Why Would Jesus be Concerned about Offending Concerning Tribute

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Why Would Jesus be Concerned about Offending Concerning Tribute?

Hi B____,

Thank you for this question.

I can see that this will no doubt confuse many who are new to the study of the Word.

You point out that Christ paid this “tribute… lest we should offend them”:

Mat 17:27  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.

As you pointed out, Christ was not concerned with offending the Pharisees when He healed a cripple on the sabbath day and told him, “Take up thy bed and walk.” Christ could easily have waited one more day so as not to offend anyone, or He could at least have refrained from telling the man to ‘take up his bed’. It is clear to anyone that Christ was making a point by healing this man on the sabbath and also telling him to take up his bed.

Joh 5:7  The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me.
Joh 5:8  Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.
Joh 5:9  And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath.
Joh 5:10  The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed.

There we have it! Christ knew that by healing this man on the sabbath day, He would offend the Jews, and yet He went so far as to tell the man to ‘pick up his bed and walk’ on the sabbath day.

The same principle applies to Him and His disciples who all broke the sabbath by failing to prepare for it on the sixth day according to the law of Moses:

Exo 16:4  Then said the LORD unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no.
Exo 16:5  And it shall come to pass, that on the sixth day they shall prepare that which they bring in; and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily.

Christ was well aware of these words which He had given to Moses. But He had come to reform the law of Moses and “magnify the law and make it honorable”:

Isa 42:21  The LORD is well pleased for his righteousness’ sake; he will magnify the law, and make it honourable.

Heb 9:10  Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation.

Christ “magnified the law, and made it honorable” by changing “thou shalt not commit adultery” to:

Mat 5:28  But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

He changed the commandment which told Israel, “Love thy neighbor but hate thine enemy” to:

Mat 5:43  Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
Mat 5:44  But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

Every time Christ said, “…but I say unto you… in Matthew 5, He was changing the law, and offending the scribes and Pharisees, and He did so with impunity. 

In Matthew 12 Christ admitted to “profaning the sabbath… as the priests”, and He knew fully well that He was not of the priestly tribe of Levi. He even went as far as telling the Pharisees that He personally was ‘greater than the temple and was Lord of the sabbath’:

Mat 12:1  At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungred, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat.
Mat 12:2  But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day.
Mat 12:3  But he said unto them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him;
Mat 12:4  How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests?
Mat 12:5  Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless?
Mat 12:6  But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple.
Mat 12:7  But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless.
Mat 12:8  For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day.

Wow! Just look at that. In this case it appears that Christ’s main intent was to offend these self-righteous Pharisees. Did He deny that it was unlawful to pluck the corn and eat it on the sabbath day? No, not at all. Instead he pointed out that ‘David did eat the shewbread which was not lawful for him to eat. So Christ is affirming that He, too, was doing “that which is not lawful for Him”. Then He proclaims to these self-righteous Pharisees that He is “greater than the temple [and] Lord also of the sabbath”.

These events demonstrate that Christ did not care whether He offended the Pharisees and scribes. So why is Christ worried about “offend[ing] them”, when it came to paying the temple tax:

Mat 17:24  And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute?
Mat 17:25  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?
Mat 17:26  Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free.
Mat 17:27  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 Pharisees and scribes of Christ’s day signify the religious world of our day. Christ even told Peter that “then are the children free [of this tax]”. Is Christ now contradicting Himself and telling us that we are to tithe to the Babylonian churches of our day? Is He telling us that we must observe their days, months, times and years “lest we offend them”.

It should go without saying that Christ does not want us to go back into Babylon and partake of her sins and receive of her plagues after telling us to “come out of her…”:

Rev 18:4  And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.
Rev 18:5  For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities.

The answer to these seemingly contradictory statements by our Lord lies in the fact that, as I pointed out earlier, He had come to bring about a reformation, and He knew fully well that His reformation would take a long time and would not be accepted by His disciples overnight.

Heb 9:10  Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation.

