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Communion Meditations (2020)

 

Fishy Finance

Originally scheduled for March 29

Tucked away at the end of the monumental 17th chapter of Matthew — which contains the Transfiguration — is the story of Christ paying the temple tax. The tax originates in the Old Testament Levitical law (see Exodus 30:11-16). It is originally an atonement tax, and as such each Jewish male pays the same amount, no matter how rich or poor he happens to be. As such, the sinless Christ should not have to pay for his own atonement. But he is considerate to the tax collectors; he does not wish to offend them. A similar incident happened at his baptism by John the Baptist. John challenged his desire to be baptized on the grounds that Christ should baptize John, not the other way around. But Christ simply said it was necessary to fulfill all righteousness. This is a similar instance. He does not have to pay the tax; he is not required to decline it either.

There are many things can be said about this incident. It is, strictly speaking, not a miracle but a providence. There is no violation of physical law here, but the laws of probability do get stretched quite a bit. There is also evidence of the divine sense of humor in this; the fish, you will recall, delivered exact change. I would focus your attention however on the fact that there was one coin, not two. It would have been no less a providence had there been two coins. It is actually an important point.

Look at it this way: if you go out to a fine restaurant, you expect that your food will be cooked to your order. That is what a restaurant does for a customer. But if you go to someone’s house for a family gathering, you expect to be served the same thing as everyone else; you are sharing a meal. You are one of the family. Here, the same coin pays for both Peter and Christ — a little detail that tells you that Peter is one of the family. Just like us; we are the family of God.

From before time began, it was God’s plan that Jesus would come in the form of a man. He would be one of us, knowing the hot desert sun and the freezing desert night and all the other experiences of man except sin. Because he knows what it is to be human he can sympathize with us. He has become our High Priest, and is able to intercede for us because he knows what it’s like to be us. We are now the human members of his family. Consider well then, the price that he paid to make this available to us. His suffering on the cross — his body, his blood — that we remember when we take communion allows us to be the children of God.

It is his body on the cross; his blood shed there that provides us the pathway of salvation. This is how God showed his love to us, by sending his Son to die. That same Christ shares with us the suffering of being human, and therefore is able to intercede for us as our High Priest. As you partake this morning, remember what he has done for you. You are one of the family; he has shared with you the payment for your atonement.

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