Emmanuel’s Grace – Matthew 17:24-27

January 17th, 2016

Matthew 17:24-27

“Emmanuel’s Grace

Auxiliary Text: 1 Peter 2:11-17

Call to Worship from: Psalm 145

Service Orientation: Jesus’ message offends. But, Jesus goes to great lengths to limit offense as much as possible. We as his followers should be challenged to do the same.

 Bible Memory Verse for the Week: Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. (1 Peter 2:12)
Background Information: 
  • (v. 24) And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money—the double drachma; a sum equal to two Attic drachmas, and corresponding to the Jewish “half-shekel,” payable, towards themaintenance of the temple and its services, by every male Jew of twenty years old and upward. For the origin of this annual tax, see Ex 30:13, 14; 2Ch 24:6, 9. Thus, it will be observed, it was not a civil, but an ecclesiastical tax. The tax mentioned in Mt 17:25 was a civil one. The whole teaching of this very remarkable scene depends upon this distinction. (Jamieson, Fausset & Brown Commentary: Matthew, ccel.org)
  • (v. 24) Because there was no two-drachma coin, it was customary for two Jewish men to pay the tax together, using a stater, which was equal to two didrachma. The coin Peter found in the fish’s mouth was the exact amount needed to pay the tax for Jesus and himself.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 89)
  • (v. 24) These collectors of the temple tax are not “tax collectors” as Matthew had been, who had worked for the Roman occupying forces (cf. 9:9); rather, they are representatives of the Jewish religious establishment in Jerusalem overseeing the temple. The high priest was usually in charge of collecting the temple offering. In the Diaspora on the 15th of Adar, local community leaders collected the half-shekel tax by installing in conspicuous community centers containers similar to those found in the temple, shaped like trumpets. In Palestine, representatives of the Jerusalem priesthood went throughout the land collecting the temple tax. (Clinton E. Arnold, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Matthew, Vol 1, 110)
  • (v. 25) From their own sons: i.e. members of the royal family. Jesus claimed exemption in virtue of His sonship, and extended it through Peter to the other disciples. The miracle was not a gratuitous act of divine power, but a demonstration that those who do not insist on their religious rights can experience God’s blessing in His provision. There is no suggestion that Jesus did not have the money available. The ‘St. Peter’s fish’ found in the Lake of Galilee today is quite capable of holding a shekel coin in its mouth. Since there is no ground for disassociating Peter from the other disciples in the matter of temple-tax, it is hard to resist the conclusion that he was the only member of the Twelve over twenty (cf. note on 20: 20). (F.F. Bruce, New International Bible Commentary, 1139)
  • (v. 27) Jesus is greater than the temple, yet He still pays the tax. But why? Not because He is under obligation, but because He is working for others’ salvation.
    Verse 27 records one of the more striking miracles in Jesus’ ministry. He commanded Peter to go to the sea and pull up the first fish he caught, wherein he would find a coin to pay the tax. Consider what had to take place for this miracle to occur: Jesus ordained that somebody would drop a shekel into the water, that a fish would scoop it up in its mouth but not swallow it all the way, that that fish would swim over to the shore at the moment when Peter walked up, and as Peter cast out a hook, that he would catch that fish. All of that happened so that a temple tax could be paid in order not to bring unnecessary offense to people whom God desires to save from sin. Jesus is sovereign over the sea, yet He graciously stoops for our salvation. (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 232)
The question to be answered is… 
Why does the King of Kings, the incarnate God of the Universe, for whom the very temple was built; agree to pay a temple tax for His own house? 
Even though the temple was ultimately His, and Jesus was the Living Temple of God, Jesus went to great lengths to limit his offense. Jesus graciously submitted to paying the tax in order to fulfill his mission on earth at the appointed time.  
