Matthew 17: 22-27
Ezek 1: 2-5, 24-28 / Ps 148: 1-2, 11-14
Then the sons are exempt. But so that we may not offend them…
Christ has shown us how to be humble
In submitting to authority;
If we must follow His example,
Make obedience our priority.
As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill Him, and on the third day He will be raised to life.” And the disciples were filled with grief. When they arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax came to Peter and asked, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?” Peter replied, “Yes, He does.” 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 sons or from others?” Peter answered, “From others.” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are exempt. But so that we may not offend them, 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 17:22-27)
The temple tax was an old Mosaic practice that all Jews were required to pay as atonement for sins (Exodus 30:11–16). The collections of this tax were used for the maintenance of the temple in Jerusalem. The amount was quite small, intended to be affordable to the general public. But how ironic that the pure and sinless Son of God would be taxed for the upkeep of His own dwelling. And to atone for what? And yet, in His divine wisdom and great humility, telling Peter, ‘but that we may not offend them…’ He complied with this indignity. But with an appropriate miracle, He demonstrated His sovereignty over creation by producing the exact amount from the mouth of a fish!
For the benefit of his Jewish readers, Matthew wanted to show that the Messiah, true to His word, was always faithful in observing the law in all respects. Recall another time in another Gospel when Jesus said, “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God” (Luke 20:25). These incidents in our Lord’s life were all intended to be lessons in obedience, humility and the practice of paying our dues. If Jesus Himself would willingly comply with ‘petty’ man-made laws, then no one was exempted from complying with the laws, whether required by the state, our church, or our community.
The vision of our renewal community is to win men of leadership positions from the business and professional milieu. Lately, the Mancom of our organization noted the preponderance of women over men in our brotherhood, and issued a strong directive for all chapters to hold more men’s breakfast meetings (to invite more male guests) than joint breakfasts (with wives and single ladies) every week. This directive sparked strong protests from the ladies, and even from some husbands who wanted to bring their wives along every Saturday. There were many legitimate reasons favoring joint breakfasts passionately presented, but as the mission director, it was my duty to inform the members that we have to follow this policy that has already been set firmly and irrevocably by Mancom. We have to trust the wisdom of our leaders, (so that we may not offend them), and put our faith that “in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Rom.8:28).
May the Gospel passage today be a lesson to us, that we should submit to the authority of those above us – as long as there is nothing immoral in them– so that like Jesus we may set an example to unbelievers as well as violators who profess and call themselves Christians. To be a good Christian is to be a good citizen, to live in the world and be subject to all its legal and ethical regulations. Although our Lord did not belong to the world, He submitted to its rules as a good citizen. Although He was sinless, He paid the temple tax, which was for atonement of sins. He would soon pay for the greater atonement of all of our sins, a payment that He Himself would provide, and at the cost that mankind can never repay. Obedience was His greatest legacy, and should be followed by all His disciples.
Timeless lessons from our timeless God, may we live them faithfully in our lives, so that we will always give You the glory, loving Father. Help us to trust in the decision of our leaders in managing the affairs of our community, and to set aside our own preferences, submitting humbly as our Lord Jesus has taught us to do. Amen.
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