Citizens of Heaven ☁️ (Matthew 17:22-27)
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Citizens of Heaven ☁️ (Matthew 17:22-27)

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After they gathered again in Galilee, Jesus told them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of his enemies. He will be killed, but on the third day he will be raised from the dead.” And the disciples were filled with grief. 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. Then he went into the house. But before he had a chance to speak, Jesus asked him, “What do you think, Peter? Do kings tax their own people or the people they have conquered?” “They tax the people they have conquered,” Peter replied. “Well, then,” Jesus said, “the citizens are free! However, we don’t want to offend them, so go down to the lake and throw in a line. Open the mouth of the first fish you catch, and you will find a large silver coin. Take it and pay the tax for both of us.”

The Kingdom of Heaven is a spiritual reality that changes HOW I SEE EVERYTHING.

Overall Commentary: 🌎

The text in today's passage is unique to Matthew. This makes sense because Matthew had been a tax collector. This story would have stood out in his mind. Also, this story is important because there has been a long debate over the time of Matthew's authorship. Some have speculated that Matthew had to have written his gospel after the destruction of the Temple in 70AD. This is because Jesus predicted so many things in the upcoming Olivet Discourse that was extremely accurate. However, texts like today give credit to the majority view that Matthew was written before 70AD. This is because after the Temple was destroyed (in 70AD), the Romonas required the Jews to continue paying this tax only it went to their pagan temples instead of God's temple. This story would have been very different then.

This text is also interesting because it drops right into a long-time debate in the culture of the time. Many saw this tax as unnecessary. They didn't think they had to do anything to help the overall population. Some would do it, but not consistently. Others saw it as part of their patriotic duty to take care of the Temple. Jesus is basically being asked, "Where do you stand on our obligation to our country?" This conversation is still happening in our Christian circles today.

Jesus shows us the JOY of living in our culture as CITIZENS OF HIS KINGDOM.


Verse 22-23:

  • They were filled with grief: The disciples were slowly beginning to understand what Jesus was saying. However, they are only connecting with the Cross. They do not yet understand the joy in Jesus' words. He ended by talking about the Resurrection.

Verse 24:

  • Capernaum: This was the ministry headquarters of Jesus.
  • The journey begins: They are now slowly making their way to Jerusalem for the Passover.
  • Temple Tax: This was the equivalent of a day's wage. It was an annual fee to help keep the Temple in good shape. Many saw this as part of their patriotic duty because the Temple was the centerpiece of the Jewish religion.
  • When was the Temple Tax taken?: The annual Temple Tax was taken from a month out to the right up to the Passover. Therefore, we know that the Passover is really close.
  • A Question or Accusation: This question was likely not a curious question but an accusation. As a rabbi, Jesus would have been exempt from paying the tax. Therefore, since they ask about Him, they are asking about His status AND challenge His patriotism. They also asked what group He was with since some of the different political and religious groups had very different ideas about it.

Verse 25-26:

  • Why Ask Peter?: They likely stayed at Peter's house while in Capernaum. Therefore, it is easy to see they would ask the owner of the home.
  • What is Jesus talking about?: Jesus asks Peter about a king and His subjects being taxed. Jesus is saying that He shouldn't have to pay the tax because it is for HIS HOUSE! Secondarily, He is saying that His followers are not obligated to pay the tax because they are now in His family. This DOES NOT mean we have ascended to receiving worship! It DOES mean He is making the point that we are now free from the kingdom of this world.

Verse 27:

  • Free to do what?: We are now free to make a difference in this culture because we are free from it. We stand apart from it. We are no longer obligated, so we can serve with freedom and joy. Notice how Jesus says we place our needs and rights to the side so that we can serve the culture and make space for sharing the Gospel.
  • What kind of fish was this?: There were fish in the Sea of Galilee that would be much like a local catfish. This fish would often scoop up whatever it could find off the bottom of the lake. People have found various items, including coins, in modern times.
  • A complicated miracle: This miracle is way more impressive than it seems. In order for this miracle to happen, someone had to drop the coins needed, the fish had to swallow them, and Peter had to go to the right place with the right bait and catch the right fish. Wow!

Top Takeaway- (2 Corinthians) We are Christ's Ambassadors

We live in one of the greatest times to be alive as a Christian. The world is growing darker by the second. This means the light is easier to see. However, we need to thrive as citizens of His Kingdom before we can thrive as ambassadors. We must do the hard work of unifying in the essentials, giving grace in the non-essentials, and showing love to all so we can move forward together.

Message Notes

Further Resources for Deeper Study