Thursday, December 31, 2020

Matthew 17 - Part 4


Read Matthew 17

Every fisherman has a story or two or two hundred.  Most involve one that got away.  Some stories are verified by the fish mounted and displayed for posterity.

My favorite fish story goes like this.  You can tune a piano but you can’t tuna fish. 

Peter had one to top them all, well, maybe except for Jonah. 

Someone came around to collect the temple tax and asked Peter if his Master paid the temple tax.  Of course he does, at least that’s what Peter thought.  Why wouldn’t he?

When Peter came to Jesus, Jesus already knew what had transpired in conversation so he asked Peter:  Do the kings of the earth tax their own children?

Of course not.  So why would you expect Jesus—the Son of God—to pay tax to a human authority?  The question goes unstated here but hold on a few more chapters.

Jesus does not desire to confront the poor guy in charge of collecting the temple tax.  This was likely a minimum wage employee unlike the general tax collectors who could profit significantly from their trade.  Jesus noted there was no reason to raise a stink here.

Jesus told Peter to go throw his line in the lake and to look in the mouth of the first fish that he caught.  There would be a 4 Drachma coin, just enough for Peter and his Master’s temple tax.

Evidently, even the fishermen who usually cast nets could also throw in a line.  We don’t get the story of the actual catch but can be certain that Peter caught his fish and paid the tax with the coin. 

It’s an interesting story.  It’s a fun story.  If you are about to miss a car payment, it might be the perfect excuse to go fishing.  You never know.

It’s a story of expectations.  Peter’s human expectations were that his Master would surely pay the tax even though he had recently professed him as the Christ, the Son of the living God.  If you truly believe that then you have no expectation that Jesus would pay any tax.

Jesus would pay a price for our sin but he was tax-exempt.  Peter couldn’t wrap his head around the fact that this person called Jesus was God in the flesh.  He was God with us. 

Peter was still governed by human expectations.

Despite the thought that ruled him, he was obedient.  Jesus told him to go fishing and to take the coin that was in the mouth of the first fish he caught and pay the tax so as not to cause offense that would distract from his mission in this world. 

His time had not yet come and declaring himself exempt as the Son of God might accelerate things faster than his Father planned. 

But Peter was obedient and the fisherman ended up with perhaps the second-best fish story of all time.

What do we do with this short account?  What’s our take home?

Some of you were content with you can tune a piano but you can’t tuna fish.

When the commanding officer of a Naval or a Marine unit comes aboard a ship, the duty officer rings them aboard.  The ship’s bell is sounded and the officer announced by his command.

Many times in the course of a six-month deployment that turned into seven months, I heard the captain of the ship announced.

Saipan, departing.

Saipan, arriving.

Sometimes, our colonel would be announced.

BLT 1/6, arriving.

One evening after making a port call somewhere in the Mediterranean, several officers returned to the ship.  The duty officer recognized us as company commanders and rang the bell for each of us.

H&S, arriving

Alpha Company, arriving

Weapons Company, arriving.

There were no extra perks, but being announced was something special. 

I wonder if it would have made a difference in the perceptions and expectations of the disciples, if they would have rung their Master aboard.

Son of God, arriving.

Messiah, departing.

Christ, Son of the living God, departing.

Would they have questioned him less if they thought about just who it was that said he would suffer and die and then be raised from the dead on the third day?

Would they have set their sights on the things of God and not the things of man if every time Jesus entered where they were someone would have rung a bell and announced, King of Kings?

What would it take for us to give up our own expectations and receive the expectations of God?

I’m thinking, I Am, arriving might get my attention.

The disciples knew that Jesus was the Son of God; yet, they sometimes acted as if he was just another Rabbi. 

Sometimes they were too focused on the journey of the day instead of with whom they shared the journey.

Jesus chastised Peter for dwelling on the things of men instead of the things of God and this was right after he professed him as the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

Jesus had told these few men not to tell others many of the things that they had witnessed.  It was not time for the world to know.  His time had not yet come, but just because the disciples were not to share everything that they knew is no reason not to live as people who were in the presence of God himself.

God with us sounds really cool.  It’s cool to be a Christian.  You can get tee shirts that say so.  But it’s overwhelming if you think about God actually with us. 

The Holy Spirit dwelling within us is some good Christian-speak right there.  That’s some more stuff that we put in the cool beans category, but what if we thought about what we said.

The Spirit of the Living God has made his dwelling within us.  God lives in us.

Last week I asked you to consider a simple resolution, to pursue the things of God.  When you think about it, it is a paradigm shift of great magnitude.

Most of the time we look at our life situations and try to see if doing things God’s way might actually be beneficial to us.  That leaves us within the world’s framework.  That puts us in Peter’s mindset.

Of course, my Master pays the temple tax.  That’s what’s expected.

But if my mind was firmly established that I kept company with God himself every day, the thought of God or his children paying such a tax would be absurd.

Instead of trying to figure out how to justify our decisions to the world, the world’s model would have no influence upon us.

Jesus didn’t want to offend the simple tax collector, so we get a good fish story out of this encounter, but our message continues to be—pursue the things of God.

Know with certainty that God is with us and within us and pursue the things of God.


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