Open the mouth of the first fish you catch, and you will find a coin.
Take the coin and pay the tax for both of us.

Matthew 17 begins with Peter, James, and John sharing a spiritual vision with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. They witnessed Jesus in a glorified state, talking with Elijah and Moses. The significance of this encounter is beyond the scope of this lesson. I encourage Believers to meditate on this event when time allows. Peter offered to build a tabernacle for Jesus and his two visitors, but while he was still speaking, a cloud covered them. And then God spoke, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” The impetuous acts of man and the religious are often counter to God’s plan. There was no need for a shelter to be built for Jesus, Moses, or Elijah. Peter, and every Believer, must listen and obey God’s Word. When you seek God’s Wisdom, He will guide you through life. Remember this event as we look closer at Peter’s strange fishing trip. (Proverbs 3:5-7, Matthew 17:1-8, Mark 9:1-9, Luke 9:28-36, Romans 8:14)

Jesus and his disciples later entered Capernaum. The religious leaders were continually looking for some way to accuse Jesus of breaking their rules. They approached Peter and asked if Jesus paid the Temple Tax. Peter answered, “Yes!” Note that Peter answered in the affirmative before consulting Jesus. When Peter reached the house where they were staying, Jesus asked him, “Do kings collect tribute from their own children, or strangers?” It was an important question to consider. Jesus, as the Son of God, would not be required to pay. However, as the Son of Man, it was his responsibility to obey the law.

 

When they arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the half shekel [the temple tax] went up to Peter and said, Does not your Teacher pay the half shekel?

He answered, Yes. And when he came home, Jesus spoke to him [about it] first, saying, What do you think, Simon? From whom do earthly rulers collect duties or tribute—from their own sons or from others not of their own family?

And when Peter said, From other people not of their own family, Jesus said to him, Then the sons are exempt. However, in order not to give offense and cause them to stumble [that is, to cause them to judge unfavorably and unjustly] go down to the sea and throw in a hook. Take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find there a shekel. Take it and give it to them to pay the temple tax for Me and for yourself.

(Matthew 17:24-27 <AMP>)

 

The ministry of Jesus included twelve disciples, and an entourage that at times was over 100 people, plus women. They had a full time treasurer – Judas Iscariot, who kept the purse. There were women of means that supported the ministry with their substance, and of course God supplied them abundantly in every way. With all this in mind, why did Peter have to go fishing for a coin? Why not take it out of the ministry funds? I believe it was simply a case of Jesus teaching Peter an important Truth. The time Peter spent fishing would remind him of the necessity of hearing and acting on God’s Word. And when he retrieved that coin from the mouth of the fish, it would be a powerful confirmation that God has made provision for every need, especially ones that come from following His direction.

Note that in the Greek, Jesus does not even mention bait. He says “cast a hook.” This might be speculation, but is anything too hard for God? Jesus said that the first fish would have a coin in its mouth. I have always wondered why the emphasis on first fish? If Peter kept fishing, would there have been additional coins? It would not surprise me one bit. Your Heavenly Father makes sure that you “shall not want” and that your “cup runneth over.” (Genesis 18:14, Psalm 23:1-6, 34:7-10, 84:11, Matthew 7:7-11, 27:55-56, Luke 1:37, 8:1-3, 10:1-9, John 12:4-6, 13:29, Acts 1:1-15)

Peter opened the mouth of the first fish he caught and there was a stater, a full shekel. This would provide enough to pay the tribute for both Jesus and Peter. God had this prepared long before the religious leaders ever thought of asking Peter about the tax. He has the answer ready before you even ask. (Psalm 91:15, Isaiah 65:24, Matthew 6:5-8, Ephesians 1:2-6, Philippians 4:18-19)

The tribute, or atonement money, was required of all adult males in Israel. The half shekel tax supported the Temple operations and was an act of obedience for the nation. (Exodus 30:11-16, 2 Chronicles 24:4-9)

Gone Fishing

Jesus sends Peter fishing.

