September 4, 2022 The Children are Free

The Children are Free

September 4, 2022


Read Matthew 17:22 – 27.


Jesus knew he was going to the cross. He knew the pain…more than pain…the torture he would have to endure. And, he knew that he would rise from the dead. He tells his disciples this. They only heard the first part, that he would be killed. They could not fathom his resurrection because it was so foreign to their thinking. They were distressed because they loved Jesus and the knowledge that he would be murdered cut them to their hearts.


As disciples of Christ ourselves, we take it for granted that everyone understands the meaning of Christ’s death. There are many who may not follow Christ but who were exposed to Christian teaching as a youth and so even they have a rudimentary understanding of Christ’s death and its significance. Yet, there are more and more people who do not understand it at all. There are Muslims who come here to the United States who do not even believe that Christ died at all. And, if they do, they don’t know why. There are people of other religious traditions and atheists who think that Christ was just a good man who was martyred for resisting the establishment of his day.


We must be willing and able to explain Christ’s death and its significance to anyone who asks.


God created us. As his creation, every person should honor Him, love Him, obey Him, and enjoy Him. But, every person has failed to do that. Everyone has failed to honor God. They have failed to love God. They have failed to obey God. They don’t enjoy Him. They find their joy in other things. Of course, its not wrong to enjoy the things that he has created. What I mean is that they enjoy other things far more than they enjoy God.


The proof of all this is the reality of sin.[1] God has given mankind his law. This law is found in two places. It is written on the conscience of every person. Everyone knows that it is wrong to steal, that it is wrong to hurt someone without cause, that it is wrong to lie. People even know that it is wrong to engage in sex without commitment. Yet, people do all these things in rebellion against their Creator.


The other place that God’s law is found is in the Bible. The Bible is God’s inspired and infallible word to man. Because it is God’s divine communication to man, every person should read it (or listen to it if they cannot read) and heed it. In addition to many beautiful stories that will thrill you, and in addition to revealing what God is like, it contains his commands for us to live by. His commands are for our good. When we follow them we discover they bring us peace and fulfillment. But, people ignore His word just as they ignore their own conscience.


These sins that characterize our lives are not just mistakes. People like to call their sins mistakes. But sin is nothing less than treason against our Lord and King. Sin is serious! Sin is evil. The Bible reveals that God hates sin (Zech 8:17; Mal. 2:16; Heb. 1:9; Prov. 6:16). He hates sin because he is perfect and holy and he knows that sin damages our hearts. It corrupts our hearts. It stains our soul. He ought to hate sin.


Our sins separate us from God, not only in this life, but in the life to come. Our sins defile our souls. If we should die with sin upon our soul then we will be separated from God for eternity in a place called the Lake of Fire – a place of punishment and torment for those who refuse to honor and obey God. The Lake of Fire is real because Jesus taught us about it.


Sin must be paid for. In other words, divine justice must be satisfied. A penalty must be paid. Just as there must be punishment for crimes committed on earth, there is a penalty for the sins you have committed. The magnitude of your sins is infinite because you have sinned against an infinite God. Therefore, the punishment is infinite. This is one reason why hell is eternal. There are the most severe consequences to sin.


Yet, God loves us enough to make a way for our sins to be taken away. That way is the sacrifice of Christ. Jesus paid the penalty, on the cross, for the sins of those who would believe in Him. Only those who believe in Him have the merits of his sacrifice applied to them. That is to say, only those who believe in Him have their sins forgiven. No one else. To believe in Him means more than simply to acknowledge who He is. It means to trust him with your life. You begin to follow him. That is biblical faith.


Then his resurrection proves who he is and what he accomplished.


So, that is the wonderful significance of the cross and why Jesus volunteered to go there.  His sacrifice can take away your sins! Thank you, Lord!


