Matthew 17:24-27: From whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute?
Posted by adventbiblestudy on April 2, 2012
Matthew 17:24-27 MKJV And when they had come to Capernaum, those who received the tribute came to Peter and said, Does your master not pay the tribute? (25) He said, Yes. And when he had come into the house, Jesus anticipated him, saying, What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? From their sons, or from strangers? (26) Peter said to Him, From strangers. Jesus said to him, Then truly the sons are free. (27) But lest we should offend them, go to the sea and cast a hook, and take up the first fish that comes up. And when you have opened its mouth, you shall find a coin; take that, and give it to them for Me and you.
Shortly after midday, Jesus and His disciples traveled the short distance from Peter’s house to Capernaum. It was unusual not to see a crowd gather around Jesus in this region. Months ago thousands came to see Him preach and heal, and many followed Him as He traveled the region of Galilee. It was almost a welcome relief for the disciples. They looked forward to time alone with Him. They wanted to find out more about who was going to betray Him, why they would kill Him, and how He would rise on the third day. Something held them back from asking Jesus for more details.
One of the people who followed Jesus for quite a long time ran up, paid His respects, and invited them into his house for dinner. After he welcomed his guests, Nebat’s wife sent him to the market to purchase a few items. Peter went along for company, and to visit the market place he had grown up near.
While talking to friends in the market, one of the toll collectors came to Peter asking, “Does your master not pay the tribute?” Peter answered with a simple, “yes,” and returned to his previous conversation. The question made him feel a little uneasy. He estimated he would soon forget about the incident.
Returning to the house Peter noticed Jesus’ stare as soon as they walked through the door. Jesus did not want to give Peter an uneasy feeling, but He did want to introduce Peter to another lesson. Jesus quickly asked, “What do you think, Simon?” The question put Peter on the spot. He wondered exactly what Jesus was questioning. As the details of the day raced through his mind, Peter became hopeful Jesus was about to explain the question weighing on his mind all day. Why and how was Jesus going to be betrayed. Instead Jesus added, “From whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? From their sons, or from strangers?” The question caught Peter off guard. He wondered how Jesus had known about the short conversation he had in the market. Without thinking Peter answered, “From strangers.” Everything happened so quickly, Jesus’ answer, “then truly the sons are free,” seemed as strange as the entire circumstance he found himself in. At first Peter thought he understood, but he was unsure. Jesus questioned if the toll was collected from strangers, or the sons. Peter thought to himself, I suppose the toll collectors do not collect from their sons. While he was sorting the conversation out in his head, Jesus added, “But lest we should offend them, go to the sea and cast a hook, and take up the first fish that comes up. And when you have opened its mouth, you shall find a coin; take that, and give it to them for Me and you.” This was getting strange. Now Jesus was telling him to go fishing in the middle of the day, to catch a fish with a coin in its mouth. For a moment Peter thought about questioning the strange request. Before he could Nebat put his hand on his shoulder, his other hand was holding a fishing pole while he said, “let’s go, we have a little time before dinner is ready.”
The entire situation seemed alien to Peter. They came to the shore, cast in the line, and sat in silence. Peter began to reconsider the details of the past hour. How did Jesus know a toll collector met me? What did Jesus mean when He asked, “From whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? From their sons, or from strangers?” Why did Jesus first ask me what I though? Is there something deeper here to consider? Peter prayed as he carefully considered each word. “The kings of the earth.” Why did Jesus use this specific term if He knew I had met a toll collector? Peter began to remember how Jesus taught them how to distinguish between worldly beliefs and Heavenly truth. The earth must indicate a worldly belief or custom. I see now. Everything I do here in earth requires a price. Food, clothing, taxes on land, and travel. Is there anything in this world that is free? I remember when Israel asked for a king. God warned them through Samuel. And Samuel told all the words of the LORD unto the people that asked of him a king. “And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants. And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants. He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants. And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the LORD will not hear you in that day.” (1 Samuel 8:10, 14, 15, 17, 18) Things have gotten much worse than that.
Peter figured out one little part of the parable Jesus had given him, the kings of the earth and their motives. He continued to pray and consider Jesus’ words. What about the word son? What did that have to do the toll collector? There must have been a reason Jesus used that word. What could a son represent? As Peter thought, another text came to mind. Thus says the LORD, “Israel is my son, even my firstborn:” (Exodus 4:22) If Israel represents God’s son, the king’s sons must represent those who follow the customs and ways of this world. That must be it. In the spiritual sense, the earth asks tribute of all those who are strangers, those who truly follow God. The tribute represents the distractions of this world. The sons of the world, are not distracted at all. The way of the world is a way of life to them. They learned to accept its way, and live by worldly traditions. But for the sons of God, distractions can be a heavy toll, a heavy burden to carry. Traditions cost them by compromising their beliefs, their morals, and God’s standards.
A smile came to Peter’s face as understanding reached his heart. He had finally done it. This felt like such an accomplishment to him. He had all but forgotten his reason for coming to the shore when the fish on the end of the line reminded him with a tug. He pulled the fish in and excitedly looked in its mouth. To his surprise he found a coin. It was more than enough to pay the tribute. He unhooked the fish, took the coin, and released the fish in the sea, giving thanks to God for the miracle, and showing him the meaning of Jesus’ parable.
Before heading back to Nebat’s house, they stopped off and deposited the coin in the treasury for the tribute. The toll collector’s eyes grew large as he watched Peter deposit the coin in the chest without asking for change. Peter didn’t say a word. His mind was focused on sharing the treasure he had gained with Jesus.
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