DID JESUS PAY TAXES?

MATTHEW 17:24-27 COMMENTARY
Written and edited by Glenn Pease

PREFACE
As in all my commentaries I here quote many others, and sometimes I do not have the author's name. If you know the author of any quotes please let me know and I will give credit. If anyone who is quoted does not wish their material to be included in this work, they can let me know and I will delete it. You can contact me at glenn_p86@yahoo.com

24After 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?"
1. Barnes, “This tribute, consisting of these two drachms, was not paid to the Roman government, but to the Jewish collectors, for the use of the temple service. It was permitted in the law of Moses, (see Exodus 30:11-16,) that in numbering the people, half a shekel should be received of each man for the services of religion. This was in addition to the tithes paid by the whole nation, and seems to have been considered as a voluntary offering. It was devoted to the purchase of animals for the daily sacrifice; wood, flour, salt, incense, etc., for the use of the temple. Doth not your master pay tribute? This tribute was voluntary; and they therefore asked him whether he was in the habit of paying taxes for the support of the temple. Peter replied, that it was his custom to pay all the usual taxes of the nation.” 1B. Macarthur, “Now Jesus and His disciples have been absent for a long time...months. They had left Galilee a long time ago, gone through Tyre and Sidon, Gentile area. Gone over to the east, down the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee to the ten city area called Decapolis, also a Gentile area, back up from there to Caesarea/Philippi which was in the Palestine Jewish territory but populated mostly by Gentiles because it was on the very border of the Gentile lands. They had been all through these places in the months intervening. Now they come back to

Capernaum and they're immediately confronted by the tax collector who says, "Just because you're not in town doesn't mean you don't pay your taxes." And he asks the question this way, "Does not your Master pay didrachma?" 2. Broadus, “Moses directed (Exod.30: ) that whenever the people were numbered, every male over twenty years old should give a half shekel, rich and poor alike, for the support of the tabernacle. Upon this Josiah based his demand for a special contribution to repair the temple. After the return from the captivity, Nehemiah and his followers "made ordinances" not as being required by the law of Moses, but as a voluntary agreement to pay every year a shekel (they were poor then), in order to provide sacrifices, etc., for the temple. (Neh. 10 ) In the Mishna, as here in Matt., we meet with a well known contribution of a half shekel. The Kabbis had kept Nehemiah's plan of making it annual, but had returned to the sum which the law of Moses required for the occasional gift, and doubtless held that they were but carrying out the law. The Mishna has a separate treatise on this subject. Priests, women, children, and slaves, were exempt, but might give if they wished. The Jews in Palestine were expected to give before the time of the Passover; those in foreign countries were allowed till Pentecost or even Tabernacles, and there was a special chest in the temple for contributions due the previous year. Commissioners were

sent through Palestine to collect they that received the half shekel, distinct from the publicans who collected the government tax ; in foreign countries the money was deposited by the leading Jews in some fortified city till it could be escorted to Jerusalem. (jos. "Ant.,- is, 9,1.) Cicero states that gold was, every year, in the name of the Jews, exported from Italy and all the provinces to Jerusalem, and commends Flaccus for prohibiting this exportation from Asia.” 2B. Morrison points out that many ancient and older commentators had a misconception of what this tax was. “...the expression has no reference to any civil tax or foreign impost. Munster, Calvin, and Beza were wrong in supposing that it was a Roman tax that was meant. Origen and Jerome had committed the same mistake.”

3. Barclay, “The Temple at Jerusalem was a costly place to run. There were the daily morning and evening sacrifices which each involved the offering of a year-old lamb. Along with the lamb were offered wine and flour and oil. The incense which was burned every day had to be bought and prepared. The costly hangings and the robes of the priests constantly wore out; and the robe of the High Priest was itself worth a king's ransom. All this required money. So, on the basis of Exo.30:13, it was laid down that every male Jew over twenty years of age must pay an annual Temple tax of one half-shekel. In the days of Nehemiah, when the people were poor, it was one-third of a shekel. One half-shekel was equal to two Greek drachmae; and the tax was commonly called the didrachm, as it is called in this passage. The value of the tax was about 8 pence; and that sum must be evaluated in the light of the fact that a working man's wage in Palestine in the time of Jesus was only 3 1/2 pence. The tax was in fact the equivalent of two days' pay. It brought into the Temple treasury no less than about 76,000 British pounds a year. Theoretically the tax was obligatory and the Temple authorities had power to distrain upon a man's goods, if he failed to pay. The method of collection was carefully organized. On the first of the month Adar, which is March of our year, announcement was made in all the towns and villages of Palestine that the time to pay the tax had come. On the fifteenth of the month,

