Day Two: God Forgives, We Hold Grudges
Soon after entering Capernaum, the collector of the temple revenue came to Peter, asking, “Does your teacher not pay the temple tax?” And Peter, ever ready to assert himself, answered that yes, Jesus did pay the tax (Matthew 17:24). This tax was not a civil tax, but a religious contribution which every Jew paid annually. To refuse to pay would have been deemed disloyal. But the Law exempted priests and prophets from paying it, meaning that if Jesus paid it, He’d be denying His priestly, prophetic roles. In fact, He’d be denying His divinity. Peter, in jumping up to make Jesus seem loyal to the temple, missed an opportunity of affirming what he himself had said shortly before—that Jesus was the Son of God (See Matthew 16:16).
Rather than directly confront Peter with his faux pas, Jesus asked,
What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth take customs or taxes, from their sons or from strangers?”
Peter said, “From strangers.”
Jesus said, “Then the sons are free” (vs. 25&26).
Do you catch the gentle, yet effective rebuke Jesus issues here using a question-asking approach? He draws the truth out of Peter himself. Jesus is gently reminding Peter that He, as God, is not only exempt from the temple tax but owns the temple! Peter’s urge to assure the Jews of Jesus’ loyalty short-shifted the larger agenda of proclaiming Him the Son of God.
Because of this slight, Jesus could have, quite justifiably, become outraged, shaming Peter into oblivion. But notice what He does instead. He says,
Nevertheless, lest we offend them, go to the sea, cast in a hook, and take the fish that comes up first. And when you have opened its mouth, you will find a piece of money; take that and give it to them for Me and you (vs. 27).
Peter did just that.
This is brilliant. Jesus finds a way of rebuking Peter while at the same time ministering to his concerns. He temporarily overlooks His own pressing agenda, forgives Peter’s insensitivity to it, and condescends to address Peter’s immature, but human, fear. You want me to be seen as loyal? You’re willing to miss an opportunity of proclaiming Me as God in order to do that? Okay. Though I feel the slight, I’ll come alongside you anyway.
You as a fallen, sinful, human being also slight Jesus. And you slight the people around you. You miss golden opportunities to show Who God is by being a servant leader. He could shame you into oblivion, but God loves you instead. He will come alongside you, answer your concerns, and work miracles in your life to reveal more of Himself.
God is far kinder to us than we are to other people. Coming from a place of deservedness, we demand that people give us the treatment we believe we merit. The unerring God forgives mistakes easily, while we erring, sinful human beings hold grudges.
The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).
The Lord is good to all, And His tender mercies are over all His works (Psalm 145:9).
- How has God shown His longsuffering toward you?
- Can you see times in your life when you have failed to show that longsuffering toward others? Write them down here. Use as many extra pages as necessary.
Go to those whom you’ve impatiently hurt or shamed, admit your wrong, and ask their forgiveness, telling them you’re on a journey of transformation. Make reparations where appropriate and possible. Remember that in some cases, approaching a person we’ve hurt may do more damage than good. In those cases, pray for the individual and leave their healing with God.
Kind Father, by selfishly advancing my own agenda I have slighted You and others. Please forgive me, God, and help me repair others I have harmed. Give me a more sensitive heart than I’ve had before—a heart that esteems others first. Thank You for Your patience with me, God, and help it not be in vain.