Matt 17:24-27 - The Sons Are Free
Priscilla Van Sutphin
June 28th, 2005

Matt 17:24-27 NKJV        Peter and His Master Pay Their Taxes 
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?"  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 customs or taxes, from their sons or from strangers?"  26 Peter said to Him, "From strangers." Jesus said to him, "Then the sons are free.  27 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."  

The following scripture is where the temple tax was from:  
    Ex 30:15-16 AMP   The rich shall not give more and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel when [you] give this offering to the Lord to make atonement for yourselves.  16 And you shall take the atonement money of the Israelites and use it [exclusively] for the service of the Tent of Meeting, that it may bring the Israelites to remembrance before the Lord, to make atonement for yourselves.

So, this was the tax He was to pay…for atonement.  Christ Himself came to be the atonement for our sins.  So the lesson is from here that when Jesus said,  “From whom do the kings of the earth take customs or taxes, from their sons or from strangers”  He meant that in secular affairs, that the kings extract duty from strangers, but not from their own sons. It would be silly – ridiculous to tax their heirs.
So then Peter says, from strangers, and Jesus says, “Then the sons are free.”  The SONS of the KING ARE FREE from making atonement for their sins, because He came to make atonement.  I’m sure after He died that Peter thought back to this event.
Still, Jesus was concerned with not offending them, so He paid it, but in paying it, He instructs Peter thusly: to go fishing, and from the FIRST fish he catches to reach inside it’s mouth and he would find a coin he could use.

I kept feeling there was more to this than what I’d read and feel that He is demonstrating to Peter a cost for his atonement…in going fishing he received a coin.  In going fishing spiritually, he would also receive what he needed to live on.  He was called to be a fisher of MEN, the Lord had told him.  So in fishing for men, serving His first Love,  He could rely on God’s provision without worry.

Peter when he first came to him, was a hard working fisherman, used to having to DO to get what he needed, and complained in that there was so much paying taxes that seemed unjust etc.  So here , it seems to me that Jesus in a gentle and provocative way is saying , Peter, you won’t have to worry, as I send you out to do something for ME, I will provide for you, and I can do it supernaturally.  You don’t have to worry !  I’ll take care of you, so long as you are obedient to do what I tell you ! 

In the midst of doing what I’ve given you to do, I will provide.  You are a SON, and the SON does not have to slave to work for his meals.  He can sit at the master’s table and receive what he is worthy of.  The Lord promised in scriptures to set a table before us in the presence of our enemies.  He promised that a worker is worthy of his wages. Even if he is not doing what others are doing anymore, and has left his old profession, still God will provide for him all he needs.

It reminds me of the recent angelic visit at Joy’s church where the angel gave the pastor, who hadn’t been paid in two years two Roman coins. I felt at the time that God was showing us He can provide for us in the midst of famine, and He can provide WELL.  He does all things well.

Fish, stand for unbelievers, and out of it’s mouth, God provides what is needed to pay for atonement tax.  Jesus Himself was devoured by the unbelieving Pharisees and Romans in the end…thereby providing atonement for us. He is the coin that paid the atonement tax ! – for the SERVICE of the Temple.  [ In service to GOD ]  

At the same time our Lord was so concerned also for not offending those
who would think ill if they didn’t pay the tax.  He wanted them to know they would fulfill all the law, even though as the Son of GOD, He didn’t have to because it was HIS TEMPLE. He had a right NOT to pay it, yet He did pay it in humility towards those who adhered to the law.  In saying the sons are EXEMPT  He also was declaring that with His atonement - the sons of God who accepted His atonement also exempt from the law of sin and death !

HE paid the price.  And in paying that price WE became the TEMPLES !
He now lives in us.  So no more need to atone once HE paid the price for us.
Implied also is that as we became the temples, there is no more need for the service of that earthly temple tax tradition.  He promised to live in temples not made of stone anymore, instead He lives in US.  We are the Sons of God if we obey Him.  No more need to pay a price when He paid it !  No more punishment – HE paid.

