Translation & Sermon by Nate Wilson for Christ The Redeemer Church, Manhattan, KS, 16 Dec 2012
17:22 Then as they were returning into Galilee, Jesus said
“The Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men,
17:23 and they will kill Him, yet during the third day, He
will be resurrected.”
And they were very grieved.
17:24 Then as they came into Capernaum, the two-drachma collectors approached Peter and said, “Yall’s teacher, doesn’t He fulfill the two-drachma [ordinance]?”
17:25 He says, “Yes.”
And when he entered into the house, Jesus got in front of him saying, “What do you think, Simon? The kings of the earth, from whom do they collect income tax or property tax – from their children or from the others?”
17:26 Peter says to Him, “From the others.”
Jesus says to him, “So indeed the sons are free!
17:27 But, in order that we might not scandalize them,
go to the lake, cast a hook, and pull up the first fish that comes up,
and after you open its mouth you will find a shekel.
Once you get this, make a donation to them for me and you.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Christmas Carol “I heard the bells on Christmas Day” reflects the way I feel sometimes:
And in despair, I bowed my head; There is no peace on earth, “I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth good-will to men.”
This, of course was written at the peak of the War between the States, when he as a Northerner was worried that the South would win. What’s worse, his son had been badly wounded in the war, and Henry’s second wife had died tragically in a household fire while Henry watched and tried unsuccessfully tried to put it out. Sadly, Longfellow was not a believer in sin or hell or the atoning death of Christ. His Unitarian faith could not ultimately help him.
What do you do when someone has done you wrong and you have suffered loss and injustice? How should a Christian respond to that? I want to look at two brief stories together at the close of Matthew 17 that point us toward three Christian responses to injustice: Grief, Suffering, and Faith.
17:22 Then as they were returning into Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men,
17:23 and they will kill Him, yet during the third day, He will be resurrected.” And they were very grieved.
και αποκτενουσιν αυτον και τη τριτη ημερα εγερθησεται και ελυπηθησαν σφοδρα
17:24 Then as they came into Capernaum, the two-drachma collectors approached Peter and said, “Yall’s teacher, doesn’t He fulfill the two-drachma [ordinance]?”
Ελθοντων δε αυτων εις Καπερναουμ προσηλθον ‘οι τα διδραχμα λαμβανοντες τω Πετρω και ειπον ‘Ο διδασκαλος ‘υμων ου τελει τα διδραχμα;
17:25 He says, “Yes.” And when he entered into the house, Jesus got in front of him saying, “What do you think, Simon? The kings of the earth, from whom do they collect income tax or property tax – from their children or from the others?”
Λεγει Ναι και ‘οτε εισηλθεν εις την οικιαν προεφθασεν αυτον ‘ο Ιησους λεγων Τι' σοι δοκει Σιμων; ‘οι βασιλεις της γης απο τί́́νων λαμβανουσιν τελη η κηνσον, απο των ‘υιων αυτων η απο των αλλοτριων;
17:26 Peter says to Him, “From the others.” Jesus says to him, “So indeed the sons are free,
Λεγει αυτω ‘ο Πετρος Απο των αλλοτριων. Εφη αυτω ‘ο Ιησους Αρα γε ελευθεροι εισιν ‘οι ‘υιοι
17:27 but, in order that we might not scandalize them, go to the lake, cast a hook, and pull up the first fish that comes up, and after you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Once you get this, make a donation to them for me and you.”
‘ινα δε μη σκανδαλισωμεν αυτους πορευθεις εις [την] θαλασσαν βαλε αγκιστρον και τον αναβαντα πρωτον ιχθυν αρον και ανοιξας το στομα αυτου ευρησεις στατηρα, εκεινον λαβων δος αυτοις αντι εμου και σου.
One principle that ties together these two anecdotes from Jesus’ life is the common theme of how to respond to injustice.
1. We looked at grief as a response to injustice, for there is an appropriate time to express grief,
2. but in addition to grief, we must choose to either suffer or resist injustice.
a. These two stories from the life of Christ do not address the principle of resisting injustice; that principle is illustrated in other places,
i. such as Jesus’ instruction to His disciples to carry a couple of swords (Lk. 22:36-38),
ii. and Paul’s legal use of his Roman citizenship to protect himself from being killed by mobs from Jerusalem (Acts 25:9-10).
iii. There is a place for resisting injustice and using the means God has given you to protect the innocent from injustice.
b. But in these snapshots of Jesus’ life, we see two situations where it was not time to resist, and where it was good and right to choose to suffer injustice.
i. In the case of Jesus’ crucifixion, He willingly suffered the injustice of a criminal death and of God’s wrath against sin because He was doing it to save us from having to die that death ourselves.
