There was a question from the Tax Collectors and another from the Disciples. Children figured in both answers.
Arriving at Capernaum, tax collectors asked the Disciples if Jesus paid the Temple Tax. This was an attempt to find some minor infraction of Jewish law with which to attack Jesus.
When Peter came into a house to bring the question to Jesus, the Lord answered the question with a question before Peter had chance to speak.
“What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth take customs or taxes, from their sons or from strangers?”
This question contained an inherent claim to a different relationship with the Temple. Jesus called the Temple, “My Father’s House.” He was not just another “son of man”—He was the Son of God!. As such, He owed no taxes—He was the heir!
When Peter correctly answered, “From strangers,” Jesus declared,
“Then the sons are free.”
Like the priests who served in the Temple, Jesus was free from tax obligations. Nevertheless, He instructed His men to go fishing and catch a fish. The tax money was in the fish’s mouth.
Who Is the Greatest?
Men are competitive; there is no secret in this revelation. The Disciples were no exception; they were following Jesus and competing with each other at the same time. Possibly feeling empowered by this new found tax exemption they asked Jesus for a job evaluation. Of the Twelve, three were known to be chosen for talks and field trips apart from the others. But the meaning of this was unclear. Peter was always the first to speak, but he was also prone to misspeak. They wanted to know who the “A” students in the class were so they asked Jesus:
“Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
Jesus called a little child to His side. He sat on a rock and made quick friends with the little one. With unerring discernment, the child responded to the friendship of Jesus with smiles and giggles. Finally, when everyone had taken in the familiar sight of a happy child safe in the arms of a loving adult, Jesus spoke. The child was His answer. The greatest among His followers must be like a child, simple, trusting, innocent.
Childlike, not Childish
Jesus was not promoting immaturity; He was encouraging childlike faith and obedience. An orderly child does not argue with authority. He or she trusts those who know more than a child knows. They offer purity and energy to every task as if it were a game to be played and enjoyed. Far from immature, to live this way before God and men is maturity at its greatest depth. This is no accident of temperament; it is a choice to humble ourselves to a level of childlike trust in Jesus. Observers of Christians through the ages repeatedly speak of truly great servants of God as humble and singular in focus; people who love God and love people.
Perhaps the greatest miracle of redemption through the blood of Christ is that we can recover our innocence. The blood of Jesus covers sins—our sins—and we stand before God as if we had never sinned! The indwelling Holy Spirit regenerates our lives so that we no longer resemble the person we were before. As the great hymn says, the blood of Jesus is “of sin the double cure, saves from wrath and makes me pure.” Amen and Amen.
Matthew 17:14-23; 18:1-5
When they had come to Capernaum, those who received the temple tax came to Peter and said, “Does your Teacher not pay the temple tax?” 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 customs or taxes, from their sons or from strangers?” Peter said to Him, “From strangers.” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. Nevertheless, lest we offend them, go to the sea, cast in a hook, and take the fish that comes up first. And when you have opened its mouth, you will find a piece of money; take that and give it to them for Me and you.”
At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.
Micah 7:19 NKJV
He will again have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins Into the depths of the sea.
Psalm 103:11-12 NKJV
For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
Colossians 2:13-14 NKJV
And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
Lord Jesus, I choose to trust You as would a little child. Your Word is all I need. I can question, but just for the sake of understanding, not to question Your authority or wisdom. I don’t have to understand any more than child must understand things far beyond a child’s capacity to understand. Thank You, Lord, for forgiving my sins and casting them far away. You nailed the indictment against me to Your cross. Before You, my innocence is restored to that of a child. Help me stay that way! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Rock of Ages
Words: Augustus Toplady; Music: Thomas Hastings
1. Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
let me hide myself in thee;
let the water and the blood,
from thy wounded side which flowed,
be of sin the double cure;
save from wrath and make me pure.
2. Not the labors of my hands
can fulfill thy law’s demands;
could my zeal no respite know,
could my tears forever flow,
all for sin could not atone;
thou must save, and thou alone.
3. Nothing in my hand I bring,
simply to the cross I cling;
naked, come to thee for dress;
helpless, look to thee for grace;
foul, I to the fountain fly;
wash me, Savior, or I die.
4. While I draw this fleeting breath,
when mine eyes shall close in death,
when I soar to worlds unknown,
see thee on thy judgment throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
let me hide myself in thee.
© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved
TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.