Covenant Words
Covenant Words

Episode · 6 years ago

Sons Of Liberty (Matthew 17:24-27)

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Rev. Paul Johnson (Guest preacher)

Was Morning in Matthew's Gospel. We have a somewhat short passage for us. It's only a few verses long, and yet already here there's a bunch of questions that spring up, aren't there? What is this tax it's being raised, who's collecting it? What's this for? And also, why does Jesus then pay this tax through a unique miracle like this? I'm sure we've all grown up hearing the stories of Jesus's miracles, his feeding the five thousand right, his walking on water, his healing ministry, having a coin appear in the mouth of a fish. That sounds a little bizarre, doesn't it? Or perhaps it sounds too simple. Does this really demonstrate his Divine Majesty? Does this really demonstrate his heavenly authority, as is other miracles have done? Not only does this passage raise some questions for us, it may also make us a bit uncomfortable. Though it's only a few verses long, our Lord is here addressing a topic that we all hold very close to our hearts, a topic we all take very personally. Here Jesus addresses our money, doesn't he, and not just our having it, but are giving it away and in the midst of this unique conversation and this unique miracle, our Lord is revealing himself. He is revealing his own character. Here Jesus has much to say about his own identity and we'll see how his identity has an effect on you and your identity. So, just before our passage, in fact the last time I was here, many weeks ago, we look at Matthew Seventeen and in verses, twenty two through twenty three. Just before these events, we read that as they were gathered in Galilee, Jesus said to them the son of man is about to be delivered into the hands of men and they will kill him and he will be raised on the third day, and they were greatly distressed. Right his disciples were greatly distressed by hearing this. Jesus reminds his disciples that his sights are set on Jerusalem, that he's about to engage in a great conflict. The enemies have been slowly gathering around Jesus and they will eventually seize him and kill him. He comforts his disciples by giving them the four now is that that his death is not the end, but he will not remain in the grave, but he will be raised victorious on that third day, as our Lord is therefore having us anticipate paid this this great coming conflict, and immediately we're given this passage which seems to begin with...

...a situation which could easily erupt into that conflict, couldn't it? When they came to Kapernham, the collectors of the half shuckle tax went to Peter and said, does your teacher not pay the tax? Tax collectors come knocking on Peter's door and they'll just come with a bill. Right, they don't have a statement. Here, here's what you owe. They come with this challenge. They say, does your teacher not pay the tax? You See, the tax that they were collecting was for a very specific purpose. The to Dropma tax, or it was also called the halfsheckle tax, was a yearly tax upon the House of Israel that everyone in Israel was expected to pay, and the origins of this tax can be found way back in the book of Exodus. They rooted it in Exodus, Chapter Thirty, verse eleven. Here what that says. The Lord said to Moses, when you take the census of the people of Israel, then each shall give a ransom for his life to the Lord, when you number them, that there may no be that there be no plague among them. When you number them, each one who is numbered in the senses shall get of this half a shekel. According to the chuckle of the sanctuary, half a shekel is an offering to the Lord. Everyone who is numbered in the census, from twenty years old and upwards shall give the Lord's offering. The rich shall not give more. The poor shall, I give rest than half the shekel. When you give the Lord's offering, to make atonement for your lives. So this offering was taken up by Moses there in the Wilderness as a way to fund and pay for the Tabernacle, and all of Israel was to participate in its construction and in its maintenance. It was for the the Tabernacle because this language of a ransom, this language of an atonement, is used, because this is what would happen there, at the tent of meeting, there where God would dwell with his people, sacrifices would be offered, prayers would be prayed. And yet, by Jesus Day, what what appears to have been in exodus, a a one time tax upon Israel in the Wilderness had now become appropriated and used by those running the temple in Jerusalem as a way to keep all Israel compelled to support the activities of the temple. So as taxes go, it was a controversial one. Some thought they were exempt, some thought they only had to pay once in their lives. Yet this was being gathered every year. So you can see why the tax collectors would expect perhaps some pushback. Does your...

