Tuesday in the Thirteenth Week of Ordinary Time

Matthew 17:24-27

Then the Sons Are Free

The Apostle Paul wrote in his second letter to the church at Corinth, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (3:17); to the churches in Galatia, he wrote, “For freedom Christ has set us free” (5:1); and the Apostle Peter warns us in his first letter, “Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God” (2:16).

The main idea of this text before us today seems to be freedom.  When the “temple tax collectors” (not to be confused with the more dreaded variety, which Matthew himself once was) asked Peter if his teacher paid the tax, Peter answered, “Yes.”  I wonder if Peter didn’t think, “Well, of course he does”; after all, this tax went to the support of the temple, which the law required (Exodus 30:11-16).  But Jesus seems to give a different answer.  He asked Peter from whom kings require taxes – their sons or others?  Peter correctly answered, “From others.”  Jesus responded, “Then the sons are free.”

The question naturally comes, “Free from what?”  There are several answers to this question.  In the light of the passages quoted from Peter and Paul above, and given the fact that Jesus was fulfilling the law such that all but the moral law would be set aside (not as a means of salvation but to prove our salvation), we may assume rightly that Jesus was indicating the he himself is the end of the law (Romans 10:4): the temple tax would soon give way to the new temple called his Church.  But I think it also speaks to the freedom which we have as regenerated children of God: “Everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin,” but “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”  And then come those words of triumph: “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:31-36).  And this is the freedom which the man or woman of God seeks: freedom from the written code, because we obey the law of Christ, which is freedom from sin, and freedom to produce the fruits of the Spirit, for against such, there is no law (Gal. 5:23).

Jesus tells Peter to go cast a line in the sea, take the first fish he catches, and get the payment for the tax out of its mouth.  Paying taxes isn’t a moral issue in and of itself; it’s a matter of practicality (we need fireman, police officers, etc.) and, for Christians, of obedience to the law (Romans 13:1-7).  Better yet, we are free to be Christ-like, which makes even paying taxes bearable!

Author: The Reformed Baptist

My name is Stephen Taylor, ordained Baptist minister of eighteen years pastoral experience with a Ph.D. in Historical Theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Better than that, I am married to a godly woman, Karla, who has been very patient with me since 1989. I have two daughters, both of whom I homeschooled for extended periods of time, who became godly young women, and who ran off and married godly young men, all of which is very proper. The oldest daughter has even seen fit to bless me with a grandson and a granddaughter, and my youngest daughter with a grandson, all three of whom are bundles of exceeding joy. As you can see, I am quite blessed. This website is dedicated to helping people grow in the wisdom and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ through the gift of writing that the Lord has given to me. It is specifically about helping His people grow in godliness, the theme you see repeated above. I write devotions with this aim and hope that they might be of some help to God’s people. Full disclosure: I am of a Reformed bent, meaning that my understanding of Scripture is primarily informed by the Reformers and their successors of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However, as a student of church history and theology, I strive to remain true to that teaching handed down once for all unto the saints through every age of the Church. I like to think of myself as a “catholic” Christian, as the Reformers thought of themselves. At any rate, feel free to read, pray, and contact me if you wish, or correct me if need be. As you can see, I tend to follow the church year. Of course, I make no special claims about these devotions. I know very well that others have written better and plumbed the depths of God’s word with greater insight. But if my musings help someone draw closer to the Lord, well then, I have my reward. Blessings to you and may the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ speak to you that word which He knows you especially need to hear. Grace & peace, Stephen Taylor

Leave a Reply