When was the last time you were grieving over the loss of a loved one, or loss of job or loss of time and energy to do what you want to do in this life and God surprised you with yet another miracle of his power? Those are the days that amaze me, how about you? When we lean into God when we are saddened, He lifts us in ways we never imagined could happen. God does this over and over again. Why? Because He loves us.
In this passage today we couple the sadness of the disciples upon hearing the ultimate death and resurrection of Jesus–from Jesus. “The Son of Man” is what Jesus called Himself on earth. “…will be betrayed in the hands of his enemies” is not hard to believe by His guys because they have heard all the criticisms expressed loudly and disrespectfully from the religious elite. Those in power have followed Jesus as closely as the disciples have but for opposite reasons and agendas. They are plotting the death of Jesus with each wonder God-in-Flesh performs. Jesus’ enemies hate him for they are led by the one who was kicked out of heaven for plotting against God, wanting to be God!
So, here we are, grieving disciples, arriving in the next town of ministry, Capernaum, and they are met by Temple Tax Collectors. These tax people do not tell the amount they owe, that would be too easy. No, they try to sarcastically criticize one of Jesus followers, impetuous Peter, with “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?” Do you hear the taunting criticism dripping from each word of this question?
I can also hear Peter’s response from the faith he has grown in Jesus being said like a boy caught with his hands in the cookie jar, “Yes, He does!” But then goes directly to Jesus wondering how the payment will be made. Jesus responds with a teachable moment lesson with a task before Peter even asks for the “how”.
Why didn’t Jesus just produce what was needed by pulling it out of the money bag? Why didn’t he just wave a hand over Peter’s hand or pull the coin from His ear like a magician? Jesus instead told Peter to go fishing. Peter was a fisherman. Peter knew how to fish from previous experience. Jesus used what Peter knew and had to fulfill what was needed for the moment. Wow. Pause here to think about it.
Jesus still does this in us. With our little faith in knowing He will do what is needed, we go to Him for the “how”. Jesus readily responds to our faith, trust, previous experience that He created us to have along with talents and God-given gifts to accomplish what is needed. To those who “lean not to our own understanding’ but rely on God’s wisdom he shows us the “how” with clarity, great things happen! God invites us to HIS work and guides us in His ways to accomplish each ministry task with Him. Don’t you love that?
The judgmental critics were appeased. “We don’t want to offend them.” The tax was paid. Peace was made. Ministry progressed. Relationships intact. The greater purpose is always to “seek and to save the lost”. Do you get the lesson here? I am. I needed this lesson to learn that we will always be criticized in ministry but we are in good company. Jesus will guide us to do His work in His way in His time with His methods. Yes, and amen! Trust Him.
Matthew—God Law Fulfilled
Matthew 17:22-27, NLT
Jesus Again Predicts His Death
22 After they gathered again in Galilee, Jesus told them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of his enemies. 23 He will be killed, but on the third day he will be raised from the dead.” And the disciples were filled with grief.
Payment of the Temple Tax
24 On their arrival in Capernaum, the collectors of the Temple tax came to Peter and asked him, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the Temple tax?”
25 “Yes, he does,” Peter replied. Then he went into the house.
But before he had a chance to speak, Jesus asked him, “What do you think, Peter? Do kings tax their own people or the people they have conquered?”
26 “They tax the people they have conquered,” Peter replied.
“Well, then,” Jesus said, “the citizens are free! 27 However, we don’t want to offend them, so go down to the lake and throw in a line. Open the mouth of the first fish you catch, and you will find a large silver coin. Take it and pay the tax for both of us.”
Thank you for the many lessons that pop up from Your Word today that restores the joy of your salvation in me, renews my spirit and brings hope, joy and peace to my heart, mind and soul. You are my Shepherd. You are all I want and need.
In Jesus Name, Amen