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24 And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute?
This was especially humiliating on the part of anyone possessed of any title to authority. A king paying taxes! Such was the fact in Christ's case -- incongruous and humiliating fact.
He did not submit to it without a distinct assertion of its incongruous character. This he put forth in his own beautiful way. He did not wait for Peter to break the subject. Peter had come into the house for that purpose.
Jesus anticipated him by a question...
25 He saith, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers?
This was a reference to the well-known fact that the Romans, who were the masters of the world at that time, did not tax their own citizens, but only the inhabitants of the subject provinces. Peter was aware of this, and answered, "Of strangers."
26 Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free.
'..as much as to say, "They ought not to apply to us for taxes, for we are the true children -- not strangers; the others are the strangers."
This is truth, and no sentiment. Most people regard it as a mere poetical suggestion. An understanding of the law and the testimony will show us that it is the assertion of an ultimate political fact. The Roman institution was on sand. They had got their power and standing in the earth "by their own sword." Their right was the right of might. It did not rest on a valid title. The only valid title is by bequest or transfer from the original possessor.
God is the original proprietor of the earth. He made it for His own purpose, which is certain to be realised. In the working out of this purpose He has given the earth to Christ and his brethren, whose full inheritance of it is only a question of time. They are, therefore, "the children."
The Romans, and all other merely human incumbents of the soil, are but successful adventurers and interlopers, tolerated for the time-being for a purpose. Their success is divinely permitted, and is being used to promote certain preliminary and subordinate parts of the purpose as a whole; but still it is only the success of the powerful stranger.
The right of the soil rests in Christ and his brethren, and their taxation is an outrage. Should they then resist and refuse? Far from it. Submission is enjoined on them till the time arrives for the enforcement of their rights with great power and effect. "For this cause, therefore," says Paul, "pay ye tribute also: they are God's ministers, attending continually on this very thing" (Rom. xiii. 6).
27 Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee.
The tax-gatherers have a place in the scheme of his work, and it is our business to submit so long as they are divinely permitted to fill that place.
Nazareth Revisited Ch 39