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Out of the Mouth's of Fish

Good morning. It is Wednesday, November 24, 2021. Jeanette Stark here 😊

Benjamin Franklin once said. “...but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

Yesterday I wrote about fish. Today, a fish story involving paying a tax.

Matthew 17:24-28, “When they had come to Capernaum, those who received the temple tax came to Peter and said, “Does your Teacher not pay the temple tax?” He said, “Yes.” And when he had come into the house, Jesus anticipated him, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth take customs or taxes, from their sons or from strangers?” Peter said to Him, “From strangers.” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. Nevertheless, lest we offend them, go to the sea, cast in a hook, and take the fish that comes up first. And when you have opened its mouth, you will find a piece of money; take that and give it to them for Me and you.” NKJV

In other words, Jesus is asking Peter, does a King or a Queen tax their own family members; their own children? Jesus is pointing out that as the Son of God He does not have to pay tax. But there is much more to this illustration.

“Jesus is asked about paying taxes to the Romans in one of those entrapment questions that the religious leaders of the time were so fond of.

“He surprised them all, as he usually did, when he said “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” There doesn't seem to be any concerns about paying taxes to the Roman authorities, yet here paying taxes to the temple seems to be a bit of an issue…

“So what is really going on here. The best explanation I found was in Tom Wright's commentary “Matthew for Everyone”. To see what is happening we must take a step back from the detailed events we have been looking at and see the big picture.”

“Jesus is on a mission. He has come from Heaven to Earth and is in the process of training his successors.

“When they came together in Galilee, he said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.” And the disciples were filled with grief. (Matthew 17:22-23)

“Through His death and resurrection Jesus pays the price for our sins and makes a way for us back to God. This is the plan that makes us the adopted children who do not have to pay the temple tax. He is busy on the latter stages of that training, and He is preparing himself for a visit to Jerusalem where he will visibly and actively threaten the life of the temple. Now is not the time to make a scene. Now is not the time to upset a small time tax collector and bring the attention of the temple authorities on him.

“Tom Wright says that “The point of the story isn't that Jesus had the power to make a coin appear in the mouth of a fish, … nor is it that Jesus is simply a good citizen finding ways of paying the necessary taxes. The point is that He was a master strategist. He was himself, as he told His disciples to be “as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”

“That was a eureka moment for me. At last there was an explanation of why the story was there and its meaning. It provides us with the model of how to behave when we are planning to bring the message of Jesus to the wider world.

“So did Peter go fishing with a line – well scripture doesn't say, and now I know the story's true meaning it doesn't bother me that much, so you can decide for yourself, but I can assure you that the tax was paid, because Jesus was following the model he had devised for his mission, which goes something like: Make your plans, keep your council, don't cause offense or bring attention to yourself until you are ready. Then go and transform the world. (Source: Pete’s Reviews and Sermons - Sunday, October 5, 2014)

I could not have said it better myself. If there is anything we can count on,it is this. Jesus proclaimed Himself to be God. He was and is a God of miracles and wonderful examples in word and action. And He was respectful of what was expected by those in authority, to a point.

“Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.” Ephesians 5:1-2 NKJV

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