The Word for the Day is… Offend
What encouragement can we find from this text that can help us better understand Emmanuel’s Grace
A. We can find encouragement in the fact that Emmanuel is omniscient. (v.25) (Mat. 11:27; 22:18; 12:25; Luke 6:8; John 1:48; 13:11; 16:30; 21:17; Rev. 2:23)
Peter was accosted on the street, most likely while he was on his way to Jesus’ home in Capernaum. When he comes to the house and before he is able to say a word, Jesus speaks to him and reveals that he knows all about the conversation with the tax collectors. To deny that this indicates supernatural knowledge is unwarranted. The claim that, if such knowledge were implied, the fact should have been stated is met by the verb, Jesus “spoke first.” This power Jesus exercised, not absolutely or always, but, like all his other powers, when and to the degree that his work required. (R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel, 673-4)
There is something unspeakably solemn in the thought that the Lord Jesus knows all things. There is an eye that sees all our daily conduct; there is an ear that hears all our daily words. All things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do. Concealment is impossible; hypocrisy is useless. We may deceive ministers; we may impose upon our relations and neighbors: but the Lord sees us through and through. We cannot deceive Christ. (J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Matthewhttp://www.ccel.org/ccel/ryle/matthew.xvii.iii.html)
B. We can find encouragement in the fact that because of Emmanuel’s grace, we too can be a part of Christ’s royal family. (v.26) (Rom. 8:14; 1 Pet. 2:9; Eph. 2:9; 3:6; Phil 3:20; Col. 1:2; Heb. 2:11; Rev. 1:6)
Just as kings pay no taxes and collect none from their family, Jesus, theKing, owed no temple tax because he and his “children” belonged to another “kingdom.” But Jesus supplied the tax payment for both himself and Peter rather than offend those who didn’t understand his kingship. The word for “give offense” is skandalizo, meaning “cause to stumble.” Jesus said that he and his followers did not have to pay taxes but should submit to it for the sake of those who did not believe. Jesus taught his disciples that at times it would be important to submit for the sake of their witness. (See also Romans 13:1-7; 1 Timothy 2:1-3; Titus 3:1-3, 8; 1 Peter 2:13-17.) (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 350)
C.  We can find encouragement in the fact that our omnipotent king can provide for our every need. (v.27) (Gen. 22:8; 2 Sam. 22:36-38; Job 5:10; 36:31; Ps. 18:36; 111:5; Is. 43:20; Phil. 4:19; 1 Tim. 6:17)
By providing for the payment of the tax in this way, Jesus took a course of action which made the payment inconsequential rather that a rite of allegiance on His part to religious cultism. Only as we see the miracles in this manner is it free from the offense of Jesus’ using His power for selfish advantage. Again, a greater than the temple is here, the One who is Lord over his house. (Myron S. Augsburger, The Communicator’s Commentary: Matthew, 213-214)
We see here a literal fulfillment of the Psalmist’s words: “Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: the fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas” (Psalm 8:6–8). (J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Matthew, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/ryle/matthew.xvii.iii.html)
Although Jesus supplied the tax money, Peter had to go and get it. Ultimately all that we have comes to us from God’s supply, but he may want us to be active in the process. God sovereignly controls and answers the needs of his children. (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 350)
The miracle, at first sight, appears to be for a very trivial end. Men have made merry with it by reason of that very triviality. But the miracle is vindicated, peculiar as it is, by a deep divine congruity and decorum. He will submit, Son though He be, to this complete identification of Himself with us. But He will so submit as, even in submitting, to assert His divine dignity. As has been well said, ‘In the midst of the act of submission majesty flashes forth.’ A multiform miracle-containing many miracles in one—a miracle of omniscience, and a miracle of influence over the lower creatures is wrought. The first fish that rises carries in its mouth the exact sum needed. (Alexander Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture: St. Matthew, Ch IX-XXVIII, 382)
CONCLUSION: How now shall we live in light of this text?
