Matthew 17 thoughts

Matthew 17 has a little story here that came up in Bible study on Sunday.

I have noted about the symbolism in the Bible of fishing before.  And I think the case can be made for this text as well.  But here is some more to chew on.

Rome forces people to pay the temple tax.  That is Rome makes people they want to pay to pay the temple tax.  If you were the son of the emperor or a really good friend or a political ally, you did not pay this tax (sound like today's situation in many ways?!)  So Jesus pays the tax.  But the thing about it is that Jesus does not use his own money to pay the tax.   He uses a fish.  

Here is the thing.

If Jesus pays the tax, then he is siding with the Roman opposition in that he is giving them money.  This is something that the Zealots do not agree with.  If he refuses to pay the tax, which would be what the Zealots would love, he sides with the Zealots.  Instead Jesus gets Peter to pluck a fish from the pond.  

The Hebrew Bible uses the idea of plucking fish from the sea or pond as a way of describing to others that God will pluck the rich and powerful from their place of comfort if they are not responsive to the needs of the poor.  For Jesus to send Peter to pluck a fish means Jesus told Peter to go and confront a rich unjust person and get them to repent of their unjust ways.  

When the tax is paid by a rich person for a poor person then you have the beginnings of a new social order.  

This new social order is not only just in the Biblical sense (that is a fair distribution of goods and services), but it also becomes the cornerstone of a new Kingdom.  

If the rich and the poor all have access to the temple, if rich and poor have access to education, if the rich and poor have access to the powers that be then we are talking about no more distinctions between the rich and poor.  

Jesus does not side with the Zealots and refuse the tax.  Jesus does not side with Rome and pays the tax.

Jesus gets a rich person who was a "fish" and transforms this person in order to allow a new Kingdom to emerge.  

Can you imagine that?  Someone paying another person's taxes.  

That sounds a bit crazy.  That sounds a bit like something only Jesus would think of.