GOSPEL READING: Matthew 17:22-27
22 As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of man is to be delivered into the hands of men, 23 and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.” And they were greatly distressed. 24 When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the half-shekel tax went up to Peter and said, “Does not your teacher pay the tax?” 25 He said, “Yes.” And when he came home, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tribute? From their sons or from others?” 26 And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. 27 However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast 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 me and for yourself.”
Meditation: Who likes to pay taxes, especially when you think they might be unreasonable or unjust? Jesus and his disciples were confronted by tax collectors on the issue of tax evasion. When questioned about paying the temple tax, Jesus replied to his disciples: We must pay so as not to cause bad example. In fact, we must go beyond our duty in order that we may show others what they ought to do. The scriptural expression to give no offense doesn’t refer to insult or annoyance – rather it means to put no stumbling block in the way of another that would cause them to trip or fall. Jesus would not allow himself anything which might possibly be a bad example to someone else. Do you evade unpleasant responsibilities or obligations?
Jesus predicts his death and triumph over the grave
On three different occasions in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus predicted he would endure great suffering through betrayal, rejection, and the punishment of a cruel death (Matthew 16:21, 17:22-23, and 20:17-19). The Jews resorted to stoning for very serious offenses and the Romans to crucifixion – the most painful and humiliating death they could devise for criminals they wanted to eliminate. No wonder the apostles were greatly distressed at such a prediction! If Jesus their Master were put to death, then they would likely receive the same treatment by their enemies. Jesus called himself the “Son of Man” because this was a Jewish title for the Messiah which the prophet Daniel explained in his vision of the One whom God would send to establish his everlasting kingdom of power and righteousness over the earth (Daniel 7:13-14).
The Suffering Servant and Lamb of God
Why must the Messiah be rejected and killed? Did not God promise that his Anointed One (Messiah in Hebrew) would deliver his people from their oppression and establish a kingdom of peace and justice? The prophet Isaiah had foretold that it was God’s will that the “Suffering Servant” make atonement for sins through his suffering and death (Isaiah 53). John the Baptist described Jesus as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1: 29, Isaiah 53:6-7). When Jesus willing offered up his life for us on the cross he paid the price for our redemption with his blood.
Jesus offers freedom and victory over sin and death
Jesus came to rescue us from sin and its destructive forces and to restore us to fulness of life with our heavenly Father. Sin not only separates us from God – it leads us down the path to corruption and unending death. Slavery to sin is to want the wrong things and to be in bondage to hurtful desires and addictions. The ransom Jesus paid sets us free from the worst tyranny possible – the tyranny of sin, Satan, and death. Jesus’ victory did not end with his sacrificial death on the cross – he triumphed over the grave when he rose again on the third day. Jesus defeated the powers of death and Satan through his cross and resurrection. The Lord Jesus offers us true freedom and peace which no one can take from us. Do you want the greatest freedom possible, the freedom to live as God truly meant us to live as his sons and daughters?
Lord Jesus, your death brought true life and freedom. May I always walk in the freedom and power of your love and truth and reject whatever is contrary to your will for my life.
1 Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens, praise him in the heights!
2 Praise him, all his angels, praise him, all his host!
11 Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth!
12 Young men and maidens together, old men and children!
14 He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his saints, for the people of Israel who are near to him. Praise the LORD!