When they came to Capernaum, those who collected the temple tax approached Peter and said, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?”
25 “Yes,” he said.
When he went into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do earthly kings collect tariffs or taxes? From their sons or from strangers?”
26 “From strangers,” he said.
“Then the sons are free,” Jesus told him. 27 “But, so we won’t offend them, go to the sea, cast in a fishhook, and take the first fish that you catch. When you open its mouth you’ll find a coin. Take it and give it to them for me and you.”
Matthew 17:24-27, CSB
Taxes! We had just arrived home in Capernaum when the tax collectors showed up. How they knew we were back in town I have no idea. But they did. I guess it shouldn’t surprise me. These guys have a tendency to show up when you’re broke.
Taxes. They knew that Jesus was a teacher, a rabbi, and they had the audacity to ask if he was somehow exempt from paying to support the Temple. I had to tell them that He to had to pay, but honestly, I wasn’t sure.
I went back into the house and Jesus was waiting to quiz me.
He surprised me by knowing what had just occurred with my encounter with these tax guys. He knew. He asked me what I thought–(Jesus always seemed to ask me questions like that. I hated being put on the spot.)
“From strangers” seemed to be the simple and logical answer. Jesus explained that He’s not liable to pay this tax, because the Father certainly doesn’t require it of His own Son. I realized then that was the real lesson that He wanted me to understand.
But rather than insist on His “sonship,” Jesus didn’t want to create an issue with anyone. He asked me (the commercial fisherman), to throw out a line and a hook–He told me that the first fish that I caught would have a coin in its mouth!
I must tell you that it happened exactly like He said it would.
The fish I caught had a drachma in its mouth. What can I say? It was there and it undid me. It happened and I understood again that He really did have power.
Jesus told me to pay the tax–His and mine. He knew He didn’t need to pay. Rabbis were exempt from this, and yet Jesus didn’t want to offend anyone, He paid the tax to avoid any objection.
Bryan’s note: I’ve pondered this miracle of Jesus, and it astounds me. A fish with a coin in its mouth! But in this, He shows His power. Consider for a moment the story of Jonah where a big fish was specially created to be the vehicle for a disobedient prophet. Jesus reveals His omnipotence over all things.
Jesus is the Creator and He does this without any problem at all. He simply does it. He is God after all.
“All things were created through him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created.”
John 1:3, CSB