“A Thought” … on Matthew 17:24-27. This is the story of the Temple Tax where Jesus sends Peter off to fish for their taxes. I most often think of this story and apply it to God’s incredible provision for us. He can make what ever we need appear when exactly we need it. This is certainly true but not the only message.
The story has two tax gathering men asking Peter if Jesus pays taxes.. they were there to collect the annual Temple Tax.. Peter says yes he does.. Inside the house, Jesus pulls Peter aside.. my guess is Peter is getting used to being “pulled aside”. Jesus asks Peter…who pays the kings taxes.. his subjects or his children ? Peter answers.. “his subjects”. Ding Ding Ding.. Peter gets it right. So Jesus establishes the point again.. “Then the children get off free.. right ?” But to be nice.. and cooperative.. we will pay the tax..
Now Jesus sends him fishing… for a coin. That should either make you laugh or scratch your head. That last thought Jesus plants in Peter’s mind is.. “the children get off free “.. now, fast forward.. he is setting by the lake.. fishing… thinking.. my guess is pondering.. Peter was completely aware of his own culture and religion. The Jewish law was what he had been taught from childhood. A strong dose of religion. What Jesus was introducing to him was revolutionary. Peter knew exactly how to be a “subject of the King”.. that was well known. Obey the laws ! or maybe better put.. pay the tax !.. What was new to him was the idea of being “A Child of the King”.
This may be the first time Peter has been faced with this truth. Jesus is forcing the hand. Forcing Peter to recognize his position as a child of God. This is a very powerful realization. The law makes subjects out of all of us. Love makes children… by birth or by adoption. Jesus is making this distinction. It’s important.
Imagine Peter.. pondering this new thought… fishing by the lake.
As a child and young man I spent a lot of time fishing. I was born into a family of fishermen. I have sat in boats and dockside for hours on end. My favorite type was steelhead fishing. I would wade out into the water about waist deep and feel the power of the current pressing against me. Then the thrill of a 20 lb Steelhead or Salmon strike. The adrenaline flows and your heart pumps. Even after decades have past, I can still remember some of those strikes just like it was yesterday.
It’s easy for me to see myself fishing like Peter. In solitude. Waiting. Thinking. “I am a child of the king”..? He doesn’t feel like the child of the king … His identity is … ? ________________ ( fill in the blank )
I hear and read discussions all the time about identity. Where you find it… how you lose it… your real one.. your fake one.. Every season of life has an impact on your identity. The question of identity, who am I, is central to how we live our life. Jesus knew that was true then just as it’s true now.
I have struggled with identity issues most of my life. Ranging from crippling insecurity and poor self image to over achieving, self important approval addict. I brought all of my identity issues with me when I entered the Christian community. They did not just fall off the day I accepted Christ. And just like Peter, Jesus is pointing me toward a new realization: “I am a Child of The King”.
And there Peter sets.. fishing… my guess is he had a good long time to think about this before the moment… the strike! Even if you been fishing your whole life, its still exciting.. I know many grown men who spend countless amounts of time and money to get that little thrill. It’s a rush.. an adrenaline rush.. bam! Fish on !
Jesus knows a fact or two about of us humans. We tend to remember things better when the adrenaline is flowing. This is not a fishing trip that Peter will ever forget. With heart pumping, he remembers Jesus instructions for the first fish he catches ” Open it’s mouth and you will find a coin, take it and give it to the tax men. It will be enough for both of us.”
As Peter handed the coing to the tax men, he had to be moved by the power of this emerging message. It changes everything. He was beginning to see himself as a child of the king. The contrast being the “subjects” he was giving the coin too.
Jesus knew it would take more than a mere proclamation, “we are children of the king” to “print” this seed of truth in Peter’s heart. We are no different. The obstacles that shield this truth and the power that comes from embracing it are many. I don’t think coming to the full realization of this truth is doable on our own steam. We need the same kind of personal miracle, a word from God that Peter had. That’s the picture of Jesus pulling Peter aside. We are dependent on Jesus for this. You cannot muster this up on your own. The picture is you and Jesus, together. Alone. You asking the question: Jesus, who am I ? And listening for His answer. He will tell you. You are a Child of the King ! Loved in a perfect way. When you hear it for yourself, in your heart, you will never forget it. You will never be the same.
My prayer at the end of this was: Abba, Father.. Let my heart forever settle in the love you have for me and my status as Your Child. A Child of the King !