Miracle 26:
The Coin in the Fish's Mouth
    

Matthew 17:24-27  And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute?  25 He saith, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers? 26 Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free. 27 Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee. 

Jesus, the glorified Son of God, is greater than demons and also the temple itself. The two incidents following the Transfiguration clearly reassert His supremacy.

Tribute - “Tribute” was the assessment collected annually for the support of the temple. [i] lit., (“two drachmae”) is a technical term for the tax of half a shekel which every Jew over 20 was expected to contribute for the upkeep of the temple[ii]

The temple tax was an annual tax for the maintenance of the temple (Ex. 30:13-15).[1]


I. Presentation Summarized:

1. Modern Unbelief

a.          There are actually fish in the sea of Galilee which pick the fertilized eggs off the sea floor and hold them in their mouths until they hatch.

b.          Some use this to prove that this was not a miracle. But unbelief never has enough evidence. 

c.          But the response to that is how did Jesus know that that particular fish had a coin in its mouth, that Peter would catch the right one and how did he know its denomination or amount.

2. Content

a. Does He pay? 17:24

1.       It seems that Jesus had not been at the Passover - perhaps up in Gentile territory. 

2.       Therefore he wasn’t around to pay the tax. When the temple tax collectors ask if Jesus pays, Peter’s impulsive response is, “Yes, he does.”

b. Who should pay? 17:25-26

1.       Royalty goes free.  Sons are exempt.  They don’t pay taxes. 

2.       This is a political / kingdom illustration, but we are not talking about kings and taxes and politics.  This is a religious issue - temple tax.

3.       Who pays the temple tax? All the citizens of Israel. The subject races were taxed first and most heavily[iii]   

4.       Who goes free?  The Son of God. The children, the king’s own race, were free. Jesus Christ was the Lord and owner of the temple, and therefore it was not for Him to pay the tax.[iv] After all the temple is God’s House. Jesus is trying to show Peter that just as the royal family is exempt from tax, so He, as the Son of God, would not be obligated to pay for the support of God’s house.[v]

5.       Jesus didn’t have to pay the tax.  What is the claim?  His deity for one and that other believers are exempt too.

c. He does pay 17:27

1.       Jesus pays the tax just to avoid offending, but He’s already made His point. 

2.       While Jesus claims exemption from the tax as the Son of God, His concern is that of possible offense. Had He refused to pay, He would have been branded as profane and irreligious.[2]

3.       However, our Lord would not give offense by seeming to be a lawbreaker. [vi]

4.       This is yet another instance where we see that the old system is finished and Jesus disengaging from Israel.

5.       His method of getting the tax money was certainly novel, to say the least.

6.        A piece of money (Gr. stateµr), the silver tetradrachma, was equivalent to the shekel and therefore the exact amount of the tax for two persons. [3]

7.       Now our Lord demonstrates that He has recovered all that Adam lost. The creatures were obedient to Him. The fish as well as Peter followed His command.

8.       I believe that God had given to Adam the same dominion over all creation, but he lost it at the Fall. “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth” (Gen. 1:26).

9.       In the Transfiguration we see man restored to his original purpose. In the episode of the tribute money we see man restored to his original performance.[4]

II. INTERPRETATION

·          As son of the temple owner, he is exempt from the temple tax.  And as such, so are the rest of God’s family.  And you become part of the family by faith - believing in Jesus.  OT saints believed in God and had to pay the tax. 

·          Now he is telling them that they don’t need to pay the temple tax anymore.  The Temple is going down.  He has taken the keys of the kingdom from the Jews and given them to the Disciples and the Gentiles.

III. APPLICATIONS

·          What does Peter’s presumption do? It shows that Peter doesn’t believe that what Jesus is here to do could have any effect on the present system.  Presumption can retard spiritual development and understanding.  It keeps me from appropriating the progressive revelation of God.

·          Where is his presumption grounded?  Fear of criticism, pride...

·          We should avoid offending others. Our purpose being to make them more receptive to the gospel.

·          Sometimes we need to avoid claiming our rights for the benefit of others.

Certain things belong to the government and certain things belong to God.


[1]Jack W. Hayford, general editor; consulting editors, Sam Middlebrook…[et.al.], Spirit filled life study Bible [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1991.

[2]Jack W. Hayford, general editor; consulting editors, Sam Middlebrook…[et.al.], Spirit filled life study Bible [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1991.

[3]Thomas Nelson, Inc., King James Version Study Bible [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1988  by Liberty University.

[4]J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible commentary [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1981 by J. Vernon McGee.



[i]J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible commentary [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1981 by J. Vernon McGee.

[ii]Thomas Nelson, Inc., King James Version Study Bible [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1988  by Liberty University.

[iii]Thomas Nelson, Inc., King James Version Study Bible [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1988  by Liberty University.

[iv]Thomas Nelson, Inc., King James Version Study Bible [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1988  by Liberty University.

[v]J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible commentary [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1981 by J. Vernon McGee.

[vi]Thomas Nelson, Inc., King James Version Study Bible [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1988  by Liberty University.