I. Jesus avoided needless offense, we should too. (Pro. 17:9; 19:11; Ecc. 10:4; Mat. 23:12; Eph. 4:2)
Jesus was careful to avoid needless offense. The people of Capernaum did not understand that he was the Son of God. Had he refused to pay that simple tax he would have been regarded as irreligious and profane. With a kingly condescension he waived his royal rights. Yet those who knew him to be the Son of God needed to know that he was abating no claim. Peter needed to know on what ground Jesus would pay the tax; and the followers of Jesus today need to be reminded, not only of the divine claims of Christ, but of his example as he warns them not always to insist upon their rights, but with princely generosity to yield their rights when otherwise they might be misunderstood and might cause needless offense. (Charles R. Erdman, The Gospel of Matthew, 164)
a. The gospel is offensive without your help. And you have no right to add fuel to the fire. (Lev. 19:18; Rom. 12:18; 1 Cor. 1:18, 23; Ja. 1:26; 3:5,8; 1 Pet. 3:10)
As a preacher, it’s my responsibility to offend people with the gospel. That’s one reason we work so hard not to offend them in the parking lot, the hallway, at check-in, or in the early portions of our service. We want people to come back the following week for another round of offending! (Andy Stanley, Deep and Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend, 222)
Regardless of how unjust a tax is assessed or how blasphemously or irresponsibly it is spent, it is to be paid. If the Son of God claimed no exemption for Himself in paying taxes to the “den of thieves” run by the wicked, false teachers and leaders of Israel, how much less can His followers claim exemption for themselves? And if He was concerned about not giving offense to unbelievers over that issue, how much more should His followers have such concern?  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 88)
b. Being unduly offensive can put a stumbling block on the path between others and the gospel message. (Ecc. 10:4; Mat. 18:6; Rom. 14:13, 15, 20; 1 Cor. 8:9; 10:32; 2 Cor. 6:3)
II. Jesus graciously submitted to authorities, we should too. (Rom. 13; Col. 1:6; Tit. 3:1)
If there was any tax that Jesus was not obligated to pay it would have been the Temple tax. He was the One whom the Temple was built to honor and to whom its sacrifices and offerings were made. He was Lord of all the earth but supremely Lord of the Temple. Jesus called the Temple His “Father’s house” (Luke 2:49; John 2:16) and declared Himself to be greater than the Temple (Matt. 12:6). He had every right to refuse paying the Temple tax, just as He had every right to refuse being humiliated and persecuted. But when He willingly emptied Himself of His divine glory, “taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:7), He also willingly relinquished the rights and prerogatives belonging to that glory.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 88)
Our Lord’s example in this case deserves the attention of all who profess and call themselves Christians. There is deep wisdom in those five words, “lest we should offend them.” They teach us plainly that there are matters inwhich Christ’s people ought to sink their own opinions and submit to requirements which they may not thoroughly approve, rather than give offence and “hinder the gospel of Christ” God’s rights, undoubtedly we ought never to give up: but we may sometimes safely give up our own. It may sound very fine and seem very heroic to be always standing out tenaciously for our rights! But it may well be doubted, with such a passage as this, whether such tenacity is always wise, and shows the mind of Christ. There are occasions when it shows more grace in a Christian to submit than to resist. (J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Matthew, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/ryle/matthew.xvii.iii.html)
Worship Point: 
When we live such good lives among the pagans that they see our good deeds and praise our God… that’s worship! (Phil. 2:15; 1 Pet. 2:12; 1 John 3:18)
Gospel Application: 
Because of Emmanuel’s grace, when we put our faith in Him, we become co-heirs of His kingdom. Christ paid the final price on the cross to cover our sin and secure our eternal place in the royal family. (Rom. 8:16, 17; 9:8, 26; Tit. 3:7)
Spiritual Challenge: 
Examine yourself to see that you aren’t needlessly offensive to those around you so that the gospel can speak for itself.




Quotes To Note:
As God’s people, we are foreigners on earth because our loyalty is always to our real King—Jesus. Still, we have to cooperate with the authorities and be responsible citizens. An ambassador to another country keeps the local laws in order to represent well the one who sent him. We are Christ’s ambassadors (2 Corinthians world? Are you being a good foreign ambassador for him to this world? (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 350)
The respect Jesus showed to the temple and public worship clearly indicates that He was concerned about being a proper example to others. He was not an iconoclast, bent on violating religious beliefs and practices. When such were in violation of the truth, He clearly said so. But in this case, the Savior’s concern was not to cause others to stumble. (Edward Hindson and James Borland, The Gospel of Matthew: The King is Coming, 164)
In life, there may sometimes be exemptions we could claim; there may be things we could quite safely allow ourselves to do. But we must claim nothing and allow ourselves nothing which might possibly be a bad example to someone else. (William Barclay, The New Daily Bible Study Series: The Gospel of Matthew, Vol 2, 198)
By being a good citizen the believer shows love for his fellow men, even those who are lost and unjust. By being a good citizen he shows respect for God-ordained human government, even when its leaders are ungodly, corrupt, and oppressive. By being a good citizen he shows that he loves God as well as his country and his fellow citizens. In the light of such testimony the onlooking world is compelled to consider the power that makes such love possible.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 91)
