~by Pastor Mike Middaugh
This post is part of a series on the miracles of Jesus. Each week I will look at one miracle performed by Jesus to explore its meaning and significance. I’ll be using several resources to help me out, including an excellent new book by Pastor Jared C. Wilson titled “The Wonder Working God,” published by Crossway.
Jesus is both a provider and the Lord. The two cannot be separated. If he were only a provider and not the Lord, he would give us everything we demanded, be it good for us or not. If he were the Lord and not a provider, our demands could not control him, but he would also not be good. As both provider and Lord, Jesus is able to give, and give exactly as we need.
This is the revelation in this week’s miracle as we turn to to Matthew 17:24-27 – the often overlooked miracle of the Coin in the Fish’s Mouth.
The narrative opens with Jesus entering Capernaum, hometown of Peter his disciple, and the home-base for Jesus’ ministry. Peter is approached by the tax collectors for the temple and asked whether his master, Jesus, pays the temple tax. (The temple tax was two-drachmas, equal to a half shekel, which all Jews were expected to pay in order to support the temple upkeep and service.) The tax collectors are challenging Peter as to whether Jesus supported the temple practice and customs. Peter’s initial response is a simple “Yes.”
As Peter and Jesus then step into a private house Jesus question’s Peter’s response. He is looking to make a point. Jesus asks Peter a sort of riddle. “Do the sons of kings pay taxes?”
“Of course not,” Peter responds, “the sons are free.”
The theological implications of this discourse hang in the air. The two-drachma tax serves the temple, the temple is owned by God, and Jesus is the Son of God; therefore he owes nothing.
However, the story gets even more interesting from here. Jesus makes arrangements to pay the tax despite his free-standing. This is a picture of his grace. But it is the way in which the tax is paid that reveals both the miracle and the rub. Jesus directs Peter to “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.”
From the mouth of a fish comes the tax, Jesus pays the price he does not owe and in fact he pays Peter’s too.
We can learn many things from this miraculous event:
We see Jesus’ mastery over nature, from the multitude of fish in the sea he chooses one to come forth, and with a shekel in its mouth.
We see that Jesus is above the reproach of the people, he graciously pays a tax he doesn’t even owe.
But above all that we see Jesus as both provider and as Lord. As provider he gives, even more than should be required. Yet as Lord he will not be controlled, not even allowing the Shekel to come from his own fingers, lest we confuse him with one here to grant our every worldly wish.
And a still greater revelation rests below the surface of this encounter. Jesus is the Son (of God) and as such he owes nothing to God or to his people. And yet he provides, but not in the way we expect or sometimes even want.
When he provides, he provides himself. And as we see later he provides completely – even to the point of death, he provides. And when he does he pays our price.
We get in free. And miraculously, we become sons and daughters of the King, no longer owing anything.