Yes, He has laid a lot of that reformation upon them in His so-called ‘sermon on the mount’ where He made so many changes in the law of Moses.  He had put a lot on His disciples with His revolutionary words of Matthew 12:1-8… ‘I am greater than the temple and Lord of the sabbath’… and John 5… “My Father works [on the Sabbath], and I work hitherto”. But there were still very many things which they could not yet bear, and not paying the temple tax was one of those things.

The fact of this matter is that even the twelve apostles were still keeping the sabbath and holy days and even offering blood offerings for decades after the death and resurrection of Christ, as is demonstrated in Act 21.

The events of this chapter take place at the end of Paul’s three ‘missionary’ journeys, and it is very clear that all the Christian Jews were still “very zealous of the law [of Moses]” to the extent that “an offering should be offered for every one of [the men with a vow]”.

Act 21:20  And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law:
Act 21:21  And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs.

Paul had never “taught the Jews… among the Gentiles to forsake Moses” because he had agreed to the letter sent from Jerusalem to the Gentile churches in Acts 15.

Paul wanted this known to the extent that he himself was willing to pay for the sacrifices for himself, and for four other men who had a vow:

Act 21:26  Then Paul took the men, and the next day purifying himself with them entered into the temple, to signify the accomplishment of the days of purification, until that an offering should be offered for every one of them.

Act 15:28  For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us [including Peter, Paul and Barnabas], to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things;
Act 15:29  That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.

Then many years  later:

Act 21:20  And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and yhey are all zealous of the law: [of Moses]
Act 21:21  And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs.
Act 21:22  What is it therefore? the multitude must needs come together: for they will hear that thou art come.
Act 21:23  Do therefore this that we say to thee: We have four men which have a vow on them; [Christ said, “Swear not at all.”]
Act 21:24  Them take, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them, that they may shave their heads: and all may know that those things, whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing; but that thou thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the law.
Act 21:25  As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication.
Act 21:26  Then Paul took the men, and the next day purifying himself with them entered into the temple, to signify the accomplishment of the days of purification, until that an offering should be offered for every one of them.

Now, to answer your question concerning Christ not wanting to offend those who collected the temple tax, let us look closely at these words the Lord spoke to His twelve apostles on the evening of His apprehension by the Jews (Joh 13:38):

Joh 16:12  I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.

Why would Christ say “…lest we offend them” concerning the paying of the temple tax while at the same time deliberately offending them concerning the breaking of the sabbath:

Mat 17:27  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.

Joh 5:16  And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day.
Joh 5:17  But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.
Joh 5:18  Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.

It is Christ and His Father who decide what we are able to receive and when we can receive it. If the Lord decides that it is not yet time to let the Jews know that the physical temple is not at all His temple, then no one can contradict Him. Also, when He decides to keep His own apostles “zealous of the law [including the temple tax]…until the times of reformation” then so be it.

I am thankful to the Lord that He saw fit to remove that wall of separation between the Jews and the Gentiles while Paul was a prisoner in Rome writing to the Ephesians:

Eph 2:11  Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;
Eph 2:12  That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:
Eph 2:13  But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
Eph 2:14  For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; [the letter of Acts 15, which affirmed the law of Moses for Jewish Christians]
Eph 2:15  Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;
Eph 2:16  And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:

These words of Ephesians 2 are indeed “the time of reformation”. Christ had hinted at these times when He gave His first recorded sermon at Nazareth:

Luk 4:25  But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land;
Luk 4:26  But unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow.
Luk 4:27  And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian.

Just look at the reaction these words elicited from the men of His own home town:

Luk 4:28  And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath,
Luk 4:29  And rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong.

That same spirit was alive and well in Acts 21 within the “many thousand of Jews that believed and were zealous of the law”:

Act 22:19  And I said, Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on thee:
Act 22:20  And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him.
Act 22:21  And he said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles.
Act 22:22 And they gave him audience unto this word [“Gentiles], and then lifted up their voices, and said, Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live.

The Christian Jews in Acts 15 “were zealous of the law” which included the paying of the temple tax for the upkeep of the temple. It simply was not yet time to show them otherwise.

I hope this has answered your question.

Your fellow servant, Mike

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