Two important implications
1) We have a preview here of the effect of Jesus’ forthcoming atoning work on the cross. The temple ritual and sacrificial system are to be fulfilled by Jesus’ own sacrifice, setting his disciples free from sin’s bondage. The recognition of what Jesus will accomplish on the cross brings us to understand deeply the applicability of his sacrificial death, for which he has paid the price for our sins. Jesus will pay the ransom for our sin with his own life (20:28)
2) We see in this incident that the freedom brought by Jesus’ sacrifice now gives us the ability to do the right thing for others. As Jesus directs Peter to pay the temple tax so that it will not cause others to stumble into sin, he indicates that true freedom is not serving ourselves but in serving others. By paying the temple tax, even though he was free from their obligation to do so, Pater discovers he has another form of dedication – the ability to go beyond himself to serve others. (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 607)
The apparent miracle recorded in this verse has come under critical attack. Some assert that it is an ‘interpretive fable’, and that there is no evidence that Peter actually caught the fish. Another suggestion is that Jesus intended Peter to sell the fish and pay the tax with the proceeds. It is often advanced in justification of reluctance to accept the miracle, that it is the only miracle Jesus performed for His own benefit. But to those who accept the full deity of Christ, this miracle of His omniscience presents no obstacle. (J. Oswald Sanders, Bible Studies in Matthew’s Gospel, 97)
So far we’ve seen the divine glory of the Son, the patient power of the Son, the willing sacrifice of the Son, and the certain victory of the Son. Finally, we behold the humble authority of the Son. This story sets the stage for Matthew 18, where humility is a major theme. Interestingly, Matthew is the only Gospel writer who tells us this story, and it seems fitting given his former profession—a tax collector. Unlike most of the mentions of taxes and tax collectors elsewhere in the Gospels, the temple tax described in verse 24 was not a tax collected by the Roman government. Instead, the temple tax was collected by Jewish leaders for the service of the temple in Jerusalem. Based loosely on Exodus 30:11-16, the people of God were expected to help provide for the place that housed the glory of God. However, we’ve already seen Jesus claim to be greater than the temple (Matt 12:6). He was the literal dwelling place of God, and we know that He had come to usher in an altogether new and glorious way of access to God, namely, through Himself. (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 231)

Additional Quotes To Note (For Website):
What thinkest thou, Simon? In this Christ gave a proof of his Divinity, by showing that nothing was unknown to him. But what is the object of his discourse? Is it to exempt himself and his followers from subjection to the laws? Some explain it thus, that Christians have a right to be exempted, but that they voluntarily subject themselves to the ordinary government, because otherwise human society cannot be maintained. To me, however, the meaning appears to be more simple; for there was danger lest the disciples might think that Christ had come in vain, because, by paying tribute cut off the hope of deliverance; and therefore he simply affirms that he pays tribute, solely because he voluntarily refrains from exercising his right and power. Hence it is inferred that this takes nothing from his reign. But why does he not openly claim his right? It is because his kingly power was unknown to the collectors of the tribute. For, though his kingdom be spiritual, still we must maintain, that as he is the only Son of God, he is also the heir of the whole world, so that all things ought to be subject to him, and to acknowledge his authority. The meaning, therefore, is, that God has not appointed kings, and established governments over mankind, in such a manner as to place him who is the Son in the same rank indiscriminately with others, but yet that, of his own accord, he will be a servant along with others, till the glory of his kingdom be displayed. (John Calvin, Commentary on Matthew, ccel.org)
27. Throw a hook. Though I acknowledge that Christ had not always full coffers, yet I think that he was not compelled by poverty to give this order to Peter, but that he did so in order to prove by a miracle, that he had a more extensive dominion than all earthly kings, since he had even fishes for his tributaries. And we do not read that this was done more than once, because one proof was enough for his whole life. Thou wilt find a stater. A stater was of the same value as a shekel, namely, four drachms or two didrachma. (John Calvin, Commentary on Matthew, ccel.org)
Before Peter could talk to Jesus about it, Jesus anticipated the question and asked him, “What thinketh thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers?” (Mt 17:25). Peter replied that taxes were collected of strangers not of children.
     Jesus, having made His point that Jesus and His disciples should not have to pay tax, nevertheless, instructed Peter to cast a hook into the sea, pick up the first fish that came, and open its mouth. He would find a piece of money which he could take to pay the tribute tax (v. 27). Although many have tried to explain away this incident because Matthew does not go on to complete the story, it seems clear that Peter caught the fish with the money in its mouth and paid the tax. According to Mark 12:13-17, the Pharisees were especially desirous to catch Jesus in breaking the law of the tribute. Jesus, at this point as He was facing Jerusalem, did not want to make a small issue important. (John F. Walvoord, Matthew, Thy Kingdom Come: A Commentary on the First Gospel, 133)
Jesus had every right to boycott the temple tax, but he chose instead to pay it. Everywhere Christians live, imperfect laws require us to choose when to go along, when to resist. Jesus made it clear that we must choose our battles, that there is a time to “go along.” But when is compromise acceptable, and when is it contemptible?
