Jesus, the Rock

by Doy Moyer

Rocks play an important role in Scripture. For example, when the children of Israel crossed the Red Sea, God cared for their thirst by providing water from a rock (Exodus 17:1-7). Though they had tested God’s presence, God provided and demonstrated He was there.

On the mountain, Moses asked to see God’s glory (Exodus 33:12-23). God said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” The Lord told him His goodness would pass by, but Moses could not look upon His face, “for no man can see Me and live.” God instructed Moses to go to a rock “while My glory is passing by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by.” Moses found refuge in the rock. A rock can indicate stability, security, and strength. Before the children of Israel went into the Land, Moses reminded them in a song, “The Rock! His work is perfect, for all His ways are just; A God of faithfulness and without injustice, Righteous and upright is He” (Deuteronomy 32:4 NASU).

The Psalms remind us that God is a Rock. “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold” (Psalms 18:2). “For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God?” (Psalms 18:31; see also II Samuel 22). Many Psalms speak of God this way (e.g., Psalms 18:46; 19:14; 28:1; 31:2-3; 42:9; 62:2, 78:35, etc.)

With that Old Testament background, think of the impact Paul’s statement has in I Corinthians 10:1-5 when he proclaims that the children of Israel in the wilderness “and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ.” Jesus is identified with God as Israel’s Rock. He was there all along with the people.

Not everyone takes refuge in the Lord. For those who do not trust God, the Lord becomes “a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense” (Isaiah 8:14; Romans 9:33). Peter identifies Jesus this way in I Peter 2:8, and also refers back to Psalms 118:22, where the Lord said, “‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.’ So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’” (I Peter 2:6-7, ESV; see also Isaiah 28:16). The Rock, who is God and is fulfilled in Jesus, has deep roots in Scripture.

To those who disbelieve, Jesus is a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense. He will be their undoing, for people stumble when they are disobedient to the word (I Peter 2:8). Not only do they stumble over the Rock, but they will be judged by it. Matthew cites Psalms 118:22-23, then says, "the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him” (Matthew 21:42-44). Their stumbling over Jesus as the cornerstone results in judgment. We might compare this to Daniel 2:44-45, where a stone cut from a mountain (God’s kingdom) crushes the other kingdoms.

Once again, the temple figure is important. Jesus is the cornerstone, the foundation of the house He built. Jesus promised to build His house upon the rock (Matthew 16:13-20). It should be no surprise that Peter writes, “As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (I Peter 2:4-5 ESV). Jesus is a living stone, but His disciples are also living stones in the house of God. The foundation of this great temple includes Jesus as the cornerstone and the apostles and prophets as part of the foundation (Ephesians 2:18-22).

When Jesus taught what we call the sermon on the mount, He concluded by pointing to the importance of building your house upon the rock: “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock” (Matthew 7:24-27). The one who builds on the Rock (Jesus) will have a secure foundation for facing the storms. The one who builds on the sand (those who hear and do not do what Jesus says) has no foundation on which to stand when the storms hit.

Jesus is our Rock, our Refuge, our Foundation for life, the Cornerstone of God’s temple in which we are living stones, and a royal priesthood offering up spiritual sacrifices to God. As God promised Moses, “I will give you rest,” so Jesus offers the same promise (Matthew 11:28-30). Our Rock of salvation is present!

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