Summary: Jesus had been carrying His disciples through intensive training for some time now. He had been zeroing in on His death and resurrection In this passage, Jesus showed just how capable a teacher He really was. He was able to take the visit by a tax
SERMON Christ and His Good Citizenship, Matthew 17:24–27
Jesus had been carrying His disciples through intensive training for some time now. He had been zeroing in on His death and resurrection In this passage, Jesus showed just how capable a teacher He really was. He was able to take the visit by a tax collector and continue to make the unique claims of Messiahship and at the same time teach the importance of good citizenship. He is God’s Son, and every believer is responsible to be a good citizen.
1. Jesus was visited by tax collectors (v.24).
2. Jesus demonstrated good citizenship: He paid taxes (v.25).
3. Jesus made a unique claim about His own citizenship (vv.25–26).
4. Jesus set the standard for citizenship: paid the tax to keep others from stumbling (v.27).
5. Jesus demonstrated His citizenship and Messiahship: He paid the tax miraculously (v.27).
What was the Temple Tax?
The Temple Tax, which was about ½ a Shekel per person ($50), was required by every Jew (age of 20+) yearly. This is Atonement money.
This kind of tax was first imposed on the Israelites by Moses (the half-shekel for redemption, which equals 2 drachmas; Exod. 30:11-15) for every male Israelite over twenty years of age. The money was used for the upkeep of the Tabernacle, and later, the Temple.
It was customary for all Jews and due on the 15th of Adar, which was six months before these tax collectors arrived. It was regarded as a patriotic, as well as a religious duty.
(17:24) His Omniscience : Jesus was visited by a tax collector. Perhaps Jesus was behind in His tax payments because He had been away for so long. The tax collectors approached Peter instead of Jesus because it was Jesus’ habit to lodge in Peter’s house when in Capernaum or perhaps because they feared Jesus.
The tax spoken of is the temple tax. The temple was an extremely expensive building to maintain just as any large building is. Time deteriorates furnishings, even stone and mortar, and all has to be replaced. In addition, there was the upkeep of the priests, their shelter, food, and clothing. There was the provision of the animals, incense, wine, flour, and oil used in the sacrifices which had to be offered every day—and the list could go on and on. Upkeep of the temple was so expensive that a nation-wide tax had to be imposed upon every male Jew over twenty years old. It was just a small tax (one half-shekel) for each man, amounting to about two days work; nevertheless, it had to be paid. It was collected annually by the tax collectors setting up their tax collecting booths in strategic locations throughout the country.
(17:25) Jesus as Good Citizenship Jesus demonstrated good citizenship. He paid taxes. It was His practice to pay taxes, and Peter knew this. Therefore, Peter was able to answer, “Yes, the master pays taxes.”
Secondary thought here that stands out those who say they do not attend church because the church has too many hypocrites in it. In Christ’s day, the temple was a den of thieves, and much of its worship was hypocritical and corrupt; yet Christ supported it (Mt. 21:13; Mk. 11:17). Why? There are at least three reasons.
a. Despite its corruptions, the temple was still the house of God and the house of prayer.
b. Christ benefited from the temple. When He entered the temple, His spirit was right with God, so He was able to worship and minister within its walls despite the hypocrisy of so many and the corruption of so much.
c. The temple was where God’s people were thought and expected to be. The world expected God’s people to be in the temple and not somewhere else when it was time for worship. Christ could be nowhere else “lest He should offend them” (v.27).
“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (He. 10:25).
(17:25–26) His Deity –
I think it's interesting that Jesus used Peter's old name. He called him "Simon". Back in chapter 16, Jesus gave him the name Peter in order to emphasize that he was a a "rock" of a man who stood strong upon the solid confession of faith in Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the living God”. But I think that He called Peter "Simon" here, because he was behaving like his old self—and not like a "rock" of a man. He was, once again, being mindful of the things of men and not the things of God (Matthew 16:23). He was not evaluating Jesus rightly.
Jesus made a unique claim by sharing an illustration. The illustration is brief and yet forceful. Jesus asked Peter a simple question: “From whom do kings collect their taxes? from their own children or from the citizens?” The answer is obvious: “He collects taxes from the citizens, not from his own children.” And then Jesus made the phenomenal claim: “Then the children are free.”