Fishing for taxes - 19 October 2018

Xanthe Hancox

After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma temple tax came to Peter and asked, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?”  “Yes, he does,” he replied. When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. “What do you think, Simon?” he asked. “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes—from their own children or from others?”  “From others,” Peter answered. “Then the children are exempt,” Jesus said to him. “But so that we may not cause offense, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.”  Matthew 17:24-27

Peter must have wondered why God would make his own Son pay tax, so he went into the house to speak to Jesus about this. Before he has a chance, though, Jesus asks him a question which takes him by surprise.

Jesus responds with a metaphor, the gist of which goes something like this: Kings don’t collect taxes from the children, and God is the king of the Temple so Jesus, as God’s Son, is exempt from paying tax (Matthew 17:26).

That makes sense. There was no obligation for Jesus to pay the tax collectors anything, for himself or for Peter. But Jesus paid it anyway. In grace, he miraculously paid Peter’s debt in full. He would soon pay Peter’s eternal debt on the cross.

We also should note that Peter had to do something. Firstly, he had to trust Jesus. And secondly, he had to get out his fishing gear, go down to the lake, and get to work. The coin didn’t simply drop from the heavens. Do we expect that Christ should simply give things to us? Let us be ready to work for him!

Prayer: Thank you Lord for revealing yourself to us in this remarkable story as the omniscient Son of God who gladly and graciously meets our daily needs. Forgive us for the times we have been unwilling to do your work. Amen.

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