The Gospel of Matthew: a commentary & meditation 
 "Not to give offense"

Scripture: Matthew 17:22-27

22 As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, "The Son of man is to be delivered into the hands of men, 23 and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day." And they were greatly distressed. 24 When they came to Caper'na-um, the collectors of the half-shekel tax went up to Peter and said, "Does not your teacher pay the tax?" 25 He said, "Yes." And when he came home, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, "What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take  toll or tribute? From their sons or from others?" 26 And when he said, "From others," Jesus said to him, "Then the sons are free. 27 However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook, and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel; take that and give it to them for me and for yourself."
Meditation: Who likes to pay taxes, especially when you think they are unreasonable or unjust?  Jesus and his disciples were confronted by tax collectors on the issue of tax evasion.  When questioned about paying the temple tax, Jesus replied to his disciples: We must pay so as not to cause bad example.  In fact, we must go beyond our duty in order that we may show others what they ought to do.  The scriptural expression to give no offense doesn't refer to insult or annoyance; rather it means to put no stumbling block in the way of another that would cause them to trip or fall.  Jesus would not allow himself anything which might possibly be a bad example to some one else.  Do you evade unpleasant responsibilities or obligations?

On three different occasions the Gospels record that Jesus predicted he would endure great suffering through betrayal, rejection, and the punishment of a cruel death.  The Jews resorted to stoning and the Romans to crucifixion– the most painful and humiliating death they could devise for criminals they wanted to eliminate.  No wonder the apostles were greatly distressed at such a prediction! If Jesus their Master were put to death, then they would likely receive the same treatment by their enemies.  Jesus called himself the "Son of Man" because this was a common Jewish title for the Messiah.  Why must the Messiah be rejected and killed?  Did not God promise that his Anointed One would deliver his people from their oppression and establish a kingdom of peace and justice? The prophet Isaiah had foretold that it was God's will that the "Suffering Servant" make atonement for sins through his suffering and death. Jesus paid the price for our redemption with his blood. Slavery to sin is to want the wrong things and to  be in bondage to destructive desires. The ransom Jesus paid sets us free from the worst tyranny possible-- the tyranny of sin and the fear of death. Jesus' victory did not end with death but triumphed over the tomb.  Jesus defeated the powers of death through his resurrection. Do you want the greatest freedom possible, the freedom to live as God truly meant us to live as his sons and daughters?

"Lord Jesus, your death brought life and freedom.  May I always walk in that freedom and be guided by your love and truth that I may be generous towards all and give each their due."


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(c) 2002 Don Schwager