booths were set up in each town and village, and at the booths the tax was paid. If the tax was not paid by the twenty-fifth of Adar, it could only be paid direct to the Temple in Jerusalem. In this passage we see Jesus paying this Temple tax. The tax authorities came to Peter and asked him if his Master paid his taxes. There is little doubt that the question was asked with malicious intent and that the hope was that Jesus would refuse to pay; for, if he refused, the orthodox would have a ground of accusation against him. Peter's immediate answer was that Jesus did pay. Then he went and told Jesus of the situation, and Jesus used a kind of parable in Matt. 17:25-26. The picture drawn has two possibilities but in either case the meaning is the same. (i) In the ancient world conquering and colonizing nations had little or no idea of governing for the benefit of subject peoples. Rather, they considered that the subject peoples existed to make things easier for them. The result was that a king's own nation never paid tribute, if there were any nations subject to it. It was the subject nations who bore the burden and who paid the tax. So Jesus may be saying, "God is the King of Israel; but we are the true Israel, for we are the citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven; outsiders may have to pay; but we are free." (ii) The picture is more likely a much simpler one than that. If any king imposed taxes on a nation, he certainly did not impose them on his own family. It was indeed for the support of his own household that the taxes were imposed. The tax in question was for the Temple, which was the house of God. Jesus was the Son of God. Did he not say when his parents sought him in Jerusalem: "Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" (Lk.2:49). How could the Son be under obligation to pay the tax which was for his own Father's house? None the less Jesus said that they must pay, not because of the compulsion of the law, but because of a higher duty. He said they must pay "lest we should offend them." The New Testament always uses the verb to offend (skandalizein,) and the noun offense (skandalon,) in a special way. The verb never means to insult or to annoy or to injure the pride of. It always means to put a stumbling-block in someone's way, to cause someone to trip up and to fall. Therefore Jesus is saying: "We must pay so as not to set a bad example to others. We must not only do our duty, we must go beyond duty, in order that we may show others what they ought to do." Jesus would allow himself nothing which might make someone else think less of the ordinary obligation of life. In life there may sometimes be exemptions we could claim; there may be things we could quite safely allow ourselves to do. But we must claim nothing and allow ourselves nothing which might possibly be a bad example to someone else. We may well ask why is it that this story was ever transmitted at all? For reasons of space the gospel writers had to select their material. Why select this story?

Matthew's gospel was written between A.D. 80 and 90. Now just a little before that time Jews and Jewish Christians had been faced with a very real and a very disturbing problem. We saw that every male Jew over twenty had to pay the Temple tax; but the Temple was totally destroyed in A.D. 70, never to be rebuilt. After the destruction of the Temple, Vespasian, the Roman emperor, enacted that the halfshekel Temple tax should now be paid to the treasury of the Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus in Rome. Here indeed was a problem. Many of the Jews and of the Jewish Christians were violently inclined to rebel against this enactment. Any such widespread rebellion would have had disastrous consequences, for it would have been utterly crushed at once, and would have gained the Jews and the Christians the reputation of being bad and disloyal and disaffected citizens. This story was put into the gospels to tell the Christians, especially the Jewish Christians, that, however unpleasant they might be, the duties of a citizen must be shouldered. It tells us that Christianity and good citizenship go hand in hand. The Christian who exempts himself from the duties of good citizenship is not only failing in citizenship, he is also failing in Christianity.”

