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A Practical Commentary On Holy Scripture by Frederick Justus Knecht D.D.

[Mat. 17:23–26 and 23:13–39]

JESUS having returned with His disciples to Capharnaum, those who collected the annual tribute for the Temple came to Peter and asked: “Doth not your Master pay the didrachma?” Peter replied: “Yes”, and went to tell Jesus.

But when Jesus saw Peter coming, He said to him: “Of whom do the kings of the earth take tribute or custom? Of their own children, or of strangers?” Peter answered: “Of strangers.” Jesus continued: “Then the children are free. But, that we may not scandalize them, go to the sea and cast in a hook, and the fish which shall first come up, take; and when thou hast opened its mouth, thou shalt find a stater; take that, and give it to them for me and for thee.” Peter did as his Master had commanded.

 

 

Fig. 79. Stater from Corinth.

Then Jesus began to upbraid the Pharisees, saying: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you tithe mint and anise and cummin, and have left the weightier things of the law, judgment and mercy and faith. These things you ought to have done, and not leave those undone. Blind guides, who strain at a gnat and swallow a camel! Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you are like to whited sepulchres, which outwardly appear to men beautiful, but within are full of dead men’s bones and of all filthiness. So you also outwardly, indeed, appear to men just, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity!” (See chapter LIX.)

Peter’s Superiority. The manner in which Christ associates Peter with Himself in paying the tribute, is most marked and striking. It is a part of the gracious design that our Lord had upon him in the future. [See chapters XXXVI and LXXXI]

Divinity of Christ. Our Lord claims to be the Son of Him to whom the Temple belongs, that is, God the Father. As the kings of the earth do not exact tribute from their own children, so neither does God from His own Son.

Avoiding of scandal. Our Lord’s example shows us that we must avoid even the appearance of giving a bad example. He would have been quite justified in refusing to pay the Temple tax, but He did not refuse lest He should scandalize the weak and ignorant.

That which is most important. Whenever our Lord pronounced a “woe” on any one, He signified that such an one was worthy of the everlasting punishment of hell, and therefore He wound up His denunciation of the Pharisees (of which only a portion is given above) by these words: “You serpents! How will you flee from the judgment of hell?” (Mat. 23:33.) But why did our Lord threaten the Pharisees with everlasting punishment? Because they transgressed all the most important precepts of the law without shame and without conscience, and were, all the same, most scrupulous in their minute observance of the less important commandments. Our Lord enumerates the duties of justice, mercy and faith as those which are of most importance, and the Pharisees sinned most glaringly against these by their oppression of widows and orphans, by their unjust extortions, and by their refusal to believe anything that they did not wish to believe.

Hypocrisy. Above all, the Pharisees were hypocrites, because they set themselves up for being outwardly just and God-fearing men, whereas their hearts were full of evil and injustice, and without any true fear of God. Hypocrisy or dissimulation is a lie, and is, therefore, a sin against the eighth Commandment.

APPLICATION. If you want to know yourself (and without self-knowledge there can be no amendment of life), ask yourself what it is that most easily disturbs you. Do you feel sad when others are praised or rewarded? Do you feel glad when they are blamed or punished? If so, you are full of selfishness and envy. Are you put out when you cannot have your own way, or if leave is refused you to do something you wish? If so, you are self-willed and disobedient.

Never laugh about the sins of others. Remember the offence against God, and pray for the conversion of those who have sinned.

Be compassionate towards the poor, and practise self-denial in order to be able to give them alms. Be kind to those of your companions who are sick or in trouble, and try to comfort and cheer them.

Examine your conscience on the subject of honesty and straightforwardness. Do you never take anything—such as fruit, sweets &c.—that does not belong to you? When you have committed a fault, do you never tell falsehoods in order to excuse yourself and escape punishment?








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