1. Christians sometimes encounter situations where we literally have the opportunity to lay down our life and die to save another person’s life.
a. My wife recently read a blog of a woman who was pregnant but whose life was threatened by cancer. The only treatment that would be effective against the cancer would also kill her baby. So she chose to die of the cancer rather than abort her baby.
b. An acquaintance of mine by the name of John was sitting in a church service in Kabul, Afghanistan several years ago when someone threw a grenade in through the window. John had just enough time to place his body in front of his wife before the grenade went off, leaving him with severe burns.
c. The motivation for this kind of suffering is love: “Greater love has no one than this that he lay down his life for a friend.” (John 15:13)
2. Now, you may not be in such a dramatic situation of suffering death in order to save someone else’s life, but are their other sacrifices you can make to shield others from suffering?
a. I’m reminded of a humorous story my Dad told me about his boyhood: One of Dad’s brothers (or sisters) had gotten their clothes extremely dirty and then taken them off and left them where they didn’t belong. Grandpa wanted to find out who did it so he could straighten them out, so he lined up my dad along with his brothers and sisters and asked them one by one, Phillip, “Are those your clothes?” Kenny, “Are those your clothes?” Patti, “Are those your clothes?” Well, none of Dad’s brothers or sisters were willing to “fess up”, so Grandpa went down the line again, “Are these your clothes?” By about the third time, my Dad realized that Grandpa wasn’t going to quit until he had given somebody a whuppin, and it was obvious to him that the guilty party was not about to admit it. Meanwhile, some of my Dad’s friends showed up, and he wanted to go fishing with them, so finally Dad piped up and claimed that it was his fault, and he took the spanking so everybody could get on with life.
b. Of course, we shouldn’t lie or overprotect people from important cause-and-effect relationships, but… you get the idea.
c. On the other hand, suffering injustice might not be to save anybody else from suffering, it may just be something not worth fighting.
ii. In the case of the temple tax, the problems that would have resulted from Jesus asserting that He was exempt would have outweighed any financial benefit from being down a couple of Drachmas.
1. In fact, despite the injustice, there was important symbolism and example-setting in Jesus paying the tax, as Matthew Henry explained: “Christ, that in every thing he might appear in the likeness of sinners, paid [the atonement price (Ex. 30:15) of the temple tax] though he had no sin to atone for. Thus it became Him to fulfill all righteousness, (Matt. 3:15). He did this to set an example, [1.] Of rendering to all their due, tribute to whom tribute is due, (Rom. 13:7). [2.] Of contributing to the support of the public worship of God in the places where we are. (If we reap spiritual things, it is fit that we should return carnal things.) … notwithstanding church-corruptions. We must take care not to use our liberty as a cloak of covetousness or maliciousness, (1 Pet. 2:16).”
2. Furthermore, “Christian prudence and humility teach us, in many cases, to recede from our right, rather than give offence by insisting upon it. [Now,] We must never decline our duty for fear of giving offence. (Christ's preaching and miracles offended, yet He went on with them - Matt. 15:12-13); but we must sometimes deny ourselves in that which is our secular interest, rather than give offence; as Paul, in 1 Cor. 8:13 (‘If food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again.’ cf. Rom. 14:13.)” ~Matthew Henry
3. When people were getting upset at each other in the Church of Corinth, and started suing each other, the Apostle Paul said it would be better just to suck it up after being wronged or defrauded (1 Cor. 6:7).
4. Later the Apostle Peter wrote to Christians who were being persecuted and said, “If it’s God’s will for you to suffer, it’s o.k. for you to suffer for doing right” (1 Peter 3:17 my paraphrase). That leads me to my final point:
3. Even as we show grief and as we choose to suffer or resist injustice, there is one more response to that Christians are called to exhibit, and that is faith. Faith in God to work things out:
a. In this temple tax scenario, Peter trusted that Jesus had the knowledge and power to oversee the entire sequence of events necessary for this miraculous provision in the fish. By dropping his hook in the lake, Peter believed Jesus would see to it that somebody lost just the right denomination of coin and that a fish would catch that very coin in his mouth – but not swallow it or spit it out, and then that this very fish would be the first one that his hook brought up.
b. That is how tightly God’s providence works. This is the God we worship and serve. He is worthy of our trust when we need to depend upon Him to take care of us.
c. Later on Peter would write that Jesus gave us an example of trusting God during suffering: 1 Pet. 2:23 “…When He suffered, He made no threats. Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly.”
d. As the Christmas carol goes, “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep. The wrong will fail; the right prevail, with peace on earth goodwill to men.”
Brothers and sisters, let us follow the example of Jesus and His disciples by suffering injustice redemptively with faith in God to work it all out for good.
 Critical texts read συστρεφομενων “turned together” following the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus manuscripts, with which family 1 of minuscules and the Vulgate concur. This word is used of political conspirators in 2 Sam.15:31, and of gathering wood for a fire in Acts 28:3. Neither variant appears in the parallel Gospel accounts. I would like to see more manuscript evidence before adopting an alternative to the traditional text. The meaning, however, is not very different.
 Patriarchal text has the synonym eis here. Above is the reading of the Textus Receptus and the Critical editions.
