There are a number of lessons in this short section to do with the paying of the temple tax. Under the Mosaic Law there was a tax to be paid to the temple. When asked if Jesus paid the tax peter responded that he did. Jesus used this instance to give Peter and us a valuable insight into the working of the kingdom of God.
Jesus asked Peter whether taxes are paid to the king by their sons or others. Naturally the sons of kings do not pay taxes so Peter responded that others paid taxes. Jesus then made the point that the sons then are free from paying any taxes, tolls or tributes.
When we consider that the temple was the temple of God and supposedly operating for the kingdom of God on earth, then in fact Jesus being the Son of God was exempt from the tax. The kingdom over which the temple was ruling was the kingdom of God. Jesus as the Son of God was exempt. Likewise we who enter into God’s kingdom through Jesus’ death are sons of God too, so we now are also exempt from paying taxes, tolls and tribute to the king.
Jesus also made the statement that the sons of the kingdom are free. Jesus came so that we could be set free from sin and death. He also opened the way for man to enter into God’s kingdom through his death and resurrection. As we have put on Jesus death through baptism, we have also received life through his resurrection. This can be seen in Romans 6:3-4 saying, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”
Through Christ we have entered into the kingdom of God and are sons of God. As we are therefore now sons of His kingdom, we are free in relation to all aspects of the kingdom. We are free from sin, law, toll and tribute. We have passed from death to life and now live by the grace of God in Jesus Christ.
Now in Peter’s case he had already responded for Jesus, which he should not have done without asking. We too should not respond on behalf of another without checking first also. But rather than tell Peter he was wrong and that he should go back and rectify his mistake, Jesus took the route of compassion and mercy. Instead he said to Peter to go catch a fish and he would find a shekel in the mouth of the first fish he caught. Rather than anger the temple tax collectors he was instructed to pay this shekel to them, half for Jesus and half for Peter.
So in effect even though Peter had wrongly said Jesus would pay the tax, Jesus in ultimately did not pay it anyway as the money did not come from his purse or efforts. He remained free being the son of the true king, the kingdom of God.