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Jun 16 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Day Forty-eight – Matthew 17:24-27 (part 1)

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you

When they came to Capernaum, those who collected the two-drachma tax came to Peter and said “Does your teacher not pay the two-drachma tax?” He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth collect customs or poll-tax, from their sons or from strangers?”
Matthew 17:24-25

I find this passage so intriguing that I am going to spend two days with it.

There is no hint in their conversation that Jesus had recently called Peter “Satan,” and no indication that Peter carried any┬áresidual shame from that rebuke or that he had any discomfort being with Jesus. Peter had not lost the revelation he received regarding Jesus–in spite of his lapse into the mind-set of human self-interest. He did not lose the spiritual growth he had experienced traveling with Jesus. Rather, he learned a valuable lesson that he would not have learned apart from his error.

That is the proper use of discipline–not to shame, but to instruct. Disciples learn through discipline. That Peter was still Jesus’ disciple is reinforced by the fact that the tax collectors asked him about his “teacher.”

Just when I think that there is nothing else Jesus could do to surprise me, he undermines the logic of a poll-tax imposed on Israel. In an earlier sermon, Jesus taught that anyone who annulled or taught others to annul even one commandment would be called least in the kingdom of heaven (Mt. 5:19). Yet that is exactly what he seems to be doing here.

[Assuming that the “tax” in question is that which was required in the law for the maintenance of the sanctuary (Ex. 30:1-11; Neh. 10:32-33), then Jesus seems to be questioning the logic of God imposing that tax on his children. It is possible, however, the point Jesus is making is that, as God’s “Son,” logically,┬áhe would be exempt from the temple tax (cf., 16:16; 17:5).]

Perhaps it was difficult for Jews to reconcile paying taxes for a temple built by King Herod or to give support to the already wealthy priests and religious leaders in Jerusalem. If so, we can discern three lessons in what Jesus says to Peter:

  1. We are subject to injustice, so live with it and turn your attention to the kingdom of God
  2. Do not offend the keepers of the old school unnecessarily (v. 27)
  3. If a commandment strikes you as illogical, dig beneath the surface and look for what God was after when he gave it (in the manner of Jesus’ teaching in 5:21-48).

Lord Jesus, You call us to mystery, to what is hidden and deep. You do not make every lesson easy, but You do make them edifying. You, Lord, are deep and speak from depth. Thank You for inviting us beneath the surface and into the substance. In everything around us, there is more than meets the eye. Even so, beneath the unassuming countenance of our Teacher, there is a face that shines brighter than the sun.

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