On their arrival in Capernaum, the collectors of the Temple tax came to Peter and asked him, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the Temple tax?” “Yes, he does,” Peter replied. Matthew 17:24-25A
For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3:3
But this precious treasure—this light and power that now shine within us—is held in a perishable container, that is, in our weak bodies. Everyone can see that the glorious power within must be from God and is not our own. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but not crushed and broken. We are perplexed because we don’t know why things happen as they do, but we don’t give up and quit. We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going. These bodies of ours are constantly facing death just as Jesus did; so it is clear to all that it is only the living Christ within who keeps us safe. Yes, we live under constant danger to our lives because we serve the Lord, but this gives us constant opportunities to show forth the power of Jesus Christ within our mortal bodies. 2 Corinthians 4:7-11(TLB)
O Timothy, my son, be strong with the strength Christ Jesus gives you. For you must teach others those things you and many others have heard me speak about. Teach these great truths to trustworthy men who will, in turn, pass them on to others. Take your share of suffering as a good soldier of Jesus Christ, just as I do .... Don’t ever forget the wonderful fact that Jesus Christ was a man, born into King David’s family; and that he was God, as shown by the fact that he rose again from the dead. It is because I have preached these great truths that I am in trouble here and have been put in jail like a criminal. But the Word of God is not chained, even though I am. I am more than willing to suffer if that will bring salvation and eternal glory in Christ Jesus to those God has chosen. 2 Timothy 2:1-3, 8-10 (TLB)
The Bible story used in Pastor Ben's message this week begins with the encounter seen in the Matthew passage above. The collectors of the Temple tax came to Peter and asked him a question. Is this just a typical moment in the lives of those who collect the Temple tax or is there something bigger going on here? If they were just going about doing their job, it seems they would have come up to Peter and asked if he had paid the Temple tax he owed, but instead they asked about Jesus. Notice also that they did not ask if Jesus had paid the Temple tax but rather, does he pay the Temple tax. Earlier in the Matthew's Gospel, after a direct encounter between the Pharisees and Jesus, we are told this: "But the Pharisees went out and conspired against Him, as to how they might destroy him" (Matthew 12:14). While the question posed to Peter by the collectors of the Temple tax does not appear malicious on the surface, you can be sure it is all a part of a sinsiter plot by the opposing religious order of the day to destroy Jesus.
We could develop the case for this further but let's stop at this point and just recognize that the pressure Peter is feeling during this encounter is much greater than we might have thought. Perhaps there is more reason than meets the eye for why Peter responds to their question with, “Yes, he does.” Keep in mind that Peter did not say the Temple tax had been paid but just that Jesus is one who submits to paying the Temple tax. Peter's goal here is not to keep at bay men who simply want a payment, but rather to counter those who stand in direct opposition to Jesus and are trying to add to their case against Jesus, the charge that he refuses to submit to the Temple tax requirement altogether.
Peter ought to know by now that Jesus can handle this situation much better than he can. And that's the simple point that we need for today: Jesus can handle better than we can all the adverse circumstances and people who come up against us in life that pose a genuine threat to our personal well-being. As it says in the Colossian verse above, "Your real life is hidden with Christ in God." This means that we are secure in Christ and always can count on him to deal with anything that threatens our sense of that security we have in him. Peter tried to deal directly with a threatening situation instead of deferring to Jesus. So, the lesson we learn from Peter today is this: no matter what it is we are facing, Jesus can handle it better than we can and so we must always defer to him. Look back over what Paul has to say in the Corinthian and Timothy passages above in this light.
Lord, it is easy to say that you are sufficient for all things, but it is harder to put into practice when we are up against the wall of adversity. Lord, strengthen our faith and allow us to see more fully everything in our lives in light of your absolute sufficiency. You alone are able, you alone are worthy, and you alone are the object of our love, worship, trust and devotion.
Posted on Tue, May 26, 2015
by Alan Porter