...teacher not pay the tax it? It comes with the expectation that there's probably going to be a debate about this or perhaps a rebuke. But what does Peter say? He says yes, he does pay the tax. He doesn't go ask Jesus about this controversial subject. He doesn't instantly reject their proposal, as biblically suspicious as it is. He instinctively says yes, of course Jesus pays the tax. Having been around Jesus long enough, Peter at least knows this much, that Jesus contributes, he pays this tax to the temple. Notice that when Peter Enters the house, Jesus approaches him, and perhaps here we would expect something like the rebuke. After all, not to pick on Peter, but he can be rather careless with his speech. Has Peter here spoken out of turn? Has He been too quick to say yes? And yet, instead of a rebuke, our Lord Asks Peter a question, as if he knew Peter was wrestling with this subject, as if he knew Peter's suspicions regarding this tax. Jesus says, what do you think, Simon, from whom do kings of the Earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others? If Jesus Asks Peter a very simple and pretty straightforward question, he's asking Peter to observe how the world works. Kings have incredible authority over their subjects. So whom do they charge when tax time rolls around? And who gets that free pass? Here? Jesus gives only two options. Do they tax their sons or do they tax others? Are those within the household being taxed? No, of course not. Notice even Peter gets this question right. Kings don't tax their own sons. Isn't that one of the benefits of royalty taxes? Would pay for their palaces, it would pay for their meals. Sons share in that abundance. They're not burdened to support it. Jesus even reiterates, so the scent. So then the sons are free, sons of the king are free from the obligations of the others. Now Jesus here makes a point that is plain enough to understand. But why? What does this point prove? Why is he even engaging in this conversation?...

Well, here Jesus is bringing up this subject, a subject of sonship. We're Peter and the tax collectors may be concerned with the money, who's collecting it, where it's going. What's Jesus concerned with? He's concerned with this topic, this idea of Sonship, and this has been a part of Christ's ministry now, for for a while in fact, in Chapter Sixteen, when Peter gives this good confession. What is the Good Confession that Peter Confesses? When Jesus asks who do you say? I am Simon, Peter replied you are the Christ, the son of the Living God. And when Jesus was transfigured on that mountain in front of three of his disciples, a bright cloud overshadowed them and a voice from the cloud said this is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased. Listen to him. A similar voice that was there at his baptism, at the beginning of his ministry, declaring this is my son. And so Jesus has been drawing us to make the same confession that Peter has made, that this is the Christ, the son of the Living God. But what is Jesus point by directing us to this illustration of sons and their relationship to the king? Who is Jesus? He's the son of God, as we've heard. So, as the son of God, why is he paying the tax? The tax collectors expected a challenge. Isn't this an incredible challenge? He is the son of God. This makes him Lord over the temple itself. Isn't he exempt then from having to pay for it? Here Jesus question is identifying who he is. He's reminding his disciples what is true about him. Yes, he will be handed over, he he will be burdened, he will be oppressed, but none of us denies who he is. He is the son of God, as son of the king, shouldn't that bring certain privileges? Shouldn't he, of all people, be exempt then from this tax? In fact, he's already made the point earlier in chapter twelve, when questioned by the the Pharisees regarding his work on the Sabbath. Jesus declared himself, as the son of man, to be Lord of the Sabbath. And as he compares his activity to the the priests in the temple, he says in Matthew, Chapter Twelve, verse six, I tell you something greater than the temple is here. For you see, the temple has been the place of God's dwelling with his people. But now that God himself has become incarnate, as Paul says in cautions to verse nine, in him the whole fullness of Deity dwells bodily, why would he...

...now be supporting that temple which he has come to replace? Why would he support that shadow that he has come to fulfill? Do you see why this little half shackled tax has so much to say about Jesus? He uses this transaction as a further instruction of his true nature as the son of God. He is free. He's under no obligation to pay this tax. And if this is true of Jesus, that is what he also says about Peter. What does he say? He doesn't say the sun is free. He says the son's plural are free. If Jesus is the son of God, what is he now here declaring a is true about Peter? Is Peter the outsider, while Jesus is a of the outsiders outside the palace gates, while Jesus is comfortably at rest within the family of God. Oh, what Jesus is declaring is that Peter too is a son of the king. He includes Peter when he says the sons are free. Let us how he includes Peter in in paying for the tax, saying let us not give offense to them. Go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up. When you open set's mouth, you will find a shekel. Take that. Give it to them for me and for yourself. See See, not only is Jesus saying that he should be exempt, so is Peter. And what greater exemption is there then? Appealing to God's Heavenly Authority for you, identifies who he is as the son of God. These privileges of sonship belong not only to Jesus but to Peter as well, so that this disciple is included as a member of the family of God. And yet given these rights, given these privileges, rather than digging in his heels. What does Jesus do? He pays the tax for himself, in for Peter. Why? What does paying the tax mean if sons don't pay but outsiders do? And isn't Jesus identifying himself as an outsider, though he has the full rights of membership in the household of God? Jesus counts himself here like the outsiders.

