Heavenly Taxes?

It's our final Coffee Break of the season, so what will you do with your "summer break." I know what we'll be doing after the break - continuing with the final six months of Jesus' life, from Tabernacles to Passover; and I'm very much looking forward to it. During the break I hope to finish my 13th Five-Minute Bible-Story book - John's Joy. It's growing nicely now, and I'm looking forward to its release with IFS books.

But back to this week's study. It starts with a "small" miracle - a fish for the Temple tax - and ends with cooking and maiming - quite a leap. But perhaps we all have to pay some kind of taxes... And a new kingdom is coming...


(51) No Taxation without …?

Jesus is bringing in the kingdom, and it’s not at all the kingdom the disciples expect. The time is just a little before the Feast of Tabernacles (final harvest), and by Passover (first fruits) Jesus will be risen from the dead. This lends an urgency to Jesus’ teaching about the kingdom. Do we have a sense of urgency learning from the Bible? Do our communities?
Jesus started his ministry staying at Peter’s house in Capernaum. Do you remember he healed Peter’s mother-in-law there? Do you remember the man let down through the roof?
1.       Read Exodus 30:11-15, Nehemiah 10:32-33, Matthew 17:24  Temple tax was collected during Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles. Do you think Jesus should have paid the tax?
2.       Read Matthew 17:25-26 How do you think Peter felt about Jesus paying the tax?
3.       Matthew 17:27 Did you remember this story only appears in Matthew? Why might that be?
4.       How does having a fish pay the tax teach us (or Peter, or Jewish believers) anything?
a.       Jesus has power over all creation?
b.      All creation pays the tax, and we are all part of creation?
c.       Faith to act matters more than willingness to pay?
d.      Any other ideas?
Getting a fish to pay his taxes is pretty impressive. And now those disciples, who so much wanted to heal the boy themselves last week, want to know where they’ll stand (or sit) in Jesus’ kingdom. They’re getting half the idea – that Jesus is king – but still missing the point. Read Matthew 18:1, Mark 9:33-34, Luke 9:46.
1.       How do we and our churches still make this same mistake? Why is it so tempting to want to know how we rank?
2.       Read Matthew 18:2-4, Mark 9:35 In what sense are children humble? (behavior, belief, trust, desire to learn?)
3.       In what sense are Christians servants (Mark 9:35)?
a.       Read Matthew 18:5, Mark 9:36-37, Luke 9:47-48 Children were as low as servants in family dynamics., so what might receiving (or welcoming) a child mean then? And today?
b.      How welcoming is our faith in society? How welcoming are our churches in community?
c.       How welcoming are we when we mention our faith to nonbelievers?
The disciples are about to show how we can be tempted to be unwelcoming. Read Mark 9:38-40, Luke 9:49-50
1.       What’s the difference between welcome and discernment? Is Jesus saying we should call all sects good just as long as they “work miracles” in his name?
2.       Read Acts 19:13-16 Is this the same sort of situation? If not, what’s different?
3.       Read Mark 9:41, Joshua 2:12 How might this affect our interactions with non-Christians?
4.       If we’re unwelcoming – if we push people away from or fail to draw them to Christ –  what effect can it have? Read Matthew 18:6-8, Mark 9:42
5.       Read Matthew 18:8-9, Mark 9:43-47  Why might Luke (the physician) not include this teaching?
a.       Why might Luke, the Greek/Roman, not include this teaching? (Jewish overstatement and attitudes?)
b.      Does this teaching justify cutting off the hands of thieves, etc?
c.       Read Isaiah 66:19-24 What might this reference have meant to the first listeners?
d.      Read Mark 9:49-50 What’s the difference between food and the fire it’s cooked on? Between food and the salt that seasons it? Between Christians and the world? Between tax and the taxed?

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