Although Jesus had been rejected by the Jewish leadership, Matthew made a point of showing that Jesus was chosen by God (Matthew 12:17-21), quoting Isaiah 42:1-4. Matthew pointed out by showing Jesus avoided division that he was God’s Elect or Chosen One. When Jesus realized the Pharisees were taking council to kill him (Matthew 12:14), he withdrew from their presence, not merely to save his life, but to avoid a confrontation that would result in division. By this time Jesus had quite a following. In fact, a large group of people followed him, and he healed them (Matthew 12:15). Jesus didn’t avoid doing good, but he avoided doing good under the noses of his enemies, who thought his works opposed them and their worldview. Jesus avoided separating the Jews into factions, some wishing to make him king (cf. John 6:14-15) and others wanting to kill him.
The point in mentioning that God had chosen the Living Stone upon which all are built (1Peter 2:4, 6) seems to be that we don’t need to strive in doing our good works, as though we needed to defeat an enemy who opposed us or wished us harm. We are not one faction in the house of God warring against another faction for supremacy or for God’s favor (cf. Matthew 12:25). Rather, instead of quarreling with or separating ourselves from those who oppose us from within, God’s people need only to quietly obey him, and he will judge the rest.
In the next six verses (1Peter 2:5-10) Peter’s argument revolves around the judged and rejected Levitical priesthood (Malachi 2:1-3) and Peter’s readers being the chosen priesthood who trust in Jesus as their Living Hope (1Peter 1:1:3)—Living Word (1Peter 1:23)—Living Stone (1Peter 2:4). They are the true and living stones (of God’s Temple) built or resting upon the foundation of the Living Stone, Jesus. They are a chosen priesthood, born of the incorruptible Seed in contrast to the corrupted seed, which was the priesthood at Jerusalem (1Peter 2:5-6; cf. Malachi 2:3 and 1Peter 1:23).
To Peter’s readers Jesus, the Living Stone, was precious (1Peter 2:4, 6) but to unbelieving Jews he was a stone of stumbling (1Peter 2:7-8). Unbelief, or a lack of trust in Jesus—the Living Stone—caused the Jews to become offended with Jesus’ life and death. For them he was a stumbling stone. The word offense (1Peter 2:8) is taken from the Greek word skandalon (G4625). Our English word scandal is derived from this word, and it is this type of offense that unbelieving Jews derived from Jesus. It was a scandalous matter for respectable Jews to believe in him. After all, his crucifixion showed he was cursed by the Law (Galatians 3:13; cf. 1Corinthians 1:23), and as long as the Law was embraced as one’s way of life, the offense remained (cf. Galatians 5:11).
Peter is contrasting the two effects Jesus has upon people. First, God has appointed Jesus to be the chief Cornerstone of his work, chosen and precious for those who trust in him (1Peter 2:6). On the other hand, Jesus was also appointed to be a Stone of stumbling and a Rock of offense for those who don’t believe the word of God (1Peter 2:8). The Greek word is logos (G3056) and can mean that they don’t believe the Scriptures (the word of God), or they don’t believe Jesus, the Logos (Word of God). Either rendering has the same effect. Jesus, the Chosen One (1Peter 2:6), is a trap set for those who disbelieve. He is their occasion to apostatize or abandon their allegiance to God.