Jesus said that he did not want to offend anyone, so he sent Peter fishing. Its interesting, because religious leaders were being offended all the time around Jesus. Even though Jesus is Love, and only speaks the Truth, whether he was healing or teaching, the religious folks were always upset. So why did Jesus act differently here? I believe Peter’s quick answer, telling the officials that Jesus did pay the tribute, was the reason Jesus made sure the money was paid for both Peter and him. Notice that no mention is made of any other disciple paying tribute. In a perfect world, Peter should have gone to Jesus first and asked him about the tax. Or taken the officials to personally see Jesus. Instead, he got a lesson on divine tax policy, and a trip to the lake. Jesus provided a way for Peter to honor his commitment, and not personally offend any religious leaders around his hometown. Peter’s honor was at stake. He said ‘yes’ when asked about the taxes. To not pay the taxes would have undermined Peter’s word in the eyes of the religious leaders, and obviously given them another reason to criticize Jesus. As the Word says, let your yes be yes. Put a watch over your mouth and use your words wisely. What you say is what you believe. And what you believe is what you say. Store God’s Truth in your heart. Don’t allow any idle or untrue words come out that will undermine your faith, or the faith of others. Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. If you have stored God’s Word abundantly in your heart, when the enemy attempts to ensnare you with a difficult question, you will have the correct answer. (Psalm 141:3-4, Proverbs 10:19-21, 13:1-3, 15:1-7, 17:27-28, Matthew 5:33-37, 12:33-37, Luke 6:44-45, James 1:19-27, 3:1-13, 5:12)

The Sea of Galilee is approximately 64 square miles in total area, and up to 141 feet deep. This is no farm pond, or “tank” as they were called when my Father took me fishing as a boy. There could have been hundreds of thousands of fish living in the lake at the time of Peter’s fishing trip. One can only guess how many of that number would be large enough to carry a silver coin in its mouth. What are the odds that the very first fish Peter caught would be carrying a coin that would be the exact amount needed to cover the tribute for both Peter and Jesus? What are the odds that a fish would even have a coin in its mouth? I assume many coins were lost in the water over the years. Getting a fish to put one in its mouth, carry it to where Peter would be fishing, and allow itself to be caught, in my mind, is a miracle. Call it a coincidence if you must, but its wonderful how many coincidences are experienced by Believers. The Blessing of the Lord surrounds you with favor and goodness. (Genesis 24:34-35, 26:11-14, Deuteronomy 28:1-14, Proverbs 3:1-10, 10:21-22, 2 Corinthians 9:6-12)

The coin and fish were exactly where they were commanded to be. God knows what you need before you even ask. Everything you could possibly need in life, God has made provision for it well in advance of the need. When Jesus released his faith, and Peter acted on his Words, everything happened according his Word. (Matthew 17:17-20, Mark 11:21-25)

Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar. Give to God what belongs to God.
Give everyone what they are due: taxes, tribute, honor, and respect.

Owe nothing to others except love.

Jesus never preached rebellion. He made it clear that paying taxes, tribute, honor, and respect to those in authority is very important. The guiding principle is Love. Whether dealing with those in authority, or those who work for you, Love should govern all your actions. Even though Peter may have answered the official without thinking, Jesus made sure Peter kept his word, his honor, and walked in Love. As Paul writes later, Love does no wrong to anyone. Believers are to be a light in a dark world, drawing people to God through their example. (Matthew 5:13-16, 22:20-22, Mark 12:14-17, Romans 12:9-21, 13:1-14, 1 Corinthians 13:1-13)

 

Some Other Suggestions For The Coin-Carrying Fish:
Tasha, The Catch Of The Day – Children’s story about the fish that brought the coin to Peter

For additional Coin Carrying Fish resources

 

May God Richly Bless You!
Thanks for visiting!

 

Image Source: – Free Christian Clip Art

 

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