Peter and the Two-Drachma Tax

 Matthew 17:24-27

fishMT 17:24 After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax came to Peter and asked, "Doesn't your teacher pay the temple tax?"
MT 17:25 "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 sons or from others?"
MT 17:26 "From others," Peter answered.
"Then the sons are exempt," Jesus said to him. MT 17:27 "But so that we may not offend them, 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."

In this Biblical account, I suppose many lessons and stories could be made about the duty of Christians towards paying taxes, and obeying civil laws and authorities.  I suppose other Christians could turn the concept around and show how Christians shouldn’t really be bound by civil laws and taxes, since after all, our authority is much higher than theirs.  Yet someone else might teach about the importance of not offending others.

However, I believe Peter learned a bigger more substantive lesson this day, a lesson that has very little to do with paying taxes, obeying laws or offending others.

 It is easy to miss the significance of such an event, when our minds are focused on material aspects of our lives, such as money, but in reality, something so amazing has occurred here, that it defies logic and all natural understanding of life as we know it. 

 Something has happened in this event that is so beyond our comprehension that it is not natural for our minds to grasp.  In fact the unimaginable occurrence verges on the impossible to understand.

 First of all the question comes to mind, How did Jesus know what Peter and the tax collectors were talking about?  It doesn’t seem from the passage that Jesus was within earshot of the conversation.  Nor does Matthew say that Peter was talking about this event, in fact it says when Peter entered the house, Jesus was the first to speak.

 But lets even set that amazing discussion aside.  The most significant part of this event is neatly tucked away in the second half of the last verse:


 “[G]o 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.”

 Consider the following questions that arise:

 Why fishing? 

Why didn’t Jesus just say, Peter go back to that tax collector, reach into your pocket when you get there and you will find a four-drachma coin?  Why should he have to go to all the trouble of fishing to get this coin?

How did Jesus know that Peter would be able to even catch a fish on this day? 

I’ve been fishing many times and have often caught nothing, with a line.  In fact my motto used to be, “all my worms are gone and I have no fish.” 

How does Jesus know the coin will be in the fish’s mouth?  Why not in it’s stomach?  Isn’t it more logical that the fish might have swallowed the coin?

How does Jesus know it will be the “first fish” that Peter catches?  Why not the third or the fifth, or even the mysterious “seventh” fish.

How does Jesus know that Peter will choose to fish in the place where this money fish just happens to be waiting?

What if someone else had decided to go fishing just before Peter and caught the money fish before he got there?

How is it that this particular money fish just happened to find Peter’s bait irresistible at that moment in time?  Why does this money fish just happen to be hungry at this time?

How does Jesus know that the fish will have a coin in its mouth, instead of a thimble or a rock or even a pearl that he could sell for four-drachmas?

How does he know that upon the strange coincidence that Peter does happen to go to the lake, throw out his line and actually catch a fish, happen to look in it’s mouth and it happens to have a coin in it’s mouth, that it will be a four-drachma coin?  Why not a two-drachma coin, or a 10-drachma coin?  (Let’s have a nice dinner together with what is left over after paying our taxes.)coin

How did the coin get into the water for the fish to get it into his mouth?  Right there – there must be an interesting story.

Why doesn’t Jesus have Peter go catch one of these money fish whenever they have a financial need?  Peter we need some money to prepare for the Passover… why don’t you take your fishing pole and… I know the drill Lord, take my pole, and the first fish I catch look in its mouth… 

Did Peter keep the fish in a bucket and look for coins in it at a later time like the goose that lays the golden eggs? 

Why don’t any of the fish I catch have coins in them?  I have to pay taxes too?

Did Jesus from the distance of the town, supernaturally create and hook this particular money fish, when Peter threw his line in? 

Was it the beginning of a whole new race of Las Vegas money fish?

These and many other questions come to my mind as I contemplate this event, and I hope as you read this, that you are not looking for the answers to them.

I would imagine that scientists could develop many theories regarding this money fish. 

Matthew under waterMaybe right before Peter came in, Jesus told Matthew to go down to Peter’s favorite fishing hole, with a Slightly Coned Underwater Breathing Apparatus, grab a fish, put a four-drachma coin in it’s mouth, but don’t let it swallow it, and wait till Peter throws his line in.  Then put this money fish on his hook.

Perhaps some modern, philosophical genius might propose something like this: You must understand that in the primitive and superstitious society of the Roman Empire, the poor people of the land, dependent on fishing for their very livelihood, would often take four-drachma coins and skip them into the lake to appease the gods of nature and win their favor for a good catch that day.  It is a practice that has carried over to our modern day wishing-well traditions.  So these four-drachma coins were actually everywhere in this lake and naturally being shiny as they were no fish could resist swallowing them.  In fact nearly all the fish of the lake had at least one four-drachma coin resting in its mouth.  And so you see nothing that miraculous has actually occurred here.

Personally, I don’t find any of these theories plausible, and yet the alternatives can be equally implausible, but here is the bottom line.

It doesn’t matter how or why, the fact of the matter is, you and I can TRUST GOD WITH OUR LIVES. 

 Peter learned that day – it doesn’t matter what my circumstances may look like, whether I have a penny to my name or not, whether I have the hope of a paycheck coming this week or not because my life Lord, rests within the providence of your hand.  Peter received a revelation that day, about living a life that walks by faith, in the providence, mercy and love of God, instead of by the sight of my circumstances.

It might seem like you don’t have another earthly meal coming to you, but God can give you a fish with a coin in its mouth, if he so desired.  If he doesn’t, we must remember that he still has a plan, and you are an intimate part of it.