Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Commands of Christ - Matthew 17:24-27

"When they had come to Capernaum, those who received the temple tax came to Peter and said, "Does your Teacher not pay the temple tax?" He said, "Yes." And when he had come into the house, Jesus anticipated him, saying, "What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of earth take customs or taxes, from their sons or from strangers?" Peter said to Him, "From strangers." Jesus said to him, "Then the sons are free. Nevertheless, lest we offend them, go to the sea, cast in a hook, and take the fish that comes up first. And when you have opened its mouth, you will find a piece of money; take that and give it to them for Me and you." -Matthew 17:24-27

To whom is this command spoken?


What does this command require?

Go to the sea, cast in a hook, take the fish that comes up first. When you have opened its mouth, take the coin you find and give it to the temple tax collectors for Me and you. All this so we don't offend them.

What truths do we learn here?

The temple tax was a half-shekel tax that was imposed to pay for the expense of running the temple. Jesus' question to Peter must be understood in the customs of that day. A king would tax his subjects, but not members of his own family. For Jesus to pay the temple tax would be to pay a tax to Himself. Remember, the temple was God's house.

Jesus is omniscient. He knows everything. He knew already that Peter had been questioned about the temple tax. He knew the answer Peter gave. I wonder if Peter answered 'yes' to the tax collector to save face. Jesus also knew exactly which fish Peter would catch, and that the fish would have a coin in its mouth. Jesus is omnipotent. He has power over all things. I can't help but think that this fish was prepared by God, just as the great fish in the book of Jonah was prepared by God.

Jesus teaches Peter here to pay the temple tax even though he really shouldn't have to. It was more important that Peter not offend these tax collectors than for them to have something to accuse Jesus and His disciples about. Paying the tax was not a question of morality. Jesus seems indifferent to the issue. I think we learn here that if there is an issue like this that has no moral weight, we can conform in order to avoid senseless criticism and abuse.

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