(24) “When they came to Capernaum, those who collected the two-drachma tax [the Temple tax; collected each year from every male over the age of 20**] came to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the two-drachma tax?” (25) He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth collect customs or poll-tax, from their sons or from strangers?” (26) When Peter said, “From strangers,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are exempt.” – Matthew 17:24-26 NASB
** “When you take a census of the sons of Israel to number them, then each one of them shall give a ransom for himself to the LORD, when you number them, so that there will be no plague among them when you number them.” – Exodus 30:12 NASB **
These verses tell us some incredible truths.
Jesus knows everything; He is Omniscient. He is the silent listener to every conversation. He spoke, before Peter had a chance to tell Him of the encounter. He already knew about it! He not only knows all, but He is in control of all, and He cares down to the tiniest details. In verse 25, He asks Peter for his opinion, just as He is always listening to ours.
Jesus is the Son of God, Ruler, King, and Head of the Church. He owns everything. Malachi 3:1b says “And the Lord, Whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the Messenger of the Covenant, in Whom you delight, behold, He is coming,” says the LORD of hosts.” – Malachi 3:1 NASB
He already owns the Temple, so why should He pay this tax? He was exempt! Instead of arguing with the tax collectors, Jesus shows us His humility. He paid the tax to avoid offending the tax collectors. It is a wonderful example that He gives us, to forego His rights for the sake of others. The Jews paid ransom money (the Temple tax) as a substitute to going to Jerusalem and working in the Temple, and they paid the priests through their offerings to be sacrificed as the ransom for their sins. We’re exempt! Jesus pays the ransom for Peter here, just as He pays the ransom for us. We owe a ransom to God for our sin, but we are spiritually destitute. We can’t pay the taxes due – so Jesus paid it for us. JESUS pays all; He ransoms all, so we no longer need to!
“For there is ONE God, and ONE Mediator also between GOD and men, the man CHRIST JESUS, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time.” – 1 Timothy 2:5-6 NASB
That’s the BEST News ever!