Friday, June 3, 2011

The Sons are Free

Matthew 17:22-27 (ESV)
As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, "The Son of Man is about 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 your teacher not pay the tax?" [25] He said, "Yes." And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, "What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? 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."
And they were greatly distressed. This was not the way this was supposed to happen. In no ones book was the messiah supposed to be killed. This rising from the third day bit, that was unintelligible. Being delivered and handed over and killed, that was intelligible. It caused the disciples a bit of stress. They worried. Wouldn’t you?
It seems to be a bit disjointed in the story. But then the tax collectors come. There are a couple lessons here. The tax collectors challenge. They know Jesus is posturing himself a messiah. Others had done this, they were mostly revolutionaries. We still run into this junk today. Men posturing themselves with scripture to rebel against society in worldly ways. They won’t pay the taxes, they will start wars like Thomas Muntzer. Or they will withdraw from society declaring it evil, in a more or less peaceful revolt.
Jesus does neither, he is not going to be a zealot, nor is he going to be an Essene. There is no hold up in Waco on the horizon. Jesus makes two points. We are children of the ruler. The one who is ultimately in control. We don’t pay our taxes because we are forced. We do it willingly in love for others. He all but affirms here the good of government. Christians obey the laws of the land including taxes out of love for the neighbor, not begrudgingly. And god provides for us to do so. Perhaps we don’t pull money out of a fishes mouth, but nonetheless, in giving to government we give back to God what he has given us, no less than when we give to the church. He is the one who governs all things, we are his children, we are free. Finally we are free to love.

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