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV.

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