After Jesus tells them about his upcoming death and resurrection, we have this interesting account of Peter being asked about the temple tax. This tax was required by the law to be paid by all Israelites. It was not a government (secular) tax. It was a religious tax. Two drachmas is equivalent to $7 in today’s money. The tax collectors asked Peter if Jesus paid the tax. They likely asked him this question because they had observed that Jesus did many things that seemed contrary to the law. Actually, he followed the law perfectly. It’s only that he did things that seemed contrary to the way the leaders of Israel thought the way the law should have been followed. Jesus lived by the true meaning of the law and they lived by the letter of the law, often adding things to the law that were never there (15:1-9).


When they asked Peter if Jesus paid the tax, what should Peter have done? He should have asked Jesus! He had so soon forgotten the voice from heaven at the Transfiguration. The Father spoke from heaven and said, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased. Listen to him!” God told Peter directly, “Listen to him.” And here Peter is, talking instead of listening. Peter did not know whether Jesus paid the tax or not. He just assumed.


In fact, wasn’t that Peter’s problem on the mountain? He spoke too soon. He wanted to make three little tabernacles for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. He would have made Moses and Elijah equal to Christ. But God had to correct him. Peter seemed to have a habit of speaking too soon and of saying the wrong things. Remember that he even rebuked Jesus when the Lord first told the disciples about his death (Matthew 16:21-23).


This account shows us something. Even if we have a vision, even if we hear the voice of God, even if we receive a new revelation about the will of God, even if we are happy and thrilled about it, it doesn’t always change us. We will fall into the same bad habits sometimes. We are just like Peter.


You can experience the sweetest fellowship with the Lord,


  • maybe in your personal devotion time,
  • maybe walking in the woods and praying,
  • maybe hearing a Christian song that moves you deeply in your heart and stirs up very powerful feelings of love for the Lord,
  • maybe in reading the Bible and seeing something you never saw before that makes you excited and makes you want to live more faithfully


And then just hours after one of those experiences you may fall into a sin or say something stupid. This is our condition!


Don’t be discouraged! It happened to Peter. It would happen to him again when he would even deny the Lord after his betrayal.


Also, don’t be discouraged because there will come a time when the Lord will change you. Eventually, he changed Peter. Eventually, he will change you. Don’t give up. That time is coming. Those same experiences that did not change you much will one day powerfully change you. The difference will be the Spirit. The Spirit can take any of those experiences and cause them to change you. The Spirit will increase your love for the Lord. The Spirit will give you a desire to live for the Lord in a way that is full of enjoyment that you never had before. It’s coming! God does not leave us untransformed. Until that transformation comes, press on with two things. Two things! Everyone, even those in the condition of Peter, even you, can do them:


  •  keep seeking truth, and
  • keep denying sin as best you can.


When you seek the truth, you will find it (Matt. 7:7; John 8:32). If you resist temptation it will go away (I Cor. 10:13; James 4:7). Sometimes it does not go away, does it? Our problem is we sometimes resist too feebly because we really want to sin. So, we may face a temptation and we barely resist. Also, many Christians do not call upon the name of the Lord in times of temptation. Calling is not prayer. Prayer can be silent and often is when you are tempted. To call means to verbally invoke, out loud. You use your voice and you do not hold back. If we are being tempted with other people present then to call loudly on the name of the Lord would be embarrassing, wouldn’t it? So what? Would you rather be embarrassed or would you rather sin?


When we call on the Lord Jesus in this way, do you know who you get? The Lord Jesus! When he comes he changes you and empowers you to really flee temptation. If you call upon the name of the Lord you will not sin.


Transformation is coming. The power is coming to you! It’s coming! Change in who you are is coming. And, when it comes you will enjoy it!


Then, when Peter comes into the house, Jesus doesn’t even give him a chance to speak. Jesus knew about the whole conversation even though he was not there. He asks him a question:


“What do you think, Simon?” he asked. “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes – from their own children or from others?”[2]


Peter answers correctly: “From others.” Then Jesus says that the children are free! (KJV) The children are free! Notice he says, the children are free…children is plural. The ESV has, “The sons are free.” Sons is plural. This means that Jesus is not just referring to himself. He means both he and Peter.


