Today we’ll continue our discussion on an intriguing passage from Matthew. (If you’re just joining us today, make sure you catch up on Saturday’s post by clicking HERE). Additionally, allow me to repost the passage to help make reading the commentary below more impactful.
“On their arrival in Capernaum, the collectors of the Temple tax came to Peter and asked him, ‘Doesn’t your teacher pay the Temple tax?’
‘Yes, he does,’ Peter replied. Then he went into the house.
But before he had a chance to speak, Jesus asked him, ‘What do you think, Peter? Do kings tax their own people or the people they have conquered?’
‘They tax the people they have conquered,’ Peter replied.
‘Well, then,’ Jesus said, ‘the citizens are free! However, we don’t want to offend them, so go down to the lake and throw in a line. Open the mouth of the first fish you catch, and you will find a large silver coin. Take it and pay the tax for both of us’.” Matthew 17:24-27
Once the exchange with the tax collector concludes, Jesus challenged Peter (which you can read HERE). Jesus told Peter, who had impulsively responded on behalf of Jesus, to go and fetch a fish with a silver coin in its mouth to cover the tax.
Why did Jesus do this? You may remember that Judas Iscariot (one of the twelve disciples) held the position of treasurer, retaining and tracking ministry funds for their travels and such. Why wouldn’t he just have paid the tax right there? Since Matthew chose to record this exchange with tax collector, he was probably wondering the same thing.
No, Jesus did not want the tax to be paid right there because He had a point to make. Praise God that our Lord always sees the bigger picture for each of our lives and can discern the motives of our hearts. He gently and graciously teaches us lessons that may take us longer than He would have hoped. Yet the question remains: Why did Peter need to travel alone to a lake in order to fish out a coin to pay the Temple tax?
I think Jesus wanted Peter to understand that He is God. This lesson is exemplified in the fact that God provided a silver coin (enough to pay for both himself and Peter) in the least expected place to find it: the mouth of a fish. And not just any fish: it was the very first fish Peter would catch. God is accurate and inerrant, and He operates in ways that are very mysterious to us.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the LORD.” Isaiah 55:8 NIV
Also remember that God had called Peter out of being a fisherman (where he relied on his own ability to fish) and into ministry as a fisher of men (depending on the power of God). The passage that we are looking at today markes the third time that God used fish to teach Peter a lesson regarding His power and sovereignty.
Before accepting his call to follow Christ, Peter (known as Simon) was told “to cast his net into deep waters” despite his failed attempt to catch fish the previous night. After Peter reluctantly obliged this man (Jesus), he caught so many fish that their weight was too great to even lift up. At that point, he fell to his knees worshiping Jesus as Lord, and Jesus called him to be a fisher of men (Luke 5:1-11).
God also proved His ability to Peter early in his discipleship. Jesus knew Peter was about to embark on a missionary journey that would require extreme faith in Him. He took two fish and five loaves and blesses it to the Father. The next thing they knew, five thousand people had been fed (Luke 9:16-17).
“If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” 2 Timothy 2:13NIV
Sometimes we’re like Peter and need to be reminded (more than once) that God will provide for us. Even more than this, God is the Ruler of all creation. No kingdom ever erected on this earth will ever compare to the power and riches of God’s kingdom. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords.
Here are a few encouraging and wise points (derived from today’s passage) for us all to consider living by:
1. Resist the temptation to fear man over God. The approval of man carries no eternal significance, so don’t waste your energy trying to please people. Instead, make it your aim to please God.
“Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.” Proverbs 29:25 NIV
2. Resist the temptation to rebel against authority, even if you are certain of your correctness. Rebellion is rooted in pride, and pride always goes before destruction. But God gives grace to the humble. May we follow the example of our Lord Jesus.
“But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble’.” James 4:6 NIV
3. Always remember that every good and perfect thing comes from the Father above. Regardless of what you need, God will provide the exact amount of it at the exact time you need. Put your trust in God, and not in yourself.
“Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.” James 1:17 NLT
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