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The Greatest

Daily Devotional • June 18

A Reading from Matthew 17:22-27

22 As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands, 23 and they will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised.” And they were greatly distressed.

24 When they reached Capernaum, the collectors of the temple tax came to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the temple tax?” 25 He said, “Yes, he does.” And when he came home, Jesus spoke of it first, asking, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tribute? From their children or from others?” 26 When Peter said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the children are free. 27 However, so that we do not give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook; take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a coin; take that and give it to them for you and me.”



Peter confessed: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Mt 16:16). This fishy scene comes right after Christ clearly says what will happen to him. Betrayal, killing, and raising from the dead are not far away. But when Peter is asked if Jesus paid the temple tax, he answers “yes.” The problem is, why would Jesus pay something for the Temple when he is the Messiah? Not only did Peter make this confession, but just experienced the glory of God on the Mount of the Transfiguration. Did he already forget? Was he too embarrassed or lacking the courage to take a stand?

Jesus is omnipresent, knows what was said, and confronts Peter. Kings do not subject their children to tributes, tolls, and taxes. The money comes from other sources. Peter should have known better. Why would Christ pay a temple tax?

Rather than give offense, the Lord makes a concession. He could have claimed that He was exempt from the temple tax because the Son of God should not have to pay for the maintenance of His Father’s house. Jesus is greater than the temple. A miracle occurs for Peter to believe. 

Peter is told to go fishing, something he knows well. The first fish that comes up has a coin to provide the temple tax. Peter was given this miracle to prove who Jesus is. Not only is coin provided so they can pay the temple tax, but God has dominion over creation, and Peter is reminded once again that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. 

When the temple tax collectors received the money, they were not concerned about where it came from. They were simply doing their job by collecting the temple tax. Likewise, the people paying it did so not out of love for what God had done for them, but rather under a legal obligation to pay it. Today, by comparison, we bring our offerings not because they are compulsory taxes, but because we are privileged to respond in love to what God, in the person of his Son, has done for us.

The Rev. Sara Oxley is the rector of The Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Maitland, Florida.

Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:

Christ the King Episcopal Church, Santa Rosa Beach, Florida

The Diocese of Gambella – The Episcopal / Anglican Province of Alexandria


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