Jesus never compromised when the truth of God was at stake, including the truth about his own mission. However, civil or religious procedures that have not caught up to his truth, but that do not challenge or undermine it, are not worth the image of stubbornness that resisting them would provoke. (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 350)
So, on the basis of Exodus 30: 13, it was laid down that every male Jew over twenty years of age must pay an annual Temple tax of one half-shekel. In the days of Nehemiah, when the people were poor, it was one-third of a shekel. One half-shekel was equal to two Greek drachmae; and the tax was commonly called the didrachm, as it is called in this passage. The value of the tax was about 8p; and that sum must be evaluated in the light of the fact that a working man’s wage in Palestine in the time of Jesus was only 3 1/2p. The tax was in fact the equivalent of two days’ pay. (William Barclay, Daily Bible Study Series: The Gospel of Matthew, Vol 2, 168)
The Christian who exempts himself from the duties of good citizenship is not only failing in citizenship, he is also failing in Christianity. (William Barclay, Daily Bible Study Series: The Gospel of Matthew, Vol 2, 171)
In its setting this historical incident becomes virtually a parable of the disciple’s relationship to other communities that claim his allegiance. Exod. 30: 11-16 tells of a special half-shekel census tax given to the Tabernacle. After the exile a voluntary cultic tax of a third of a shekel was adopted (Neh. 10: 32 f.). Before the time of Jesus this had been changed to a compulsory half-shekel tax payable annually by every free male of twenty and over, whether he lived in Palestine or the diaspora. Refusal to pay would have been regarded as an act of apostasy. After the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70 the tax had to be paid to the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus in Rome as a punishment for the rebellion. (F.F. Bruce, New International Bible Commentary, 1139)
Peter evidently began to feel a little uneasy in his own mind; and as soon as he came into the presence of his Lord he sought to vindicate himself; but Jesus anticipated him with a definite rebuke, as he claimed exemption from the tax. It was a royal claim and was embodied in a brief parable: “What thinkest thou, Simon? the kings of the earth, from whom do they receive toll or tribute? from their sons, or from strangers? And when he said, From strangers, Jesus said unto him, Therefore the sons are free.” The meaning is perfectly plain: Jesus claimed to be the divine Son of God, and as the Son of God he declared that he need pay no tribute to support the worship of God. What a claim! Was it not blasphemy unless it was true? (Charles R. Erdman, The Gospel of Matthew, 163)
The unique feature in the story is the relation of Jesus to the temple. As Lord of the temple, He did not need to pay the temple tax. But as Lord of life, He paid it as an example to others (as in the case of His baptism). But even then, God miraculously provided the coin, demonstrating Christ’s superiority over the whole matter. (Edward Hindson and James Borland, The Gospel of Matthew: The King is Coming, 164)
Even the Essenes at Qumran, who had separated from Jerusalem in protest against the temple and its priesthood, paid the half-shekel tax. (Robert H. Mounce, New International Bible Commentary: Matthew, 171)
This tax for the Jerusalem temple was due in the month Adar (our March) and it was now nearly six months overdue. But Jesus and the Twelve had been out of Galilee most of this time. Hence the question of the tax-collectors. (Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol 1, 142)
Jesus “anticipated” Peter when they came into the house, possibly Matthew’s house, and took this as an occasion to teach the primacy of the kingdom. This is the key element of the passage, that the new community, the new Israel which Jesus was creating, was free in the world, answering to its own king. The relationship with the Messiah superseded the relationship to the temple, and God, as Sovereign King, Lord over the temple, does not exact payment from His Son or the sons of the Kingdom (vv. 25-26). Nevertheless, Jesus did not precipitate a crisis by effecting a break with the temple at this point, and agreed to pay the tax. This break took on a different character with the cleansing of the temple. (Myron S. Augsburger, The Communicator’s Commentary: Matthew, 213)
v.25 Peter answered a question without really knowing the answer, putting Jesus and the disciples in an awkward position. Jesus used this situation, however, to emphasize his kingly role. Jesus’ question generalized the issue from the Jewish tax to all taxes. The words “toll” and “tribute” refer to the indirect local tax collected at customs houses by the publicans and to the poll tax or census tax on each family, collected by imperial officers and put directly into the imperial treasury. The kings of the earth collected such taxes from others, but never from their children. The royal family and inner circle of the imperial court were exempt. Thus, it was correct when Peter said, “From others.” NRSV Likewise, Jesus said to him, “Then the children are free.” NRSV Children of the king do not need to pay taxes. If the tax is the temple tax, then it belongs to God, and as a royal child of the king, there would be no need for Jesus to pay tax to his Father. By these words, Jesus once again establishes his identity as the Son of God.
