After my series on the parables, I found I was drawn to look into the miracles of Jesus in the Gospels. I have never studies the mighty works of Jesus as a focused effort before and am looking forward to finding nuggets of truth that we can be encouraged by.
I have provided a general introduction, with an opportunity to download two files for your reference in my initial post Signs and Mighty Works of Jesus – Introduction. I found that the format I used for the parable posts were useful to keep me on track, and will continue to use them for this series, with some minor tweaks. With that said, let’s take a look at
Jesus Provides the Temple Tax
When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the tax?” He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?” And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.”
Matthew the tax collector tells us of the temple tax teaching. No other telling is found in the New Testament, and I find that Matthew telling us this occurrence in the life of the Messiah provides us a picture of the freedoms the Lord allows in each of our travels with Him. He provides freedom to address those things that we may be inclined to, but with the added impact of the kingdom influence.
Did you catch the fact that the Lord asked Peter of his thoughts? He allowed Peters personal experience with tax collectors to become part of the teaching. This is a recurring theme in the Lord’s ministry, for He often asked others questions to communicate truth. He drew folks into His teaching through getting them actively involved in the discussion.
I also love Peter’s response, for he was always protecting the ministry and told the collectors that the Master paid the tax. Obviously He had not paid the tax, or there would be no miracle to discuss here! But Peter was a reactionary type of guy, reacting to issues that came up, looking to protect his friend. Maybe running a bit on fear, or simply seeking to find the quickest resolution to a problem. I can identify with Peter!
Questions to Consider
Who were the audience?
Seems to be primarily a personal discussion between Peter and Jesus. The disciples and Jesus were present for the original question from the tax collectors, but Jesus pulls Peter aside to do some personal counselling, some personal enlightening.
Since the Lord instructed Peter to go “cast a hook”, this was not a team effort of fishing with nets that he was typically accustomed to. This seemed to be a lone effort on Peter’s part, and the audience for witnessing this miracle most likely was Peter himself.
When did the Lord perform this mighty work?
Where did the Lord perform this mighty work?
See Signs and Mighty Works of Jesus – Introduction for downloadable reference file.
Why did the Lord perform this mighty work?
First off, this miracle highlights the identification of those who follow the Lord. Followers are sons of the kingdom. Jesus used a current structure of taxation to highlight the freedom believers have specifically in relation to “temple” tax. Followers need to pay it! This might easily transform into an exhortation to commit to a consistent faithful giving to a local church, but I do no think the Lord had this in mind. I think the issue was much bigger, much more impactful. For Peter was to pay the temple tax for a specific reason, and it had nothing to do with supplying the needs of professional religious people.
The reason? Yes – that is the rub in this miracle. Peter said He paid it, and the Lord used this interaction with the temple tax cops for a time of clarification for Peter.
Pay it. But for the right reason. What is the correct motivation?
Provide no offense!
What was the message for the original audience?
Provide no offense. Do not place a tripping hazard in front of anyone. In the old KJV, this word was translated as “stumbling block”.
I can imagine the Lord’s message to Peter –
Look Peter, these temple folk are already tripping over My being the Messiah. Let us not add unimportant tripping hazards to these folks in order make a point.
One additional topic that is important to recognize is that Jesus, when speaking of kingdoms, claimed His kingdom, the Kingdom of God, would be the kingdom that received tolls or taxes from other nations. Let us not make this teaching walk on all four legs and claim the kingdom of God is to receive financial benefit from the nations surrounding it, for that is foolishness.
In my opinion, the point is that Jesus is defining the Kingdom as the dominant kingdom, the most powerful kingdom, the kingdom that is over all other kingdoms! And the Kingdom of God is an upside down kingdom, where leaders serve and King’s suffer.
What is the message for us today?
Is there a “temple” tax in your life? Are you free of the legislative burden of providing fees to a “temple”? I say legislative, in order to highlight, in my opinion, Jesus’ point. The end result in paying this temple tax was the same, but the route to the end is definitely not per the temples efforts.
Let me try to explain.
The temple received the two drachma tax from Peter, but Jesus highlights the reason for providing! The sons of the kingdom are free from the legislative responsibility of paying this tax, since the sons of the kingdom are free of this responsibility. They are free of the religious law of paying the tax, but for the sake of love, for the sake on not causing offence, the tax was to be paid!
Offence to those within the temple was abundant in the person of Christ. All those in the temple, when interacting with Jesus, continually and consistently found offence in the person of Jesus. This was unavoidable for they had committed to a life of religion, and Jesus definitely upends the religious life!
Don’t be committed to a religious life. Be a Christian. Follow Jesus. For He is good, all the time!
As an aside, I published a series called Taxes & Churches a few years ago on this general topic that may interest those who have recently begun following this blog.
Thanks again for coming to visit. I hope you found something of interest in this post and would appreciate a comment, to begin a discussion. If you know someone this blog may bless (or challenge), send them a link, so they may join us in our discussion
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