4. Henry does not see the tax collectors having a negative motive as some do. “The demand was very modest; the collectors stood in such awe of Christ, because of his mighty works, that they durst not speak to him about it, but applied themselves to Peter, whose house was in Capernaum, and probably in his house Christ lodged; he therefore was fittest to be spoken to as the housekeeper, and they presumed he knew his Master's mind. Their question is, Doth not your master pay tribute? Some think that they sought an occasion against him, designing, if he refused, to represent him as disaffected to the temple-service, and his followers as lawless people, that 4:13. would pay neither toll, tribute, nor custom, Ezra 4:13. It should rather seem, they asked this with respect, intimating, that if he had any privilege to exempt him from this payment, they would not insist upon it. Now this tax paid to the temple is called an atonement for the soul, Exodus 30:15. Christ, that in every thing he might appear in the likeness of sinners, paid it though he had no sin to atone for. (3.) Thus it became him to fulfill all righteousness, Matthew 3:15. He did this to set an example, [1.] Of rendering to all their due, tribute to whom tribute is due, Romans 13:7. The kingdom of Christ not being of this world, the favorites and officers of it are so far from having a power granted them, as such, to tax other people's purses, that theirs are made liable to the powers that are. [2.] Of contributing to the support of the public worship of God in the places where we are. If we reap spiritual things, it is fit that we should return carnal things. The temple was now made a den of thieves, and the temple-worship a pretense for the opposition which the chief priests gave to Christ and his doctrine; and yet Christ

paid this tribute. Note, Church-duties, legally imposed, are to be paid, notwithstanding church-corruptions. We must take care not to use our liberty as a cloak of covetousness or maliciousness, 1 Peter 2:16. If Christ pay tribute, who can pretend an exemption?

5. GILL. “..the reason of such a question might have been either to have ensnared him, and to have known whether he was of the same mind with Judas, of Galilee, that refused to pay tribute to Caesar; or because they could not tell whether he was reckoned as an inhabitant, or citizen of that city; for, according to the Jewish canons, a man must be twelve months in a place, before he is liable to tribute and taxes; or because they might suspect him to be exempted, as a doctor, or teacher for the Jewish doctors, wise men, and scholars, were freed from all tribute and taxes even from the "head money", the Syriac version here mentions; and which was a civil tax paid to kings; to which sense that version seems to incline: the rule concerning wise men or scholars, is this. ``They do not collect of them for the building a wall, or setting up gates, or for the hire of watchmen, and such like things; nor for the king's treasury; nor do they oblige them to give tribute, whether it is fixed upon citizens, or whether it is fixed on every man.'' But this was not the Roman tax, nor tribute, on any civil account, but the half shekel for religious service: and it may seem strange that such a question should be asked; and especially since it is a rule with them, that ``all are bound to give the half shekel, priests, Levites, and Israelites; and the strangers, or proselytes, and servants, that are made free; but not women, nor servants, nor children; though if they gave, they received it of them.'' But a following canon explains it, and accounts for it: on the fifteenth ``(i.e. of the month Adar,) the collectors sit in every province or city, (that is, in the countries,) "and mildly ask everyone": he that gives to them, they receive it of him; and he that does not give, "they do not oblige him to give": on the five and twentieth they sit in the sanctuary to collect, and from hence and onward, they urge him that will not give, until he gives; and everyone that will not give, they take pawns of him.'' So that it seems, there was a different usage of persons, at different times and places: our Lord being in Galilee at Capernaum, was treated in this manner.”

6. College Press Harold Fowler, “PETTY PESTERING FOR PAYMENT OF THE POLL TAX And when they were come to Capernaum, they had just returned from a long journey north to Caesarea Philippi (Mt. 16:13) and possibly to Mt. Hermon nearby. (See on 17:1,) This culminates a series of wide-ranging journeys outside Palestine. (See on 17:22,) The discussion of the temple tax is the first of two events that occurred upon Jesus’ return to Capernaum~, before He left Galilee for elsewhere, and there is an amazingly close connection between them.

In the discussion of the temple tax, Jesus, the Son of God the King, magnanimously pays a tax that He does not owe, thus making Himself the servant of others in order not to place before anyone a temptation to sin. By forgiving Peter’s presumptuousness, He illustrates His own rule to forgive indefinitely. Rather than take offense at Peter’s compromising answer, He mercifully led him and the others back to that faith in Him they sorely lacked, especially in the preceding moment of failure at the mountain’s base. Jesus Himself avoided harsh treatment by the kindliness He showed in dealing tenderly with Peter’s lack of understanding. The lesson of the first event is that stumbling-blocks can be avoided by gentle consideration of others, while that of the second is that stumbling-blocks occur by neglecting this consideration, and must be correctly removed.

