Dn 10:12-22; Ps 147:12-15,19-20; Mt 17:22-27
What make us strong? What gives us security? What makes us sure of ourselves? The Lord Our God is our everything. He fills us with finest wheat. He has spoken his word to us; we have received his statutes and ordinances. From the social order of slavery and the spiritual chaos of idolatry, the Lord has brought his chosen ones into freedom through obedience. This whole law and all its commands God has revealed for our own good. Because we know who is Lord and because He has revealed his ways to us, we know who we are and we know how to live. Both our identity and our behavior reveal the truth and love of God who is our glory, who has done such great and terrible things, which our own eyes have seen. In his second passion prediction Jesus makes clear that he is the Son of Man and that he will be assassinated and raised on the third day. Because his disciples could not handle his identity and his mission they were overwhelmed with grief. In faith our own eyes have seen the paschal mystery unfold and we are overwhelmed with joy and gladness. We have been given the science of the cross by which to measure the reality of our life and our love. We have come to see the mystery of our own suffering and love in the depths of the cross and the heights of the resurrection.
The startling choice of the Lord of Heaven and Earth is still remarkable to us today. Why would the Lord God choose such a broken and hopeless people to be his own children? Why take those enslaved and oppressed people and give them hope and life? Moses ponders such a great paradox: “Think! The heavens, even the highest heavens, belong to the LORD, your God, as well as the earth and everything on it. Yet in his love for your fathers the LORD was so attached to them as to choose you, their descendants, in preference to all other peoples, as indeed he has now done.” The same mystery envelops our being chosen. Why has the Lord become the Son of Man and poured out His Blood to give us new life? For one reason only, has the Lord saved us. He loves faithfully. His love alone is safe, secure, sure. We can be attached to him alone. We must be detached from all other surety, safety, security. It took forty years of wandering in the dessert for Israel to lose their attachment to the idols of Egypt. How long will it take us to be detached from our idols of self-reliance, self-security, and self-centeredness?
The Lord Jesus spent his whole life to teach us the way of the cross. Just as he gave his disciples three predictions of his passion and resurrection to prepare them for the greatest lesson of his life, so too, the Lord Jesus gives us all we need to learn how to live and move and have our being in his love and tender mercy. The temple tax was one of the ways Rome used the faith of Israel to keep them under control. Even the children of the covenant had to pay for the privilege of worshiping in the temple of the Lord. This contradiction the Lord Jesus tolerated so that he could identify with those whom he came to save. He paid the unjust tax and participated in his own oppression by the kings of the earth, “that we may not offend them.” We too share in such a cross. Our free surrender to the oppression of the world allows us to live here even though our true home is heaven. We are citizens of the world to come and our security is not in this world’s power. We find our confidence in God alone. In Christ do we find our only security, in him who came to meet and transform us by the ultimate tax, the cost of his own precious Body and Blood.