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What the Bible says about All things are possible

Isaiah 41:10

10 So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Read more from Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary of the Old Testament

Do not fear (41:10). A similar word of encouragement is given several times to Esarhaddon from the goddess Ishtar of Arbela, and to Ashurbanipal by Ishtar and Ninurta, “Don’t be afraid!” Naram-Sin similarly exhorted the readers of his stele not to fear. Such cases, like that of Isaiah, promise divine intervention on behalf of someone in trouble.

My righteous right hand (41:10). See comment on 9:12, 17, 21. Being the dominant hand, the right had special significance. In the Seleucid period, a property mark was inscribed on a slave’s right hand. In an Egyptian Aramaic liturgical text, the chief god, Mar, says: “Be strong ... your enemies I will destroy ... I shall support your right hand,” apparently the hand used in battle. Gods and other people took one’s hand in order to assist them. “When my lord the king took my hands, he brought me back to life.” In an early second millennium Babylonian seal, a minor deity takes with his right hand the hand of a supplicant, leading him before a major god.

Hittite god Sharruma protecting King Tudhaliya IV with arm around him and holding him by the wrist to guide him

M. Willis Monroe

Matthew 17:20

20 He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

Read more from Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary of the New Testament

Because you have so little faith (17:20).

The people of Israel who have witnessed Jesus’ miracles and heard his message should have believed on him as the long-anticipated Messiah, but instead he calls this generation “unbelieving” (apistos; 17:17). By contrast, he refers to his disciples who could not heal the boy as having “little faith” (oligopistia). That is, the crowd does not have faith in Jesus as Messiah; the disciples do have faith, but it is defective.

REFLECT

FAITH IS EITHER EXISTENT OR nonexistent, but it can also either function effectively or be defective. Jesus says that even the littlest faith (like a mustard seed, the smallest of seeds) can move a mountain. It is not the amount of faith that is in question, but rather the focus of faith. Faith is not a particular substance, so that the more we have of it the more we can accomplish. Rather, faith is confidence that God will do through us what he calls us to do—“taking God at his word.” Jesus’ point is that anyone with any amount of faith can do the most unthinkable things if that is what God has called him or her to do. Therefore, we should not place confidence in what we have, but rather have confidence that if God calls us to do something, we can do it in his strength, even the most absurdly impossible sounding things from the world’s point of view.

Paying the Temple Tax (17:2427)

Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax? (17:24).

The Old Testament gave a directive that at the annual census each person over the age of twenty was to give a half-shekel (bekaʻ) offering to the Lord for the support of the tabernacle (Ex. 30:1116). A half-shekel was approximately one-fifth of an ounce of silver (cf. Ex. 38:26), which after the Exile, with devaluation, equaled one-third of a shekel for temple support (Neh. 10:32). The half-shekel is the equivalent of two days of work wages. At first the shekel was likely not a coin but a measure of weight, usually silver. By Jesus’ day, coins minted among the Romans, Greeks, and Phoenicians were used interchangeably. The half-shekel temple tax was the equivalent of the Greek silver didrachma, a “two-drachma” coin. But the most common coin used among the people was the denarius, equivalent to a day’s wage, so a person would pay two denarii, the equivalent of the didrachma, since the latter was seldom minted (see “Equivalence Table of Weights and Coinage at the Time of Jesus” at 18:25).

SHEKELS A horde of silver shekels, dated to a.d. 66–70, with an oil lamp.

SHEKELS Silver shekels (top) and half shekels (bottom), which were used for the temple tax.

These collectors of the temple tax are not “tax collectors” as Matthew had been, who had worked for the Roman occupying forces (cf. 9:9); rather, they are representatives of the Jewish religious establishment in Jerusalem overseeing the temple. The high priest was usually in charge of collecting the temple offering. In the Diaspora on the 15th of Adar, local community leaders collected the half-shekel tax by installing in conspicuous community centers containers similar to those found in the temple, shaped like trumpets. In Palestine, representatives of the Jerusalem priesthood went throughout the land collecting the temple tax.

The grammatical structure of the question indicates that these temple tax agents are attempting to elicit an affirmative response: “He does pay the tax, doesn’t he?” This may mask an attempt to embroil Jesus in a contemporary debate among the religious leaders about who should pay the tax. Some within the Qumran community declared that the census tax needed to be paid only once in a person’s lifetime (4QOrdinances 1.67). Within the developing rabbinic tradition were some who questioned who exactly was liable for the tax (cf. m. Šeqal. 1:37). These representatives from the temple establishment may have been attempting, with duplicity, to confirm charges of Jesus’ disloyalty to the temple.

Isaiah 41:10

10 So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Read more from Case for Christ Study Bible

41:10 do not fear … be dismayed. See vv. 13–14; 43:1, 5; see also 35:4 and note. strengthen … help you. As one called to God’s service (see vv. 9, 15–16). See also v. 14; 40:29; 44:2; 49:8. right hand. A hand of power and salvation (see Ex 15:6, 12; Ps 20:6; 48:10; 89:13; 98:1).