Jesus is providing an example for us to follow. If there was ever a person who should be exempt from a Temple tax, it would be Jesus. After all, the Temple was built to worship and honor His Father. The example He set was not just whether or not to pay taxes. He showed us that our personal rights should always take a back seat to our being in a position to share the gospel.
Jesus left His throne in heaven to humble Himself and come to earth. He came to give His life so that we can have forgiveness of our sin and eternal life in heaven. If we offend someone, why would they ever listen to our witness? When we go to another nation on mission, we try not to offend their cultural norms so that they will hear what we have to say. If we offend our neighbor over some petty action, how can we turn around and tell them about the love of God? Our obedience and usefulness to God is much more important than our personal rights!
How much pressure could Jesus apply to the system of customs and culture? When was it better to go along with certain expectations? When was it the right time to resist? These are strategic questions that often loom large in the minds of people who aspire to lead. Right away, though, a problem arises. People—actual persons—can become, in the perspective of that would-be leader, obstacles to change. When one views people in that way, one cannot love them. The question Jesus appeared to ask was not one of strategy: How can I move toward my goals in spite of the challenge posed by this particular group of people? Rather, it would appear to have been a different question: What is the good that I might do for this particular group of people? That is a question of love, and it is a question that does not shrink from death.
However, so that we do not offend them, go to the sea and throw in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for you and Me.” vs. 27
Let’s be clear, Jesus was not worried about hurting people’s feelings. He was not concerned that someone might be triggered by something they didn’t agree with. Jesus always had a bigger Kingdom picture in mind when he was motivated to act. Jesus knew that not paying the Temple Tax would lead to greater conflict that was not helpful to his Kingdom Purpose. Were the taxes an annoyance, yes, but not worth the inevitable fall out of not paying them.
We all have to do things that we think ridiculous or unworthy of our time and resources. What we must constantly ask ourselves if our annoyance can be put aside for a greater calling. The meeting that you see as meaningless may allow you to have a greater insight into your team. The family reunion that you dread could bear fruit with conversations that turn Heavenward. You might not always have a pleasant assignment, but God is always at work.
Join us as Senior Pastor Chris Johnson, Associate Pastor Aaron Hufty and Associate Pastor Bryan Richardson walk us through Matthew 17:24-27 in our Winter Sermon Series: “Miracles” The Gospel of Matthew.
There are moments that arise that seem larger than life; crises that we feel are impossible to overcome. We feel that in our humanity, we could not possibly handle something like this. We feel as if this is only something God can handle. Our crime and that of the disciples is that we do not believe Jesus when He says, “he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do.” (John 14:12). The disciples thought they needed Jesus to perform this miracle. God performs the miracles, but what the disciples failed to realize is that the Power of the Spirit is available to us to facilitate miracles. All it takes is the faith the size of a mustard seed and we can do “greater works” too.
“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us,to Him be the glory. ” – Ephesians 3:20-21a
There are echos in this story, with Jesus coming down the mountain. Echos of God’s frustration with the wickedness of men and women in before he sent the flood, “How long will I strive with men?!” Echos of Moses coming down the mountain after meeting with God, and seeing the people bowing down to a golden calf. And echos of Elijah rebuking the faithlessness of the people who had put their faith in Baal, a figment of their own corrupt imaginations.
This is intentional of course. It is as if God is saying, “This is my son, who will be the ultimate display of my glory.”(Think Mt. Carmel) As if he is saying, “My son is the everlasting intercessor.”(Think of Moses interceding for the people.) And as if God is saying, “Jesus is the everlasting ark.” (Of course, think of the flood.) The redeemer of the world. Jesus is God’s answer to his question, “How long will I strive with men?”
Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”
The disciples were clearly perplexed. Jesus had previously given them authority to cast out demons (Matthew 10). In fact, according to Mark’s gospel, they had actually already done just that (Mark 6:13). At least they are asking the right question, “Why?”
Jesus’ answer was telling. It’s not the quantity (even a mustard seed amount is enough), but rather the quality of your faith that is the problem. They had at least a mustard seed’s worth or they would have even tried to cast out the demon.
Much like us, the disciples believed that if they did the right things and said the right things, that would equate to faith and power. Jesus is teaching them (us) that genuine faith is not a byproduct of a ritual or mechanical actions and words. Going to church, reading the scriptures, reciting prayers, teaching, preaching are not enough on their own. Faith is deeper. It is the byproduct of a continuing, dynamic relationship with Him. (Honest, constant, humble, engaging, and trusting)
Jesus has just returned from the Mount of Transfiguration. He is beginning a teaching time with His disciples that deals with principles of living that will go through chapter 20. In His first lesson, He deals with faith and prayer.
When Jesus rebuked the disciples for their littleness of faith, He proclaimed that even faith the size of a mustard seed (very small) could do great things. Their faith had not even reached that small measure. He then says that only prayer can cast out this kind of demon. Later in Scripture, James, the half-brother of Jesus, repeats the same lesson that Jesus taught. In James 5:16 it says, “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”
Jesus had just returned from an extended time with God. His prayer…communing with God…prepared Him to face the needs of the world. We must have prayer preparation in everything…we are powerless without God. Apart from Him, we can do nothing. (John 15:5)
Jesus says to his disciples that their amount of faith is very small. And according to the reasoning of those disciples, smallness would equal weakness, shortage, insufficiency. But Jesus makes the opposite point. He plainly states that it’s precisely the smallness that will in fact suffice. He said as much when he showed them that a small portion of food would feed thousands. Later, Paul, having learned this very reality, would declare: “When I am weak, then I am strong.” Jesus tells his apprentices that they need not have achieved “paragon of faith” status in order to channel heaven’s power, but only that they learn that small is plenty in God’s economy. Absent that knowledge, they—and we—will keep on deferring to the convenient fiction that there’s just not enough faith to get it done.
When they came to the crowd, a man came up to Jesus, falling on his knees before Him and saying,“Lord, have mercy on my son. vs. 14-15a
Over the past 10 weeks we have examined some of the great works Jesus performed while he walked among us. One constant in all of these unique miracles is how Christ honors faith. In each situation we have studied the people that approached Christ KNEW that he could help them. Often it was evident in the humility and worship with which they approached him. Doubt is an incredible detriment to our spiritual walk. There is a distinct difference between wanting to believe that Jesus can heal you, and knowing he will. The miracle always takes place first in the heart of the believer. That is where the real change happens. That is where it matters most. In the cases we have read about Jesus also chooses to heal the physical needs as well so that we may know he as the power to do both.