Faith of Jesus Daily Devotional - Day 71
Matthew:17:24-27 The Temple Tax
Previous Context: devotion:Matthew:17:14-23 The Healing of a Boy With a Demon
What is man doing?
"They that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute"?
There are different forms of tribute. This tax is for the maintenance of the local temple and goes back all the way to the times of Exodus.
Capernaum is like a hub for the ministry. Peter, Andrew, John, James and Phillip had all been called to follow Jesus from nearby, as later was Matthew. Here Jesus healed the centurion's son kjv@Matthew:8:5, the nobleman's son kjv@John:4:46, Simon Peter's mother-in-law kjv@Mark:1:31, and the paralytic kjv@Matthew:9:1, cast out the unclean spirit kjv@Mark:1:23, not to mention the countless healings of all sick and lame and possessed that were brought to Him on several occasions; and here also, probably, He raised Jairus' daughter to life kjv@Mark:5:22. There likely is nowhere in this city that Jesus could go where He is not known, where He is not talked about, where His claim of Son-ship is not being tossed about but rejected.
The building of this city temple itself is said to have been first secured by a Roman soldier seeking the people's good will kjv@Matthew:8:5; kjv@Luke:7:5. Jesus and His disciples would have frequented this temple often kjv@Mark:1:21 kjv@Luke:4:33 kjv@Luke:4:38 kjv@John:6:59. He would have taught at length inside and around this temple.
Perhaps more than any other city or area on earth Jesus had performed great signs and wonders here, yet this people's heart was not with the Lord kjv@Matthew:11:23 kjv@Luke:10:15 and they were sharply rebuked for it. Now Jesus returns after that recent rebuke and the temple collectors are at the door attempting to make a slight show of Jesus if they can.
What is God doing?
"Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers"?
Isn't it somewhat strange that the Lord of heaven and earth would have to pay a temple tax and in this case to a temple refusing to recognize and acknowledge Him? a city that he says is harder in heart than even Sodom or Tyre or Sidon? He states that it will be more tolerable in the judgment for those other cities, for if the works that He had done here had been done in those other cities they at least would have believed. So not only is it an odd unreasonable request they are asking of Him, He is paying it to a city and a temple that will not remain on the map nor known whereabouts in short time.
"Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them"
They are already offended. They probably will be offended when He pays. They will probably be offended if He doesn't pay. Point is that they are offended regardless of what He does, that is just the constant running state of those who refuse to bring their works into the light. Wait till they hear that the King of Kings went ahead even though He didn't have to and paid their tax so not as to "offend them" by having a disciple go fish with a bare hook for a fish with exactly that tax amount in it's mouth!
What does this passage tell us about the about the commands and faith of Jesus that saints are to keep/guard?
It is a scary thought to see just how blind a hardened heart can make itself to be. It is doing precisely what it sees as being right in it's own eye, but notice how blind of an eye it's right can be conceived in. It is not just one heart, it is a pool of other hardened hearts drawn together into the sunken shallow depths. It is not just a pool of hardened hearts sunk to the same level, there are blind hearts at all levels, each doing nearly what is right in it's own eye together with the pool of others doing what is right in it's collective eye all amounting to nothing but this: blindness. Typically the heart is hardened by sin and unbelief it is unwilling to admit to and step away from. Saints must be careful for the exact same thing; it is easy to fall into unawares.
Right is such a tricky thing precisely because whatever we set ourselves to be doing we almost always see as being right regardless. But is it right? How do we know unless the Lord tell us? How do we hear unless we be willing to hear it? How be we willing unless we are willing to turn from ourselves (deny ourselves), pick up our cross and follow Jesus?
Some would say that we follow Jesus blindly into some hopeful salvation. Isn't there more to be said right of that than following our stubbornly blind and hardened shallow hearts (and the world's heart) into some fearful damnation?
Next: devotion:Matthew:18:1-9 The Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven