Talk 10
Death and Taxes

Welcome back to our thrilling “treasure hunt” through the Gospel of Matthew. I claim that you’ll continue to unearth rich spiritual wealth for your life.

Today, I want to preach the simple message, “Jesus is your Brother.” I know what you’re thinking: “Gee Bo, can you preach something else? I know that already.” Hey, I know you do. But stick with me. Because God will reveal something powerful to you today.

By the way, do you love Marvel movies?

I do. It makes me feel like a kid again.

Do you know Thor and his mighty hammer?

My female friends don’t remember the action scenes, they just recall the ripped biceps of Chris Hemsworth. (If I added just a few more pull ups in my
daily exercise, I think I would have looked like him. Sayang. Now, my belly looks like the belly of the drunkard Thor in Avengers Endgame.)

Thor is the son of Odin, the King of Asgard.

And Loki is Thor’s adopted brother.

Let me share with you Loki’s wild backstory: Odin, the father of Thor, in one of his battles, found an abandoned baby. The infant happened to be the son of the Ruler of Asgard’s archenemy, the Frost Giants.

And Odin does the unthinkable. He takes the baby home, adopts him, used magic to make him look Asgardian, named him Loki, and raised him with his son Thor. So Thor and Loki grew up as brothers in one family.

This is all fiction. And rightly so, because the plot is absurd. Who in his right mind would adopt their enemy to be their own son?

But as they, truth is stranger than fiction. Because isn’t this our story? St. Paul says that “while we were God’s enemies” He reconciled us through Jesus (see Romans 5:10). Later, Paul says, Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15 NLT, emphasis mine)

Because you’re part of God’s Family.

And Jesus is your Brother.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

They say there are only two things that you cannot avoid in life: Death and Taxes. And that’s what we’re going to talk about today as both are found in our Bible passage.

We’re about to read Jesus, for the second time, predicting His crucifixion. Four chapters later, He’ll do it for a third time.

Why is Jesus like a broken record? (Thank God, vinyl records are making a strong come back. My ancient idioms still work!😂)

This is my guess: It’s very difficult to dislodge the current picture of the Messiah from their brains. As we shared last week, the past Jewish Messiahs were violent. They led armies and slaughtered their enemies in a pool of blood. But Jesus the Messiah would not kill anyone; instead, He would be killed by his enemies. That is how He wins the victory.

May I detour and give you a tiny pastoral lesson? Never shun repetition. When someone tells me, after the Feast or a Talk or a Seminar, “I didn’t gain much because I heard that information already…” that person doesn’t get it. He doesn’t get how growth works.

Some people think that growth is about new information.

It’s not. The key to growth is not information but repetition and action.

Have you noticed? The Bible repeats itself a lot. And Jesus does too. Because God knows we’re stubborn. Matigas ang ulo. I pray that today, we receive God’s repeated Word. Again. And again.

Is Jesus Pro Or Anti Temple?

Let’s dive in: When they came together in Galilee, he said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. 23 They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.” And the disciples were filled with grief. (Matthew 16:22-23 NIV)

We’re at this point in the story where Jesus is walking to Jerusalem, which is really walking to His death. He’s in a collision course with the Chief Priests and Elders of the Temple. About the Temple, Jesus said, I tell you, there is one here who is even greater than the Temple. (Matthew 12:6 NLT)

This is where we find the interesting story of the Temple Taxes: After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma temple tax came to Peter and asked, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?” 25 “Yes, he does,” he replied. (v.24-25)

A little background: The temple was not just one building, but a sprawling complex built on 15 hectares of land. It was huge enough, twenty thousand people could gather there.

You can imagine how expensive it was to maintain. So the religious leaders collected a Temple tax once a year from every adult male Jew. How much was the tax? Two-drachma. Which is the equivalent of two days’ wages. That wasn’t cheap.

In this story, the Temple Tax Collectors wanted to put Jesus in hot water. Based on the rumors, He seemed to be Anti-Temple. So they wondered if He was a Tax evader. But they were in for a surprise…

Charge The Kids!

Matthew says, When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. “What do you think, Simon?” he asked. “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes—from their own children or from others?” (v.25-26 NIV) Moderns won’t get this. Because in a democracy, it’s a scandal if the children of the President won’t pay taxes. They should. But in ancient times, the royal family—Princes and Princesses—are tax exempt for life.

