Title: Instruction concerning Sonship
Scriptures to Read: Matthew 17:24–27
Now they arrive at Capernaum, His headquarters.
They are now back in Jewish territory. This means that they are again under Jewish law in a Jewish jurisdiction. And we read: Those who collected the two-drachma tax came to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the two-drachma tax?” This refers to the annual temple tax that was based upon Exodus 30:11-16. The tax was half a shekel which is the same as two drachmas and amounted to two days’ wages. Every year, every male in Israel had to pay the half-shekel tax to help maintain the temple ministry.
Now the temple tax was to be paid around March every year at Passover. However, Jesus is about 6 months overdue in paying His temple tax. And that is why the tax collectors came and asked Peter, “Does your teacher not pay the two-drachma tax?”
Without checking with Jesus first, Peter doesn’t know what to do and therefore blurts out his answer on his own, and he says “yes” and let it go at that.
But Jesus knows what has taken place, so in verse 25, when Peter came into the house Jesus has a special private lesson for him and begins by asking him a question: “What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth collect customs or poll-tax, from their sons or from strangers?” Peter answers: “from strangers“. Then Jesus says “Therefore the sons are exempt.” His point is that Roman citizens do not pay taxes. Furthermore, when Roman rulers ruled, or other kings ruled, they would collect tribute from subjugated peoples, and therefore from strangers, not from their own sons or citizens. Now this was not a Roman tax. This half-shekel or two drachmas was to be paid as a temple tax. But, as the Messiah, Jesus is the Lord of the Temple and therefore exempt from paying the tax. Believers are His sons spiritually speaking. Therefore, believers are also exempt from having to pay the temple tax.
Avoiding undue offense
In verse 27 He says: “However, so that we do not offend them.” There is no need to cause undue stumbling. It is one thing to reject man-made rules and regulations, but here we are dealing with a Mosaic issue, not a Mishnaic issue. And although under the Mosaic Law the Messiah Himself would not have to pay the temple tax, there is no need to cause undue stumbling.
Jesus provides a miraculous payment, and He tells Peter to go back to His old job as a fisherman for just a very short time to catch a fish. When he opens the mouth of that fish he will find a full shekel coin. With it Peter is instructed to go and pay the temple tax, both for himself and for Jesus.
The lesson for the disciples to learn from this is that they are the sons of the King and He is the Lord of the Temple.