    Some Christians have used this verse as a license for not paying taxes because they are the children of the king and therefore free from such obligations. But Jesus was applying the metaphor to himself, as is evident by the context. So this passage says nothing one way or the other about our obligation to the government. (See Romans 13:1-7 for further details on this issue.) (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 349)
Theoretically, the tax was obligatory and the Temple authorities had the power to seize the goods of anyone who failed to pay.  (William Barclay, The New Daily Bible Study Series: The Gospel of Matthew, Vol 2, 196-7)
The method of collection was carefully organized. On the 1st of the month Adar, which is March of our year, announcement was made in all the towns and villages of Palestine that the time to pay the tax had come. On 15th Adar, booths were set up in each town and village, and at the booths the tax was paid. If the tax was not paid by 25th Adar, it could only be paid directly to the Temple in Jerusalem. (William Barclay, The New Daily Bible Study Series: The Gospel of Matthew, Vol 2, 197)
There is little doubt that the question was asked with malicious intent and that the hope was that Jesus would refuse to pay; for, if he refused, the orthodox would have grounds for making an accusation against him. (William Barclay, The New Daily Bible Study Series: The Gospel of Matthew, Vol 2, 197)
Individualism is the reverse of Christianity. (William Barclay, The New Daily Bible Study Series: The Gospel of Matthew, Vol 2, 203)
Following these incidents, they came to Capernaum for what would be the last visit there before He went to Jerusalem to die. The tax collectors, who were collecting the temple tax, approached Peter because neither he nor Jesus had paid the tax. Matthew alone records this incident. The custom was based on the law which required every Israelite, above twenty years of age, to pay a half shekel in the support of the temple (cf. Ex 30:13-14; 2 Ki 12:4; 2 Ch 24:6; Neh 10:32). It was normal to have this tax collected just before the Passover. Peter had assured the tax collector that his Master would pay the tribute. (John F. Walvoord, Matthew, Thy Kingdom Come: A Commentary on the First Gospel, 133)
The annual tax which the Jews paid into the Temple was a, half-shekel (worth about thirty-three cents). The essential point of the story is not the miracle but the remark of Jesus. He would have the right; inasmuch as he was the Son of God, to be exempt from the tax; and he extended this right to his disciples, for they also had access, through him, to the freedom of the sons of God. If Jesus pays the tax it is by condescension, in order not to scandalize those who have not yet understood the mystery of his coming, for he is free in regard to the Law.  The miracle winch follows indicates that God himself provides for all his needs. (Suzanne de Dietrich, The Layman’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, 98)
All adult male Jews were required to pay a Temple tax of a half shekel, to help meet the tremendous cost of the maintenance and ritual of the Temple (see Exod. 30:11-16). The half shekel was the equivalent of two Greek drachmas in our Lord’s time, and the tax was known as the ‘didrachma tax’. Because the didrachma was not a current coin, two men often united to pay the full shekel. It should be borne in mind that this was an ecclesiastical, not a civil, tax. The tax to which Jesus referred in v. 25 was civil, and the teaching of the passage depends on this distinction. (J. Oswald Sanders, Bible Studies in Matthew’s Gospel, 97)
     The question of the tax-collector was doubtless malicious, and asked in the hope that Jesus would refuse to pay. Peter affirmed that his Master did pay the tax. Jesus was apparently Peter’s guest, and when he returned home, Jesus sensed his embarrassment and anticipated his enquiry.
     By the popular analogy of the Roman government levying tribute on aliens, and not on its own citizens, Jesus showed that He and His disciples were under no theological necessity to pay the Temple tax. It was His Father’s house, and a father does not tax members of his family. However, lest such an action should prove a cause of stumbling, Jesus waived His claim to exemption. We too should not claim every right or possible exemption, lest we be a bad testimony in the community. (J. Oswald Sanders, Bible Studies in Matthew’s Gospel, 97)
In His teaching related to the temple tax, Jesus reminds us that although our reward is still in the future, we have responsibilities in the here and now. Therefore, let’s live as responsible citizens of this kingdom for the eventual coming of His kingdom. We must be mindful of the salvation of others and our witness in the world. We pay our taxes, not because we agree with everything our government supports, but because we are under law (Rom 13:5), and we want to live as responsible citizens in this earthly kingdom for the spread of Christ’s heavenly kingdom. (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 233-4)
If Jesus and his disciples refused to pay the Temple tax, the people, unable to understand the true reason, would conclude falsely that Jesus and the disciples despised the Temple and its worship and would thus reject them and their gospel message. The refusal to pay this tax would be equal to baiting the crooked stick in a trap by which it is sprung; simple-minded people would bite at that bait and be hopelessly caught in the trap set for them. (R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel, 675-6)
Freedom means the ability not to demand our rights, but to do the right thing. (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 607)
A Christian is the most free lord of all, and subject to none; a Christian man is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to every one. (Martin Luther, Concerning Christian Liberty, trans. R.S. Gringnon, 36:353)
We must remember that this was a Jewish tax, not a Roman one, and that it was a tax with Scriptural warrant. The half-shekel that was paid was regarded as given to God.
