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.
Can you imagine being Peter, receiving instructions to go to the shore of the Sea of Galilee and cast a line into the water to bring in a fish with a coin in its mouth?
Jesus’ unusual request of Peter arose in relation to the question of whether Jesus paid the temple tax. The temple tax was an extension of a levy charged to each person in Israel over twenty years of age who was counted during a census, as commanded by the Lord through Moses (Exodus 30:11-15). When asked if Jesus paid the temple tax, Peter had responded in his usual impetuous manner, “Yes, he does.”
Later Jesus did not give Peter a chance to confirm his assertive response but posed His own question to Peter about the source of tax revenue for earthly kings. Jesus was drawing an analogy: just as sons of kings were exempt from taxation, so it was not appropriate for the Son of God to pay tax on His own temple.
But Jesus went on to say that in order to not offend the collectors of the tax, Peter was to catch a fish with a coin in its mouth, sufficient to pay the temple tax for both Himself and Peter.
Since when was Jesus concerned about offending the religious establishment? He vociferously condemned the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and teachers of the law on multiple occasions for their insistence upon their man-made rules. But the temple tax was a matter of the Law itself. Jesus was the perfect fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets, thus He was careful to observe everything as prescribed in the Law of Moses.
Questions for reflection and discussion: As the perfect fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets, Jesus was blameless. Why was it necessary for Jesus to be the perfect fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets in order to be the sacrifice of atonement for the sins of all? Although we are not under the Law, what moral or ethical principles can be derived from Old Testament regulations which are useful for Christian decisions today? Do you observe any human traditions that are not specifically commanded by the word of God but are matters of personal discretion?
Church Bible Reading Plan: Exodus 21; Luke 24
Saturday, March 11 – Exodus 22; John 1
Sunday, March 12 – Exodus 23; John 2