Here, in this minor transaction, don't we see a brief glimpse of what Christ's entire ministry is all about? Though he is the incarnate Lord of Heaven and earth? We see that he came not to take up a throne but to be rejected, not to be served but to serve, to be stricken, smitten and afflicted, all the while being the Lord, which is demonstrated here by this miracle. Though it sounds strange, though it sounds bizarre, notice how it demonstrates his absolute sovereign control over all things. For why doesn't Jesus just make the checkle appear? Couldn't he have done that? Couldn't he have just spoken a word and their coffers would have been full? Instead, he tells Peter, take your fishing Rod, go to the sea. He gives them the old all these steps. Think of all the circumstances that would have to have occurred in that present is exact timing for a Shekele to find its way into a fish's mouth, to be pulled up at that exact moment, all the physics behind those causes and Effects, all the circumstances of whether of nature of the sea, the physics of that Hook, the crisis, demonstrating his control and his command over all of it. But to do what? To identify himself as an outsider. By paying this tax. Our Lord gives us an amazing picture of himself, who he is and also what he came to accomplish free demonstrates, at the one hit, his supremacy over this tax. He's able to pay it with ease, though he doesn't have to. He demonstrates his supremacy over nature itself. Yet he takes up the position of an outsider. Do you see how this affects you, how this affects myself? To view ourselves and our view of this world, isn't a great comfort to know that the Lord of Heaven and earth has brought you into his family? Here we see Christ's inclusiveness and we reminded that through Christ we have, we too have received this adoption as sons. This comes with it the rights and the privileges as sons and daughters of our heavenly father. As Christ has been preparing his disciples, he will go to that cross, he...

...will be crushed, but not for his own sins, but for for yours. He goes to the cross to do away with your sin, to provide you with the righteousness which can stand before God, which can stand in the family of God, so that we would be numbered alongside Christ as sons of God. What an amazing adoption we've received, for this brings with it the inheritance of glory which Christ has provided, the promise of the resurrection, of life beyond the grave, from which Christ himself was the first fruit. This is who you are in Christ, this is what belongs to you in Christ. So then, how are we to relate to these burdens? Burdens like taxes, which we experience in this world as well? Jesus directs us to this earthly example of kings extracting taxes from their citizens. This illustration points us to Christ, to his divine identity, but it also directs us to ourselves and our role as citizens of this world. Surely we understand Jesus is illustration as as citizens ourselves, we ourselves pay taxes often. But if, ultimately we belong not to this world but to God, it'sn't that part of you that feels like we should be exempt from such things? Perhaps we feel like we are, and that feelings made all the more abundant when we see how taxes get spent in this world. And if Jesus point is that sons of the king don't pay the tax, who are we? Are we sons and daughters of the king? Why do we continue in them? Why don't we resist? Since our citizenship is in heaven, since God is our father? Sons of the king don't pay, sons are free, Jesus says. Isn't that who you are? Aren't you adopted into the family of God? But given Jesus is illustration, what does our paying of taxes affirm about you and your citizenship in this world? Sure, it identifies you as a citizen and it identifies you as one in submission to those God has placed over you. What does it say that you are not? It demonstrates that you are not sons of these earthly kings. Perhaps this is a bit foreign to us. Wasn't our country founded on taxes giving us a seat at the table, giving us voice, giving US representation? But do you see what Jesus is telling you about what even paying taxes says about your identity in this world? Means...

...that, by paying the taxes, you're actually the outsider. Means that your inheritance is not tied to the things of this world. It means that you do not ultimately belong to this Kingdom of this world. So then, by paying what your government commands of you, even in this your Lord is directing you to your true citizenship, do your true inheritance as sons and daughters of your heavenly father. The fact that you're not exempt from the taxes of this world proves that you do not ultimately belong to the rights and the privileges of this world, because you belong to Heaven, just as Christ, who earned this inheritance for you and yet here submits himself to the burdens of this world. And if this is how we view our our giving to our governments and to our rulers says, have something else to say about our offerings and our givings to the church. Isn't that kind of what this temple tax was, something like a compulsory offering? Is that how we're to view our giving to the church? Is is the tax that God has imposed upon you? Is Our giving just an obligation that we're expected to fulfill? I love hear how Jesus Compares our relationship to God and our relationship to the kings of this earth. Let us how this further highlights the contrast between how our king rules and how the princes of this world rule. Is Your God simply your king who commands payment? Look, even in our passage, at the character of your King, as Christ demonstrates, he is more than your king, he is your heavenly father, and look at his love for you. In Christ, rather than just requiring payment from you. Even here in our passage, it is Christ who provides the payment, it is Christ who gives. So there are giving to the church is going to look very different from our giving to this world. You see, we give out of the abundance of what he has given to us. The freedom with which we give to the body of Christ is but a reflection of how Christ has so freely given to us, and as Christ has given everything. Therefore, we give not just money. We give our time, don't we give our energy, we give our resources,...

...we give our prayers, even our tears. As sons of the king, our life in this world continually reminds us of this dual citizenship that we possess. As citizens of this world, we have obligations, we have duties, we have burdens, and yet, in our approach to these things, we are demonstrating who we truly belong to, where our true identity rests. We're demonstrating what is our eternal glory and our internal inheritance and our hope for a city with foundations whose designer and builder is God. Amen.

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