So the tax collectors accosted Peter. There can be little doubt that the question was asked in a hostile manner and with malicious intent. The revenue officers could easily have asked Jesus directly since He was back in town and available. Doubtless they were hoping that Jesus would refuse to pay the tax or that Peter would make an incriminating statement. Peter, however, knew that the Lord kept the Mosaic law in letter and in spirit. Never had he known Him to do anything else. So he answered with a brief yes and walked away. (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 361)
When the Tabernacle was first built in the wilderness, God provided for its maintenance and operation through the yearly assessment of every male twenty years old and over for a half shekel. “The rich shall not pay more, and the poor shall not pay less than the half shekel, when you give the contribution to the Lord to make atonement for yourselves.” The money was to be used “for the service of the tent of meeting, that it may be a memorial for the sons of Israel before the Lord” (Ex. 30:11-16). When the Temple replaced the Tabernacle, the same assessment continued, although it was temporarily reduced to a third of a shekel by Nehemiah because the former exiles in Babylon were so poor when they returned to Judah (Neh. 10:32). (John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 86)
Two-drachma tax translates the single Greek word didrachma, which means simply “two drachmas,” or “double drachma.” Although there was no two-drachma coin in circulation, the term didrachma was commonly used in reference to the Jewish Temple tax because two drachmas were equivalent to the required half shekel which amounted to about two days’ wages for the average worker. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 86)
The ancient Jewish historian josephus reported that, after Titus destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple in a.d. 70, the emperor Vespasian decreed that Jews throughout the Roman Empire would continue to be assessed the two-drachma tax in order to maintain the pagan temple of Jupiter Capitolinus. The tax was imposed as a calculated, vindictive reminder both to Jews and to the rest of the world of the high cost of opposing Rome.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 87)
The phrasing of the question suggests that the collectors, perhaps under instruction from Jewish leaders in Jerusalem, intended to challenge Jesus on the issue of paying the tax. Because He claimed to be the Messiah, they reasoned, He might consider Himself exempt. If He did, that would be yet another charge they could make against Him.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 87)
His question was rhetorical, and the answer was obvious. It would not make sense for a father to collect money from his sons who were dependent on him. To assess them would be to assess himself. In this context strangers is a general term referring to those outside the king’s family, specifically his subjects.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 88)
The general principle derived from this account is clear. A believer is obligated to fulfill his duties as a citizen of this world. Although his ultimate and eternal citizenship is in heaven and the governments of men are all in varying degrees of corruption, while he remains on earth he is also under obligation to human government. Except when it would cause him to disobey God directly, he is bound by divine law to be subject to human law.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 89)
Believers are to submit themselves “for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right” (1 Pet. 2:13- 14). The key to the command is that it is obeyed “for the Lord’s sake.” It is not that every human law and ruler is godly and just. Most of them are not and make no claim to be. But the institution and operation of government are ordained by God for social order, and as a testimony to Him, human government is to be respected and obeyed by His people even when it is unjust.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 90)
The early church did not start an insurrection against Rome or a campaign against slavery, wicked and cruel as both those were. In fact, the Holy Spirit took the words of slavery (slave, bond-slave, bondage, servant, etc.) and made them the symbols of Christian dedication and submission. In His omniscient providence God also used the pagan Romans to spread the Greek language, a universal language used to record His Word and carry it to the ends of the known world of that day. God used them to build a system of roads over which His messengers could easily travel as they carried the good news throughout the empire. And God used the Pax Romana, or Roman peace, to allow those messengers to travel in relative safety.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 90)
Is it not the rehearsal in parable of His death ? He was free from the bonds of mortality, and He took upon Him our human flesh. He was free from the necessity of death, even after He had taken our flesh upon Him. But, being free from the necessity, He submitted to the actuality, and laid down His life of Himself, because of His loving will, to save and help each of us. (Alexander Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture: St. Matthew, Ch IX-XXVIII, 381)
