Bishop Makarios · scripture · Spiritual instructions

Contemplation on Jesus Paying the Temple Taxes (Mat. 17:24-27)

Author: Bishop Makarios of Qena

To be read on the Eve of the second Sunday of the month of Baba of the Coptic Calendar.

The amazing miracle of tonight’s Liturgy, from the seventeenth chapter of the book of our teacher, Luke the Evangelist, is a truly unusual one. It would not be farfetched if we considered it the greatest of all the miracles our LORD, God and Savior Jesus Christ performed. If we carefully think about the many miracles performed—from raising the dead, healing the sick, and casting out devils, to walking on water, and controlling the wind and waves—we would find that all of them can be ranked after tonight’s miracle, as it clearly shows that our blessed LORD is all knowledgeable of everything in heaven, on earth, and in the waters beneath us. God knows the ways of the fish in the rivers, the seas, and the oceans. He knows the paths of the planets, the stars, and the constellations of millions of celestial bodies, because they were all made by Him and came to existence by His mighty word. This incomprehensible space is all known to Him and He is fully aware of its intricacies without exception.

Our LORD told His disciple Peter, “Go to the sea, cast in a hook, and take the fish that comes up first. And when you have opened its mouth, you will find a piece of money; take that and give it to them for Me and you.” (Matthew 17:27) Therefore, the LORD Christ, glory be to Him, has full knowledge of the unknown. He knows well the path of the fish in the seas, the birds in the sky, the planets in space, and all His other creation on earth and elsewhere. Moreover, He knows what is inside all living beings and creatures, and knows the future of their fate, including the day, time, and cause of their death.

With all that being said, we should not come to the conclusion that our Good Savior had performed this miracle to prove His Divinity to Peter only, or to pay the taxes; rather, the miracle, if you meditate upon it, reveals much more. Let us examine it and learn:

The LORD “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8) He searches the minds and hearts, and nothing is hidden from Him, whether small or big, “and there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:13) Did He not, the LORD of Glory, tell Nathanael, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” (John 1:48) He knows all secrets and is aware of the invisible. He perceives every feeling, thought, desire, and emotion, even the whispers from our secret places. He feels our anguish, hears our voices, and knows our thoughts. This is the important aspect which our Good Teacher would like to make us aware of in order for us to not go astray or doubt.

Therefore, if we realize, believe, and know for sure that He is aware of all of our secrets, which we hide from people, close peers, or even—in our imagination—ourselves, then we ought to obey His commandments and walk according to the call with which we have been called. Many people, whether believers or not, think they are in a safe haven and that their deeds or thoughts will never be revealed. They then proceed to commit sins and iniquities while ignoring Him, who can see in darkness as well as in light, and to Whom day and light are the same. This may be the reason why many fail in their spiritual life, and subsequently lose their eternal lives.

A young man once told me that he attended a meeting of a foreign group which ironically dared to call itself a church, despite the fact that they were like “whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.” (Matthew 23:27) There was a person giving a sermon. It was organized, well written, and even supported by biblical verses. At the end of the meeting, the audience started to wail and cry, confessing their sins in a manner that lacked faith and a peaceful, meek spirit; one cried out confessing that he stole, the other shouted sorrowfully that he lied, someone else yelled that he committed adultery because of his youthful lusts, while another swore, and so on. Unfortunately, in this kind of religious debacle, which they call confession, they deceive themselves and others, while actually gaining more sins.

At the next meeting, the same thing took place: wailing, crying, and open confession; if you were present at such a meeting, you would not know whether you should laugh or cry. The meeting was attended by men and women, and overall was not very organized. Ironically, they claim that they follow the commandment of the Bible in the Epistle of James, “Confess your trespasses to one another.” (James 5:16) However, they deceive themselves, blaspheming the Holy Spirit, which will not be forgiven them, and forgetting that the Spirit is the one that gives life. A young man came to a conclusion out of these meetings—which some Copts unfortunately attend—that a person can commit as many sins as he or she wants during the day, then goes to this meeting at night to cry a bit (or pretend to cry), deceiving himself or herself, and thinking by doing so, that God is satisfied and is forgiving his or her sins day after day. It is a strange sect of Christianity that thrives under false faith. However, the LORD will uncover it on the day in which everyone will stand before Him to give an account for what he or she had done in the flesh, whether good or bad.

Dear beloved, “God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.” (Galatians 6:7-8) As our LORD, God and Savior Jesus Christ is fully aware of what is being planted on earth, likewise, He is fully aware of what you are sowing deep within, whether for the body or the soul. “Each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.” (1 Corinthians 3:13).

A person can deceive people for a period of time. At most, a person can be deceptive for life, using malice, hypocrisy, and misleading appearances. However, that person should be aware that “it is hard to kick against the goads.” (Acts 9:5) No one can deceive the LORD for a minute, a second, or a twinkle of an eye. He is not a man to be fooled, or son of a woman to be deceived.

Just as He knew a particular fish would have a coin in its mouth and that this fish would be caught by the hook of the great fisherman, Peter, He also knows all that is hidden in my soul, yours, and the souls of all people. This holds true, no matter how much we try to hide behind hypocrisy or untruthful repentance. Therefore, if a man sinks in evil, lives in spiritual darkness, hides his wicked deeds from all people (including family, friends, strangers, relatives, his wife, children, superiors, and subordinates), thinking that no one knows what is inside him, let this man know that the LORD Jesus Christ is fully aware, and He will punish him.

Jesus said about Himself, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” (John 8:12) He illuminates the way of all people, and they all have freedom of choice, whether to live in complete darkness of sin or in the glorious light of faith. A man is totally free to choose the way. The words “predetermined” and “destiny” are not of our Christian faith dictionary. You are free to come to God, or run away from Him. You are free to deny Him or profess Him. This is your own choice and freedom, with no one observing you except for the Spirit of God. It is then your choice to choose light or to stumble in darkness.

The LORD says, “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” (John 3:19-21)

Let it be known to you brethren that the day of your departure from this world will come suddenly in an hour which you do not know; this day comes like a thief. However, the watchful and faithful who are from the light and live in the light will see the light upon their departure. On the other hand, those who live in darkness will be cast out in outer darkness, where there will be crying and gnashing of teeth. Our teacher St. Paul appropriately said, “But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. But let us who are of the day be sober, puffing on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation.” (1 Thessalonians 5:4-8)

Therefore, let us be vigilant, beloved, lest Satan deceive us with his crooked ways, and let us remember that the eyes of the LORD penetrate the depths of darkness. Let us walk before His eyes in righteousness and purity, and let us be watchful, so if we depart to Him, we may hear His joyous voice saying, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Matthew 25:34)

May God have mercy on us, have compassion on us, and make us a faithful people unto Him with good deeds until we inherit eternal life and reside in the bosom of the Author and Perfecter of our faith, the LORD Jesus Christ, to Whom, with His Father and the Holy Spirit, is due all glory and honor to the end of ages. Amen.

Ref: Miracles of the Thrice Blessed His Grace Late Bishop Makarios of Qena (Book 2), p. 14 – 18

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