An Odd Little Story

After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma temple tax came to Peter and asked, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?”

“Yes, he does,” he replied.

When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. “What do you think, Simon?” he asked. “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes—from their own children or from others?”

“From others,” Peter answered.

“Then the children are exempt,” Jesus said to him. “But so that we may not cause offense, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.”

Matthew 17:24-27

Considering what is going on in this section where Jesus is trying to teach the disciples about His mission as Messiah, a subject that leads to His death on the cross, one might think of Matthew’s inclusion of this little anecdote as being rather odd; it doesn’t seem to “belong” at this point in the narrative.

Or does it?

So far, Jesus has predicted His own death at the hands of the authorities twice. Yet in each case, He has included reference to the resurrection and the disciples seem to have missed it. He has been alluding to the redemption of Mankind, but they haven’t followed up with questions about that yet. His identity is known to them, and three of them are aware that He is the fulfillment of the Law and Prophets, and they have heard that directly from the Father. Yet there is another element to His mission, an element that on the one hand makes its completion possible, and on the other hand is one that should mark the life of a disciple, and that element is the denial of self. After all, would anyone claim that allowing Himself to be nailed to a cross was a self-centered thing to do on a Friday morning?

In our text, notice two things: First, that Jesus makes a pretty good case that He does not need to pay temple tax; He is God’s Son for heaven’s sake! Nevertheless, there really isn’t any point to making a big deal about it; it’s a trivial matter… and this is the second point… a needless argument to “get out of it” would be a distraction from His mission, and so He sends Peter the fisherman out to fish.

Over the years, I’ve listened as quite a few Christians go on about how nobody is going to take advantage of them, about how they “don’t have to” do this or that. Often they had valid points, but in no case were they making disciples or building up the Body of Christ while they were busy asserting their “rights”, and it would appear that Jesus didn’t waste His time with such things, for He was “on a mission”.

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About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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10 Responses to An Odd Little Story

  1. Bette Cox says:

    Prophets did miracles (Elijah, Elisha), the disciples were impressed with Jesus being able to do all that – but they still didn’t recognize Jesus as the Creator of the Universe, the one who made the plan and was working the plan for their Eternal Life. They thought maybe he could be mistaken in his thinking, maybe his plan needed tweaking just a little…

  2. pipermac5 says:

    I believe there is an important lesson for us in this story. That temple-tax was used to support the ministry of the temple, their place of worship, which would not be done-away-with until Christ’s crucifixion. As 21st-century believers, we support our local places of worship through our tithes and offerings, because it takes money to operate a church. Part of my giving to God’s kingdom goes to my local church and part of it goes for my expenses in carrying out my resort-ministry. It has been suggested to me that I deduct my ministry-expenses, resort-membership, fuel and ministry-materials printing-costs, from my giving to my church, but I don’t. I give my local church my full tithe because the church always runs a tight budget, and my ministry-expenses are my joyful “above and beyond” gifts to God and His kingdom. I don’t expect my local church to support me, but I do support it.

    In Christ,

    Steve

  3. You made an excellent point with this teaching. Too often we are too busy fighting for rights to be able to do this or that, or not to have to do this or that, we miss sight of the bigger picture.
    Almost four years ago I was falsely accused and taken through the criminal courts by family members. It was most difficult time in my life. From the middle of the night to the very end of the court hearings, I knew every right of mine had been violated, including having a court appointed attorney who literally did nothing to defend me. To put it in short nothing went well for me, but through it all I was trusting in my Heavenly Father, even though I did not understand what was going on or why when innocent they could do what they were doing. In the end I took some advice that to everyone else seemed wrong, but I was asked if I could do harm to my accusers, because to win the trial I would have to attack everything about them to win and even then innocence would not mean I would not get a judgement of guilty. So I agreed to a plea bargain that did not seem terrible. Then I went before the judge to take the plea and the agreement had changed to something that devastated me. I was told at that moment if I did not take this new deal I would go to prison on the spot. I said a prayer and took the new plea. The fine that was originally $1,000.00 turned into 6,000.00 limited contact with the one used to accuse me, turned into being banned from their life having no contact at all up to third party, for life, and well probation. When all this was over I was advised on many worldly ways of handling what had happened to report my attorney, judge etc… and to fight the judgement. But what I heard from God that terrible day was this, ‘Cab you forgive them now?’ which my response was this, ‘Not because I want to Lord, but because it is Your will, I do.’ People did not understand me and why I did not fight but my trust is in the Lord. What happened was not right, and God could have vindicated me, but I chose His will over those who thought as the world does. His ways are not mine, and His thoughts are higher than mine. I choose His way even when the world says I am wrong.

    • Don Merritt says:

      Wow, what a story; what a testimony!

      I couldn’t agree with you more; our ways are not His ways, our thoughts are not His thoughts. I think that most of us, at one time or another find ourselves in a situation in which we must decide who we are going to follow: God or this world and its ways, and even though most of us will not have to deal with anything so drastic as you did, the choice is the same, and if my experience is any indication, when we choose His ways, we are so much better off, even if it isn’t better off as this world understands it. Thank you so much for sharing your story! Blessings to you

  4. daylerogers says:

    Picking the hill worth dying on was what Jesus was all about. Not allowing the trivial to misdirect HIs intent and focus. How often I do that, however! Allow minutia, pride and a sense of entitlement keep me from focusing on taking up my cross with Him and not making me the focus. Thanks for this, Don.

  5. joyful boys, joyful noise says:

    Very encouraging blog, enjoying reading through some of your posts.

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