The Prince is free, but King’s Son though He be, He goes among His Father’s poor subjects, lives their squalid lives, makes experience of their poverty, and hardens His hands by labouring like them. Sympathy He ‘learned in huts where poor men lie.’ (Alexander Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture: St. Matthew, Ch IX-XXVIII, 381)
Oh, dear friends! we never can understand the meaning and the beauty, either of the life of the death of our Master, unless we look at each from this point of view, that it is His willing acceptance of the bonds that bind us. His own loving will brought Him here; His own loving will kept Him here; His own loving will impelled Him along the Path of life, though at every step of it He trod as with naked feet upon burning iron; His own loving will brought Him to the Cross; His own loving will, and not the Roman soldiers’ nails, fastened Him to it. Let us look, then, to Him with thankfulness, and recognise in that death His thorough identification with all the bonds and miseries of our condition. He ‘took part of the same that through death He might deliver them that by fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.’ (Alexander Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture: St. Matthew, Ch IX-XXVIII, 381-2)
Some Christians believe certain words should never be said while others believe they can say them. For example, what would happen if I was with a person who believed we should never say “cabbagehead,” and I used it (in an edifying manner, of course)? I would have defiled that person’s conscience. In other words, I would have offended that person by being a stumbling block. Based on Scripture, we need to be wary of becoming a stumbling block to others (see also Luke 17:1–4). However, some go an extra step and say we should never offend our weaker brother, but Scripture does not command this.
Another way to offend is by getting non-Christians angry not only at us but also at Christianity. For example, imagine driving and unintentionally cutting a non-Christian off in traffic. The person cut off would probably get angry. Furthermore, if the car had a Christian bumper sticker, the person might also get mad at Christianity. As Christians, we need to strive to have the utmost integrity in all areas, including driving (Titus 2:7).
In both cases, the offense was not deliberate, but unfortunately, someone was still offended. Some people use these or similar examples to support the idea that we should be careful to never offend anyone. While we should keep these biblical examples in mind to avoid offending people, God’s Word does not state that we should never offend. (https://answersingenesis.org/bible-questions/christians-should-never-offend-anyone/)
A friend of mine told me that he was offended and his feelings deeply hurt when his doctor gently told him that he had leukemia. Was it unloving of the doctor to announce this offensive news? Not at all! This was the most loving thing the oncologist could have done for my friend so that he would not only recognize what was wrong with him but he could also seek a cure. If the doctor remained silent because he was afraid of offending him, then my friend would have died. In the same way, we must never remain silent for fear of offending the unbeliever when we have an opportunity to share the only truth that can save them from an eternity apart from God. (https://answersingenesis.org/bible-questions/christians-should-never-offend-anyone/)
Although God rarely supplies our needs through coins in the mouths of fish, He often surprises us by using unexpected sources. That way, we are more likely to realize that He is the supplier. He cares about His children, and He loves to provide for them as they trust and obey. (http://www.heavensfamily.org/ss/family_devotions/day_72)
Lexicon :: Strong’s G4624 – skandalizō σκανδαλίζω
Transliteration skandalizō
Pronunciation: skän-dä-lē’-zō (Key)
Root Word (Etymology): From σκάνδαλον (G4625)
Dictionary Aids
Vine’s Expository Dictionary: View Entry
TDNT Reference: 7:339,1036
KJV Translation Count — Total: 30x
The KJV translates Strongs G4624 in the following manner: offend (28x), make to offend (2x).
Outline of Biblical Usage
  • to put a stumbling block or impediment in the way, upon which another may trip and fall, metaph. to offend
  • to entice to sin
  • to cause a person to begin to distrust and desert one whom he ought to trust and obey
  • to cause to fall away
  • to be offended in one, i.e. to see in another what I disapprove of and what hinders me from acknowledging his authority
  • to cause one to judge unfavourably or unjustly of another since one who stumbles or whose foot gets entangled feels annoyed
  • to cause one displeasure at a thing
  • to make indignant
  • to be displeased, indignant
Strong’s Definitions [?](Strong’s Definitions Legend)
σκανδαλίζω skandalízō, skan-dal-id’-zo; from G4625; to entrap, i.e. trip up (figuratively, stumble (transitively) or entice to sin, apostasy or displeasure):—(make to) offend.
Thayer’s Greek Lexicon

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