The children of the king’s household do not have to pay religious tax. We are children of the King. We belong to God’s household. We do not have to labor under religious duties. Indeed, there are things we ought to do. But we are not compelled to do these things by anything outward. Rather, we enjoy living for the King because the King is our Father. We love the King and the King loves us! We love living for the King!


Oh! If you belong to Christ then you must see this. You must see and be certain that the great and mighty God is Someone who really loves us. He has made us part of his royal family whereas before we came to Christ, we were not. He loves you. I think we need to be reminded of this often. I have been walking with the Lord for 48 years. I spend a great deal of my time in the word of God. Yet, I still need to be reminded of his love for me. I am not ashamed to admit that every now and then (thank the Lord that it is not very often) I doubt the Lord’s love for me. It is part of our fallen condition.


I mentioned last week that there is a beautiful Hebrew word that expresses God’s love for his chosen ones. It is chesed. In the ESV, this word is translated as “steadfast love.” I like this translation because it communicates the reality that, not only does God love us, but his love is constant. It doesn’t fluctuate with our faithfulness to him or lack thereof. When we sin, he is grieved (Eph. 4:30) but he loves us no less. This is a mind-blowing love! When someone we love sins against us, we may still love them but we may also experience a diminishment in our love for them. This is a natural consequence of being betrayed. But God is not like this. His love for us is truly steadfast! How reassuring this is!


I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love,

because you have seen my affliction;

you have known the distress of my soul, [3]


When David wrote this he was suffering. He was in distress. Oh! How we need to realize and embrace God’s love for us when we are in affliction!

Many are the sorrows of the wicked,

but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord. [4]


In this verse we see that God’s special and intimate love is not for everyone. There is a sense in which he loves all mankind. But chesed does not describe that general kind of love that God has for everyone. An English word that might better describe his general love is benevolence. God’s chesed, his steadfast love, is not upon the wicked. It is upon those who trust in the Lord. Do you trust Jesus? Then his love is upon you!


This is confirmed by Psalm 36:10 --

Oh, continue your steadfast love to those who know you,

and your righteousness to the upright of heart! [5]


His intimate love is for those who know him, not just for everyone. Do you know him? Then his love is for you!


To reaffirm that his love is for us even in our sin:

Have mercy on me, O God,

according to your steadfast love;

       according to your abundant mercy

blot out my transgressions. [6]


David wrote this Psalm after his sin with Bathsheba. Brothers and sisters! Take heart! Mercy is there for you because of his love for you!


So, because we are part of the royal family we are free from religious duties and we are free to enjoy a love that never ends! There is so much rejection in the world. There is even rejection in the church, I mean among God’s people – Christian husbands rejecting Christian wives and visa versa (so sad and so terrible…so-called disciples behaving as people of the world!), but there is One who will never reject you and that is God, if you belong to Christ.


This statement by our Lord, “the children are free,” conveys the divine reality that we are in the loving family of God with privileges beyond our imagination.


But see what Jesus says to Peter right after this:


However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.” [7]


The temple tax did not have to be paid by either Jesus nor by Peter. But, rather than offend others, Jesus paid it. So must we be. We have fantastic privileges as members of the King’s house, but don’t always claim them. Consider the sentiments of others in all your doings.


We should not overlook the miraculous way in which the money was received. The point of this miracle is that our Lord is teaching Peter to trust in him more fully – but there is an application for us. Again, this is not the point of the miracle of the coin, but it does illustrate that the Lord can provide the money you need! He can do it naturally, through a job (that’s the usual way!) or he can do it supernaturally, bringing it in a way that will amaze you. Because you are a child in the royal family you are free! And, you can expect a miraculous provision! Trust him right now. But when the provision comes, then trust him even more!


“Thank you, Lord, that we are members of your house!


  • We are free!
  • We are loved!
  • And provision is coming our way. Amen.”






[1] For more on this subject, see the sermon, The Reality of Sin, May 29, 2022 at

[2] Matthew 17:25b (NIV)

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ps 31:7). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ps 32:10). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ps 36:10). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ps 51:1). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 17:27). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.