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addresses to the Divine Being were calculated to renove them, by reviving in the mind just apprehensions of his perfections.
22. And while they abode in Galilee, Jesus said unto them, The son of man shall be betrayed, or, " delivered," (i. e. by God), into the hands of men.
23. And they shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised again. And they were exceeding sorry.
This is the second time that Jesus warns his disciples of his approaching sufferings. He found that his former declarations upon this subject were hardly credited by them, and that it was necessary they should be renewed. On this occasion, however, his words seem to have made a deeper impression; for we are told that they were exceeding sorry at the prospect of his death, and of the manner in which he was to die.
24. And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tributemoney, "for the temple,” came to Peter and said, Doth not your master pay tribute ?
This was not a tax paid to the Romans, but a small sum, of about one shilling and two-pence of our money, collected by the priests from every Jew of twenty years of age and upwards, to support the daily expences of the temple, in sacrifices, frankincense, wood, shew-bread and other things. As it was not exacted by force, it is probable that many declined to pay it: the collectors, therefore, only asked whether Jesus used to pay it.
25. He saith, Yes; and when he was come into the house, Jesus prevent
ed him,“ spoke first" saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute; of their own children or of strangers ?
26. Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free.
From the conduct of earthly kings towards their own children Christ drew an argument for exempting himself, who was the Son of God, the king of heaven, from paying tribute; and his argument is this: If kings do not oblige children of their own family to pay taxes, but their subjects, I, who stand in the relation of a son to God, ought to be free from this burthen. Strangers here signify not foreigners, but those not related to kings, in opposition to their children.
27. Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, by appearing to despise the temple, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up, and when thou hast opened his mouth thou shalt find a piece of money; that take, and give unto them for me and thee.
The Greek word is Stater, or two shillings and fourpence farthing of our money. The language of Christ intimates that it was known to him that such a piece of money was in this fish's mouth,
1. From the conduct of Christ towards his disciples we may learn much useful instruction. When he observed their want of faith in the divine power, after seeing so many illustrious proofs of it in his own miracles, he does not palliate or excuse their fault; but reproves them with warmth and indignation. This he knew would fill them with shame for their past backwardness, awaken their attention to the cause of it, and rouse their exertions to remove it. We accordingly perceive that it had this effect: for we find them enquiring immediately whence their fault had proceeded, and how it might be prevented on future occasions.
With the same sincerity let us act towards our friends, when they fail in their duty, or appear to do wrong.
Let us set before them their faults in strong but just colours; every instance of error, weakness or negligence in their conduct; every thing by which they degrade and injure themselves, or bring dishonour upon the religion which they profess; and let us address them with a warmth which shall discover the deep concern we feel for their failings, and the earnest desire we have to promote their happiness. Such freedom is the best proof we can give them of our affection, and the most likely means of reforming their conduct, and of securing their esteem. Exhort one another daily, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. Remember the maxims of the wise
open rebuke is better than secret love: for faithful are the wounds of a friend. He that rebuketh a man, afterwards shall find more favour than he that flattereth with his tongue.
The propriety of these maxims is confirmed by the conduct of the disciples towards their master: for we find that they held him
in the highest honour, and regarded him with the tenderest affection, notwithstanding his frequent and severe reproofs: when he mentioned to them his death, soon after this event, they were overwhelmed with sorrow at the prospect of losing him: nor shall we suffer, in the esteem of those whose good opinion is of any value, by practising the same freedom and sincerity:
Another proof which Christ gives his disciples of his affection is by warning them of approaching trials and difficulties: had he told them that he should always remain with them, or flattered them with the hope that they should live in ease, and enjoy great prosperity, he would have afforded his disciples some present pleasure; or had he only been silent in regard to the evils which awaited both himself and them, he would have saved them from inany painful apprehensions: yet, as this would only increase their future trial, he thought it better to inform them of their real situation, that by having before them the prospect of trouble, they miglit better fortify their minds to support it.
In like manner, our friends may find it necessary to warn us of the evils which lie before us: let us not in this case regard them as enemies, because they give us pain, but consider them as acting the part of true friends.
2. We have here striking examples both of the riches and of the poverty of Christ; of his riches, in being able to procure money whenever he pleased; and of his poverty, in being obliged to have recourse to a miracle, in order to furnish himself with so trifling a sum, as that which this tribute amounted to. This affords us a complete proof of his disinterestedness: had he been desirous to amass wealth, he had an opportunity of doing it. Those whose health he had restored from painful illness, or whose limbs he had made whole, would certainly have been glad to testify their gratitude for these important favours
, by bestowing upon him no small portion of their worldiy substance; but Christ declined to receive the valuable presents, which, no doubt, they offered him; and chose to remain in the same humble condition, lest they should imagine that he was actuated by a love of gain: but although he
would not receive valuable gifts from men, it might be supposed that he could not have the same objection to accept them from God, when they were conferred upon him immediately by miracle; yet he would not em, ploy this method of enriching himself, lest the extraordinary powers with which he was furnished might be considered as the instruments of private convenience; and not, what they were intended to be, the evidences of a divine mission. Thus we see the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, although he was rich, for our sakes became poor, that we, through his poverty, might be made rich in all the blessings of the gospel. Let us learn from his example to act the same disinterested part in the world, whenever it is
promoting the happiness of mankind: let us be content with that degree of worldly good which we can acquire by just and honourable means, and reject with disdain all indirect methods of becoming rich. We see how little necessary wealth is to our comfort and usefulness: had it been indispensable to the enjoyment of true happiness, God would certainly have bestowed it upon his son and favourite, who merited the highest gifts at his hand. What he is left without cannot be of any great value; or, at least, the want of it may be supplied in some other way. Who is there that hath done more for the good of mankind than Christ, or acquired more lasting fame? Yet he had not the advantage of riches for this purpose, but ranks with the poorest of the human race. Let us not, therefore, estimate our own usefulness, or that of those around us, by the degree of wealth which we may possess, but by the services which we render to our fellow-creatures,
Matthew xviii. 1---14.
l. At the same time came the disa , ciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?