Matthew Henry’s Commentary
Matthew 17:24-27 
Our Lord's payment of tribute 

We have here an account of Christ's paying tribute.
I. Observe how it was demanded, v. 24. Christ was now at Capernaum, his headquarters, where he mostly resided; he did not keep from thence, to decline being called upon for his dues, but rather came thither, to be ready to pay them.
1.The tribute demanded was not any civil payment to the Roman powers, that was strictly exacted by the publicans, but the church-duties, the half shekel, about fifteen pence, which were required from every person or the service of the temple, and the defraying of the expenses of the worship there; it is called a ransom for the soul, Ex 30:12, etc. This was not so strictly exacted now as sometimes it had been, especially not in Galilee.

2.The demand was very modest; the collectors stood in such awe of Christ, because of his mighty works, that they durst not speak to him about it, but applied themselves to Peter, whose house was in Capernaum, and probably in his house Christ lodged; he therefore was fittest to be spoken to as the housekeeper, and they presumed he knew his Master's mind. Their question is, Doth not your master pay tribute? Some think that they sought an occasion against him, designing, if he refused, to represent him as disaffected to the temple-service, and his followers as lawless people, that would pay neither toll, tribute, nor custom, Ezra 4:13. It should rather seem, they asked this with respect, intimating, that if he had any privilege to exempt him from this payment, they would not insist upon it.

Peter presently his word for his Master; "Yes, certainly; my Master pays tribute; it is his principle and practice; you need not fear moving it to him."
   (1.) He was made under the law (Gal 4:4); therefore under this law he was paid for at forty days old (Luke 2:22), and now he paid for himself, as one who, in his state of humiliation, had taken upon him the form of a servant, Phil 2:7-8.
  (2.) He was made sin for us, and was sent forth in the likeness of sinful flesh, Rom 8:3. Now this tax paid to the temple is called an atonement for the soul, Ex 30:15.  Christ, that in every thing he might appear in the likeness of sinners, paid it though he had no sin to atone for.

    Ex 30:15 NKJV   The rich shall not give more and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel, when you give an offering to the LORD, to make atonement for yourselves.
    Ex 30:15-16 AMP   The rich shall not give more and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel when [you] give this offering to the Lord to make atonement for yourselves.  16 And you shall take the atonement money of the Israelites and use it [exclusively] for the service of the Tent of Meeting, that it may bring the Israelites to remembrance before the Lord, to make atonement for yourselves.

  (3.) Thus it became him to fulfill all righteousness, Matt 3:15. He did this to set an example,
        [1.] Of rendering to all their due, tribute to whom tribute is due, Rom 13:7. The kingdom of Christ not being of this world, the favourites and officers of it are so far from having a power granted them, as such, to tax other people's purses, that theirs are made liable to the powers that are.

        [2.] Of contributing to the support of the public worship of God in the places where we are. If we reap spiritual things, it is fit that we should return carnal things. The temple was now made a den of thieves, and the temple-worship a pretense for the opposition which the chief priests gave to Christ and his doctrine; and yet Christ paid this tribute.   Note, Church-duties, legally imposed, are to be paid, notwithstanding church-corruptions. We must take care not to use our liberty as a cloak of covetousness or maliciousness, 1 Peter 2:16.   If Christ pay tribute, who can pretend an exemption?
       II. How it was disputed (v. 25), not with the collectors themselves, lest they should be irritated, but with Peter, that he might be satisfied in the reason why Christ paid tribute, and might not mistake about it. He brought the collectors into the house; but Christ anticipated him, to give him a proof of his omniscience, and that no thought can be withholden from him. The disciples of Christ are never attacked without his knowledge.

    Now, 1. He appeals to the way of the kings of the earth, which is, to take tribute of strangers, of the subjects of their kingdom, or foreigners that deal with them, but not of their own children that are of their families; there is such a community of goods between parents and children, and a joint-interest in what they have, that it would be absurd for the parents to levy taxes upon the children, or demand any thing from them; it is like one hand taxing the other.

3.He applies this to himself; Then are the children free. Christ is the Son of God, and Heir of all things; the temple is his temple (Mal 3:1), his Father's house (John 2:16), in it he is faithful as a Son in his own house (Heb 3:6), and therefore not obliged to pay this tax for the service of the temple. Thus Christ asserts his right, lest his paying this tribute should be misimproved to the weakening of his title as the Son of God, and the King of Israel, and should have looked like a disowning of it himself. These immunities of the children are to be extended no further than our Lord Jesus himself. God's children are freed by grace and adoption from the slavery of sin and Satan, but not from their subjection to civil magistrates in civil things; here the law of Christ is express; Let every soul ( sanctified souls not excepted )  be subject to the higher powers. Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's.