 In the Septuagint translation of the Pentateuch, the Greek word upon which the KJV “abode/staying” is based, seems exclusively to mean “return,” but in the later writings and prophets, it also takes on a meaning of “inhabit.” However, in the NT, the meaning of “inhabit” seems to be entirely replaced by the meaning of “conducting oneself,” so it would be an anomaly if it meant “abide/stay” here in the Gospels. The more foundational meaning of “return” continues to be used in a minority of cases in the NT, so I have chosen it here.
 (Cf. Acts 2:22-24 which uses a different Greek word to express the same idea.)
cf. Psalm 35:17 Lord, how long will You look on? Rescue my soul from their
ravages, My only life from the
Psalm 74:10 How long, O God, will the adversary revile, And the enemy spurn Your name forever?
Psalm 79:5 How long, O LORD? Will You be angry forever? Will Your jealousy burn like fire?
Psalm 80:4 O LORD God of hosts, How long will You be angry with the prayer of Your people?
Psalm 82:2 How long will you judge unjustly And show partiality to the wicked?
Psalm 89:46 How long, O LORD? Will You hide Yourself forever? Will Your wrath burn like fire?
Psalm 90:13 Do return, O LORD; how long will it be? And be sorry for Your servants.
Psalm 94:3 How long shall the wicked, O LORD, How long shall the wicked exult?
Jer. 47:6 "Ah, sword of the LORD, How long will you not be quiet? Withdraw into your sheath; Be at rest and stay still.
Habakkuk 1:2 How long, O LORD, will I call for help, And You will not hear? I cry out to You, "Violence!" Yet You do not save.
Zechariah 1:12 Then the angel of the LORD said, "O LORD of hosts, how long will You have no compassion for Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, with which You have been indignant these seventy years?" (NASB)
 Hebrews 9:22 And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. (NASB)
 Due to its non-presence in the Sinaiticus and Bezae manuscripts, some critical texts omit “the,” but it’s in Nestle-Aland’s1979 edition of the GNT and does not change the meaning.
 The Septuagint renders this “half a didrachma” instead of “half a shekel.”
 Because the Vaticanus and Cairo Uncials (and family 1 of minuscules) do not have the preposition “eis/into” attached to this verb, this prefix is omitted in Critical editions of the Greek New Testament. This is not enough reason in my mind to change the Majority text (which, by the way, is supported by the Sinaiticus). There is no harm done to the meaning, because the preposition eis “into” appears in stand-alone form after the verb, making “go into” the clear meaning of the verb. There are other complications, for the Cairo supports the Indicative spelling in the Majority of manuscripts, yet the Critical editions have chosen a Participial form supported by the Sinaiticus, Koridethi, and Vaticanus Uncials (and families 1 and 13 of the minuscules, although not the majority of the minuscules), so there’s somewhat more support for the Participle form than there is for the un-prefixed form, but not much more. The Participle form doesn’t affect the meaning because the manuscripts that have an Indicative also have the temporal oti so that either way the translation is “when… entered” the house. In one more regard there is a difference among texts, and that is in the Person of this verb: א, Β, C, D, Θ, f1, and f13 all render this verb in the Plural as opposed to the Singular in the Majority text. That’s fairly convincing support to me, but again, the context makes clear that Jesus entered and so did His disciples, so neither the singular nor the plural form of the verb would change the story.
 The 16 occurrences of this Greek word προεφθασεν in the LXX seem to indicate “go before/go in front of” either in the sense of physically “preceding” something in a sequence, or in the sense of commanding someone’s attention by being “in front of” their eyes or thoughts. This is the only occurrence in the NT.
 Rom. 13:7 is only other NT reference “custom to whom custom is due,” and Num. 31 – the portion of the spoils of war donated to the temple – is the only reference in the LXX Penteteuch – roughly equivalent to income tax. Hendricksen said it was a toll on goods.
 This is the root of the word “census” – a poll tax – only here and Mt. 22:17-19 || Mk. 12:14. Hendriksen says this was on persons. I went with “property tax” because it is somewhat analogous in that it is not based on increase/profit but on things themselves registered with the local government, however, it is also analogous to contemporary income taxes in that they are based on the person as a citizen.
 Critical editions read ειποντος δε “and after he said,” following the Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, and Koridethi, and f1 manuscripts. There is no difference in meaning, as both wordings indicate the same sequence of conversation.
 The definite article is not in the Critical editions, but it doesn’t affect the meaning. Even in English translations based upon the Critical Greek text, they include the definite article because there’s only one large body of water near Capernaum where Peter could fish, and that was the Sea of Galilee.
 This word for “hook” is found only here in the GNT and in 2Kings 19:28; Job 40:25; Isa. 19:8; Ezek. 32:3; and Hab. 1:15 in the LXX.
 The Byzantine, Textus Receptus, and Critical editions are agreed on this spelling for some reason, although a bare majority of Greek manuscripts spells it in the present tense (αναβαινοντα). The difference is so nuanced it wouldn’t really affect an English translation.