To grasp this better, allow me to translate this in our terms. Imagine if one day, over dinner, I make this announcement to my children. “Bene and Francis, listen up. Starting tomorrow, if you want to keep on sleeping in your rooms, you’ll have to pay P300 per night; And if you want to eat Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner, you have to pay P900 a day. Please know that’s the Basic Package. That doesn’t include dessert and merienda. If you want that, and I know you do, you have to get the Executive Package, and that means paying an additional P700 per day, for a grand total of P1900 per day for full board and lodging, which comes out to P57,000 per month. Mommy and I require two months advanced deposit.”

“Call God Abba Too!”

In the same way, Jesus was saying, “I don’t need to pay the Temple Tax. Because I’m the Son of the Owner. In fact, I’m the One being worshipped in the Temple.”

Another ridiculous illustration: Picture a Taylor Swift Concert. As Taylor Swift alights from her giant white van and walks into the backdoor of the Concert Areana, a security guard stops her. He asks, “Ma’am, may ticket po kayo?” Asking Jesus to pay the Temple Tax is that absurd.

Note that when Jesus was 12 years old, He already knew this. When Mary and Joseph were looking for Him, thinking He was lost, He told His parents, “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49 NLT) Jesus knew that the Temple was His Home. He knew God was His Father. And He knew He was the Son.

By the way, there were other Jewish Rabbi’s who also talked to God as Father. But what was radical about Jesus was He not only called God “Abba”, He asked His disciples to do the same. When He taught them to pray, He said, “Our Abba who are in Heaven, Holy be your Name…”

He basically said, “Call God Abba too.”

In fact, later in the story, when Jesus gives instructions to Peter where to get money for the payment, he tells Peter
to include himself in the payment. Because Jesus saw Peter as a Brother. And what Jesus enjoyed as a Son, Peter enjoyed too.

Know Who You Are

I know you know this. When darkness cloud your days, you’ll be tempted to forget who you are. When you fail again and again. Or when storms attack you on all sides. Or when the people you trust betray you.

All of a sudden, your heart is filled with self-doubt. And you think you’re worthless. Friend, know that God is your Father. And Jesus is your Brother. Know your place. Know your identity. Know who you are.

Choose Your Battles

Jesus gives instructions to Peter to pay for the tax for the two of them: “But so that we may not cause offense, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take
the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.” (v.27)

Before I flesh out the message of this verse, let me give you a little Bible Trivia: Many Bible Scholars believe this “coin-inside-the-fish” event didn’t happen, because if you notice, Matthew didn’t say it happened. He stopped at Jesus’ instructions. Matthew didn’t say, “And Peter went to the lake, wore his fishing jacket, donned his boots, smeared suntan lotion on his face, and started fishing, and lo and behold, found a coin in his mouth…”

The second reason they believe it didn’t happen was at the time of Jesus, this “coin-inside-the-fish” was a popular
folktale. So most likely, it was said in jest. (Yes, Jesus told jokes!) That Jesus didn’t have enough money to pay the Temple Tax, but He believe God will provide.

But whether or not it happened, the story contains a penetrating message. Jesus said, “But so that we may not cause offense…”

This is puzzling. Because just a few verses ago, Jesus was offending the Pharisees and Sadducees left and right, calling them hypocrites. And all of a sudden, He didn’t want to offend?

Here’s how to solve this puzzle: Jesus chose His battles. And we should too. Here’s what I noticed: Jesus fights (and gives His life) when evil steps over the powerless, not when someone is stepping on His privileges.

I repeat: Jesus didn’t have to pay the Temple Tax. It was His right and privilege. But He said, “So as not to offend…” He will pay like everyone else.

We’re So Petty!

Contrast this to our battles: Most are petty.

We fight the waiter that shows special treatment to other table but forgets about us. We get angry at the bank because the lines are too long. We blow our top when our plane gets delayed and harass the hapless girl in the Check-in counter, as if she was the one who caused the delay. We get miffed when we don’t get the respect that we deserve. Because it’s all about “Me”. My time. My space. My dignity.

Question. How many times have we lost close friends, family members, even children, because our pride got hurt? Because we lost our little privileges? Because we didn’t get what we deserved? So we withdrew, or said something in anger, and offended others.

Learn from Jesus. Choose your battles.

The Antidote To Your Insecurity

Why can Jesus give up His personal rights?

Why can Jesus give away His privileges?

Answer: Jesus is very secure with His identity. He knows whatever is taken from Him, God will fully repay.

Friend, I urge you: Be secure in your identity. Be secure in your place in God’s Heart. Know that whatever is taken away from you, God will fully repay. Trust in God. Jesus is your Brother. He gave His life on the Cross so that you can be in equal footing with Him.

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