III. How it was paid, notwithstanding, v. 27.
1.For what reason Christ waived his privilege, and paid this tribute, though he was entitled to an exemption - Lest we should offend them. Few knew, as Peter did, that he was the Son of God; and it would have been a diminution to the honour of that great truth, which was yet a secret, to advance it now, to serve such a purpose as this. Therefore Christ drops that argument, and considers, that if he should refuse this payment, it would increase people's prejudice against him and his doctrine, and alienate their affections from him, and therefore he resolves to pay it. 
Note, Christian prudence and humility teach us, in many cases, to recede from our right, rather than give offence by insisting upon it. We must never decline our duty for fear of giving offence (Christ's preaching and miracles offended them, yet he went on with him, Matt 15:12-13, better offend men than God); but we must sometimes deny ourselves in that which is our secular interest, rather than give offence; as Paul, 1 Cor 8:13; Rom 14:13.

2. What course he took for the payment of this tax; he furnished himself with money for it out of the mouth of a fish (v. 27), wherein appears,
(1.)The poverty of Christ; he had not fifteen pence at command to pay his tax with, though he cured so many that were diseased; it seems, he did all gratis; for our sakes he became poor, 2 Cor 8:9. In his ordinary expenses, he lived upon alms (Luke 8:3), and in extraordinary ones, he lived upon miracles. He did not order Judas to pay this out of the bag which he carried; that was for subsistence, and he would not order that for his particular use, which was intended for the benefit of the community.

(2.)The power of Christ, in fetching money out of a fish's mouth for this purpose. Whether his omnipotence put it there, or his omniscience knew that it was there, it comes all to one; it was an evidence of his divinity, and that he is Lord of hosts. Those creatures that are most remote from man are at the command of Christ, even the fishes of the sea are under his feet (Ps 8:5); and to evidence his dominion in this lower world, and to accommodate himself to his present state of humiliation, he chose to take it out of a fish's mouth, when he could have taken it out of an angel's hand. Now observe,

        [1.] Peter must catch the fish by angling. Even in miracles he would use means to encourage industry and endeavour. Peter has something to do, and it is in the way of his own calling too; to teach us diligence in the employment we are called to, and called in. Do we expect that Christ should give to us? Let us be ready to work for him.

[2.] The fish came up, with money in the mouth of it, which represents to us the reward of obedience in obedience. What work we do at Christ's command brings its own pay along with it: In keeping God's commands, as well as after keeping them, there is great reward, Ps 19:11. Peter was made a fisher of men, and those that he caught thus, came up; where the heart is opened to entertain Christ's word, the hand is open to encourage his ministers.

[3.] The piece of money was just enough to pay the tax for Christ and Peter. Thou shalt find a stater, the value of a Jewish shekel, which would pay the poll-tax for two, for it was half a shekel, Ex 30:13. Christ could as easily have commanded a bag of money as a piece of money; but he would teach us not to covet superfluities, but, having enough for our present occasions, therewith to be content, and not to distrust God, though we live but from hand to mouth. 

Christ made the fish his cash-keeper; and why may not we make God's providence our storehouse and treasury? If we have a competency for today, let to-morrow take thought for the things of itself. Christ paid for himself and Peter, because it is probable that here he only was assessed, and of him it was at this time demanded; perhaps the rest had paid already, or were to pay elsewhere. The papists make a great mystery of Christ's paying for Peter, as if this made him the head and representative of the whole church; whereas the payment of tribute for him was rather a sign of subjection than of superiority. His pretended successors pay no tribute, but exact it. 

Peter fished for this money, and therefore part of it went for his use. Those that are workers together with Christ in winning souls shall shine with him. Give it for thee and me. What Christ paid for himself was looked upon as a debt; what he paid for Peter was a courtesy to him. Note, it is a desirable thing, if God so please, to have wherewithal of this world's goods, not only to be just, but to be kind; not only to be charitable to the poor, but obliging to our friends. What is a great estate good for, but that it enables a man to do so much the more good?
Lastly, Observe, The evangelist records here the orders Christ gave to Peter, the warrant; the effect is not particularly mentioned, but taken for granted, and justly; for, with Christ, saying and doing are the same thing.