Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Tuesday, 19 January 21:
Matthew 17:19, 20 — “The disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, ‘Why couldn’t we drive it out?’ He replied, ‘Because you have so little faith.’”
A man requests that Jesus heal his son, a boy suffering from seizures that the disciples could not heal. Jesus’ initial response is somewhat shocking: “’You unbelieving and perverse generation,’ Jesus replied, ‘how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you (Matthew 17:17)?’” Why did Jesus respond with such harsh words? To understand his rebuke, you have to go back to Matthew 10 where Jesus gave the disciples the “authority” to “proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons,” and to freely give what they had received (Matthew 10:7-8). However, despite the authority and power given to them by the Son of God, the disciples failed to heal this boy, thereby proclaiming a message which was seemingly powerless. Why did the disciples fail? It wasn’t because God had not empowered them, it was because they had “so little faith (Matthew 17:20 – Mark 9:29 also states that they failed to pray – see James 5:15 for the connection).”
“Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him (Hebrews 11:6).” We are justified by faith in Jesus (Romans 3, Galatians 2) and must live by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see (Hebrews 11:1).” We must be fully confident that we are children of God through Jesus (Galatians 3:26), that Christ lives in us (Galatians 2:20), that in our sinful weakness we can rest in God’s grace (Hebrews 4), and that God shields us, strengthens us, and works through us with His mighty power (1 Corinthians 4; 2 Corinthians 1:24, 2 Corinthians 4; Ephesians 6; 1 Peter 1:5). It is through faith that we learn true love, faithfulness, and obedience as we “walk in the footsteps of faith” (Romans 1:5, 4:12; Thessalonians 1:3; 1 Timothy 5). It is through faith that we conquer kingdoms, administer justice, and overcome the world. (Hebrews 11:33; 1 John 5:4)
The Bible tells us to “examine [ourselves] to see whether [we] are in the faith; [we are to] test [ourselves]. Do [we] not realize that Christ Jesus is in [us]… (2 Corinthians 13:5)?” Jesus told us to “seek first the Kingdom and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33).” Upon his authority over everything in Heaven and on earth, and with His assurance that He is “with [us] always, to the very end of the age,” Jesus commanded His followers to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you (Matthew 28:19-20).” So how are we doing fulfilling this Great Commission of sharing the Gospel and discipling believers? Pray that God will give you the faith to serve as a faithful ambassador of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20) so one day you will hear, “‘Well done, good servant! (Matthew 25:21, 23)”
Matthew 17:26 — “Then the sons are free.”
In Capernaum, the tax collectors ask Peter if Jesus planned on paying the temple tax. They were referring to the tax mentioned in Exodus 30:11-16 – “Each shall give a ransom for his life to the Lord…. Each one who is numbered in the census shall give this: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary half a shekel as an offering to the Lord. Everyone who is numbered in the census, from twenty years old and upward, shall give the Lord’s offering. The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less, than the half shekel, when you give the Lord’s offering to make atonement for your lives. You shall take the atonement money from the people of Israel and shall give it for the service of the tent of meeting, that it may bring the people of Israel to remembrance before the Lord, so as to make atonement for your lives.” Some translations of Matthew 17:24 say 2 drachmas and others say half shekel, but they are both the same amount. This tax amounted to one to two days wages for an average worker. Historians say that pious men paid this tax annually.
Jesus responds to the query with a question to Peter, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?” And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free.” Jesus declares that He and his disciples are exempt from the temple taxes because they (we) are sons of God, and “I tell you, something greater than the temple is here.” (Matthew 12:6) The King covers the expenses of His children who are heirs of the Kingdom. Our debt and our “ransom” have been paid in full by Christ on the Cross and in Him, we are now children of God and heirs of the Kingdom —
- Mark 10:45 — For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
- 1 Timothy 2:6 — Who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.
- Revelation 5:9 — You [Jesus] were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.”
- 1 Corinthians 7:23 — You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men.
- John 1:12-13 — But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
- Galatians 3:26 — For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.
- Romans 8:16 — The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God….
- Ephesians 5:1 — Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.
- Philippians 2:15 — That you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world….
- Galatians 4:7 — So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
- James 2:5 — Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?
We have incredible riches and freedom in Christ. May God “give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.” (Ephesians 1:17, 18)
Note that even though Jesus makes it clear that He and His disciples are exempt from the temple tax, He pays it anyway, in order “not to give offense to them,” (v. 27) to prevent causing a barrier to the Gospel. Jesus displays the same principle Paul describes in Romans 14 of surrendering Christian liberties for sake of the less mature in faith.
Also, note that although Jesus pays the taxes, He does so miraculously, further demonstrating His authority and power over all creation and the power of God to provide. Whatever we have is provided to us by God, and whatever we give can be restored by Him miraculously and more beyond measure. This story is like the one in Luke 20 where the scribes and the chief priests ask Jesus whether it is right to pay taxes to Caesar. Jesus replies, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” What is He saying? “Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.” (Romans 13:7) However, pay proper respect and honor to God first, to whom all is owed! Give to God what is God’s – everything! “What shall I render to the LORD For all His benefits toward me?” (Psalm 116:12) “Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies [dedicating all of yourselves, set apart] as a living sacrifice, holy and well-pleasing to God, which is your rational (logical, intelligent) act of worship.” (Romans 12:1, Amplified Bible)
Jesus used every opportunity, even paying taxes, to share the Gospel, and He was careful not to let anything stand in the way of the Gospel message. How will you use the opportunities you have today to share the Gospel?
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 19 Jan 21: Today, show proper respect and graciousness to others, but don’t miss the opportunity to communicate the truth of Jesus and His Lordship over all creation. Don’t focus on what is being demanded of you; focus on how you are glorifying God through your response. Proclaim the Gospel in word and deed.