A cartoon-like picture of a fish with a coin in its mouth can be found in classic children’s Bible story books as an illustration of Matthew 17:24-27. While that simple picture is an accurate depiction of the miracle, it does not convey the deeper spiritual meaning of the surrounding story
Matthew 17:24-27 (HCS)
24 When they came to Capernaum, those who collected the double-drachma tax approached Peter and said, “Doesn’t your Teacher pay the double-drachma tax?”
25 “Yes,” he said. When he went into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, “What do you think, Simon? Who do earthly kings collect tariffs or taxes from? 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.”
When asked if Jesus paid the temple tax, Peter said yes. The following conversation with Jesus makes one wonder if Peter might have been making an assumption. Regardless, when Peter entered the house, Jesus was clearly aware of the conversation that had transpired on the outside.
The answer to Jesus’ question was that Kings do not tax their children. The implication is that Jesus, being the Son of God, was free from the temple tax. A deeper implication is that those who have placed faith in Jesus are also sons and daughters of God, and as such, are also free from the temple tax. (More on this in a future blog)
The temple tax was first established by God and is found in Exodus 30:11-16. The temple tax requirement was a part of the law found in the Old Testament. Over time the temple tax gradually increased to two drachma for every Jewish man.
So as not to offend those collecting tax, Jesus instructed Peter to go fishing and to use a hook and line rather than a net. Jesus told Peter to look in the mouth of the very first fish he caught and find a coin in its mouth. The coin would be enough to pay the tax for both Peter and Jesus.
A coin in the mouth of a fish seems a strange way to meet a need? While Jesus’ instructions might sound absurd, Peter had previouslybeen a very up close and personal witness to another miracle involving a catch of many more fish (Luke 5:1-11). It is reassuring to see how Jesus used Peter’s vocation as the vehicle for a step of faith? He instructed Peter to do what Peter knew how to do. The result was supernatural blessing.
Jesus not only knew the need without being told, He provided the exact amount of the need at the precise time the need arose.
Praise to Jehovah Jireh- The God Who Provides!