Saturday 1 September, 2018

Matthew 17:24-27

24 After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma temple tax came to Peter and asked, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?” 25 “Yes, he does,” he replied. 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 children or from others?” 26 “From others,” Peter answered. “Then the children are exempt,” Jesus said to him. 27 “But so that we may not cause offense, 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.”

Polite conversation amongst friends never covers death or taxes. Riddle me this: “Do Kings
charge their children taxes?” A: No (at least in the ancient world anyways). The implied answer (you can visualize the twinkle in Jesus eye during this conversation) “I don’t need to pay the temple tax, I’m
temple royalty”. Once again Jesus ‘goes there’ and once again Jesus is in the spotlight for his behaviour in connection religious rules. Jesus decides to avoid controversy, directs a miracle and moves on. The disciples are left, slightly dizzy and witnesses to another very intriguing episode in the Jesus story.

I’m drawn to what seems like Jesus taking a mischievous or cheeky tone in this story. Jesus probes his team with a rhetorical question. The implied answer that Jesus leads to – his placing of himself as equal to the temple, as royalty at the God level – must have seemed overly bold at first. Jesus’ disciples must have been exhausted sometimes trying to unlock the deeper meaning of these kind of grand claims. Consider also that Jesus’ teaching was balanced with miracle after miracle and you wonder what kind of emotional state this roller coaster adventure left his followers in. I imagine the utter joy and relief the disciples must have felt when Jesus’ story triumphed in front of their eyes with his resurrection: suddenly it would’ve started to make sense. All those stories, all those miracles, all of Jesus’ instructions. Jesus truly is the very presence of God. The thing that every faithful Jew was attending the Jerusalem temple and waiting for, was standing amongst them. The literal royal mark of God, the very house of God’s spirit was no longer the ancient temple but was now here, standing, with them, as their friend.

Jesus, my King and friend. Thank you that I am saved, cleaned and have been adopted to be a part of your royal household. I want to live for you with the kind of dedication that the first disciples showed: led onwards by your activity and your words, committed to you wholeheartedly, living the great adventure that comes with following in your ways. Amen

Written by Sam Stewart

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