When they came to Capernaum, the people who collected the half-shekel temple tax came to Peter and said, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?” “Yes,” he said. But when they came into the house, Jesus spoke to Peter first.“What do you think, Simon? From whom do earthly kings collect taxes, from their children or from strangers?” “From strangers,” he said. Jesus said to him, “Then the children don’t have to pay. But just so we don’t offend them, go to the lake, throw out a fishing line and hook, and take the first fish you catch. When you open its mouth, you will find a shekel coin. Take it and pay the tax for both of us” (Matthew 17:24-27, Common English Bible).
I have always loved to go fishing. That being said, when I was a kid, if I didn’t catch anything very quickly, I would get bored and be ready to do something else. Fishing is one of the few things I will get out of bed early just to go. I’m not crazy about it even for fishing, but I will do it. I would rather go out and fish all night! Now, if someone were to tell me that there were fish out there that had money in their mouths??? I think I would be good on the boredom and the early morning scale for a while!
For the life of me I can’t figure out why Jesus would need to send Peter out to catch a fish and find a coin in its mouth in order to pay the temple tax. I understand what Jesus was saying about paying the tax. Though he didn’t think he had to pay it, and of course he was right, he wanted it paid so the people wouldn’t be offended. Some translations say “upset” or “stumble.” Regardless of which, Jesus was paying the tax so people wouldn’t have issue with him.
That reminds me of Paul’s writings in 1 Corinthians 8 when Paul discusses eating meat sacrificed to false gods. He devotes the who chapter to this subject. He says, in essence, it isn’t a big deal. Since the god isn’t God, it really wasn’t sacrificed (or at least that is the way I read the chapter). But, Paul finishes off the chapter saying this: “This is why, if food causes the downfall of my brother or sister, I won’t eat meat ever again, or else I may cause my brother or sister to fall.”
I think this is what Jesus was saying as well. We will pay the tax so we don’t cause problems for people who just don’t understand.
So I get that part. I don’t get the need for fishing part. I understand too that the coin had to come from somewhere. But did Peter really need to see another miracle? Hadn’t he, by this point, seen enough to believe. After all, Peter is the guy that said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”
What it did do I think is give Peter another story of his experience with Jesus. It was a story he would be able to share with people at the right time. Think about it. If there were someone who provided for his family with hook and line, such a story could make a real connection in pointing such a person toward Jesus.
It seems to me that we have those stories too. At times they may make us wonder “Why?” But, in the end, we have something someone might need in order to see Jesus.
What is your story with Jesus?
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Joy and Peace,
Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved