Fishing for Money

Dr. Ray Pritchard
Dr. Ray Pritchard

"However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself” (Matthew 17:27).

There are some unusual features about this miracle:

It is recorded only in Matthew.
It is the only miracle using money.
It is the only miracle Christ performed to meet his own needs.
It is the only miracle using one fish.
It is the only miracle that does not record the results.

We start with the fact that every Jewish male was obligated to pay the temple tax each year. In Jesus’ time, that amounted to a half-shekel. The money paid for all the expenses of keeping the temple in Jerusalem up and running.

But Jesus pointed out that no king orders his own son to pay taxes. Since Jesus is the Son of God, for him to pay the tax would be like paying taxes to himself. When he says, “The children are exempt” (v. 26), he means that by virtue of our association with Jesus, what applies to him applies to us also. That means neither Jesus nor his disciples should have to pay the temple tax.

That’s not the end of the story. Since others wouldn’t understand, Jesus agreed to pay the tax. Sometimes we must do things in order not to offend even though we aren’t obligated to do so. Jesus came to be the Savior of the world. It wouldn’t help his mission to get embroiled in an argument about the temple tax.

But Jesus worked a miracle nonetheless. He told Peter to go fish in the Sea of Galilee and he would catch a fish with a coin in his mouth. That coin would be enough to pay the tax for both of them. Warren Wiersbe points out the complexity of this miracle:

“First, someone had to lose a coin in the water. Then, a fish had to take that coin in his mouth and retain it. That same fish had to bite Peter’s hook—with an impediment in its mouth—and be caught. You cannot explain all of it in a natural way” (Wiersbe Bible Commentary, NT, p. 52).

In this miracle, we see our Lord’s care for his disciples, down to the tiniest details of life. If Jesus could arrange for a coin to be in a fish’s mouth at exactly the right moment when Peter put his hook in the water, if he arranged all of that in advance even before Peter knew he needed money to pay the tax, if the Lord did all that for Peter, will he do any less for you and me?

Why are we so worried?
Why do we fret?
Why do we doubt our Lord?

My friend, be encouraged. He’s got a coin, and he’s got a fish, and that coin has your name engraved on it. When the time comes, he’ll send the fish your way.

You can take that to the bank.

Lord Jesus, thank you for moving from heaven to provide what I need even before I know I need it. Amen.

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Originally published March 20, 2018.

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