1. Concerning the system of collection, the Jewish fiscal organization should be noticed, On the first of Adar (February-March in our calendar) it was proclaimed in the Palestinean provincial cities and towns that the temple tax time had arrived. On the fifteenth of the month authorized money-changers set up booths in, each provincial town and village. At these money-stalls, after the local money was exchanged for the sacred coin, the tax was paid to these money changers. Ten days later on the twenty-fifth of Adar, these pay booths were transferred to Jerusalem and set up in the temple precinct. If the tax had not been paid by the twenty-fifth, therefore, the payer could only pay it directly at the temple in Jerusalem. (Cf. Edersheim, 11, 111; also I, 367f)

Although Peter paid his and the Lord’s tax at this time, there is no necessary indication in this fact that the time of year was near Passover, since the collectors may have accosted Peter merely because Jesus had just returned to Capernaum, and not because they were open for regular pre-Passover business. 2. Concerning their motives for approaching Peter on the Capernaum street, we may notice: a. Jesus’ official residence for the major part of His life had been at Nazareth, so the Capernaum collectors would not have been concerned with records of His payments for the ten years He would have been obligated to pay at age twenty until He began His ministry around thirty (cf. Lk. 3:23), because those years were the concern of the Nazareth census bureau and moneychanging tax-collectors. b, However, He had changed residence from Nazareth to Capernaum at about age thirty. (Cf, Jn. 2:12; Lk, 3:23; Mt, 4:13 notes) This put Him under the jurisdiction of the Capernaum office. But since His rapid-paced, itinerate ministry kept Him on the move from place to place, it took them nearly three years to catch up with Him, or at least with .someone who could furnish correct information about His payment for this year, Further, He had been out of the country a lot recently. (See Mt, 15:21; 16:5, 13; 17:1, 22,) During the six months from Passover (Jn. 6:4) until this return to Capernaum, He had been in town once only briefly. (Jn. 659)

7. Intervarsity Press, “Upholding Society's Requirements Adult Jewish males throughout the Empire paid an annual two-drachma tax, based on Exodus 30:13-16, for the upkeep of the Jerusalem temple (compare E. Sanders 1992:156). Even in Matthew's day, (probably) after the temple was destroyed, this tax remained important: after 70, the Romans required all Jewish people (including Jewish Christians maintaining allegiance to their Jewish heritage) to pay that tax to the Roman government (see CPJ 1:80-81; 2:119-36, 160-229; Hemer 1973; Carlebach 1975). For the sake of maintaining public identification with their Jewish heritage, Jewish Christians should join non-Christian Jews in paying the tax. The principle is that we must sometimes engage in otherwise unprofitable pursuits for the sake of upholding our witness as citizens of the communities where God has placed

us. Jesus Cares About Our Social Obligations (17:24-26) Like a good prophet, Jesus knows in advance Peter's question (17:25). He also does not regard the poll tax as binding on himself or Peter (vv. 25-26), but recognizes that the tax collectors may (v. 24). He thus does not rebuke Peter for committing him (v. 25); he wishes to avoid unnecessary cause for misunderstandings (v. 27) that might turn people away from his gospel unnecessarily (compare 5:29-30; 13:41; 16:23; 18:6). Jesus has offended (literally "caused to stumble") members of the religious establishment before (15:12-14), but this is an unnecessary "stumbling block" because it addresses one's own rights rather than the truth of God's kingdom (18:6).”

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?"
1. The house was likely the house of Peter, for he had a wife and family in this place, and Jesus was staying there with Peter. Peter was out on some errand when he was confronted by the tax collector who asked about the plan of Jesus to pay the temple tax. He did not hesitate to say to the man that Jesus did pay the tax, and so we can assume that it was an obligation that Jesus met each year, and would not neglect this year, even though he did not have to being he was the Son of God.

1B. Macarthur, “Capernaum, beautiful little city on the northmost point of the Sea of Galilee, city where Jesus lived, city where Jesus preached, taught, healed thousands. A city where Peter lived. And as they journey from Caesarea Philippi down through Galilee heading for Jerusalem where He will die, they stop for a few days, no doubt, in Capernaum perhaps to stay as guests in Peter's house because his house is there. In fact, I've been on that site several times and they believe they've uncovered Peter's house. The reason is they've uncovered a house at the level of this particular period and it has the sign of the fish in the walls. It may well have been

the very house where Peter was. So, the collectors come and look what they say, "Does not your Master pay taxes?" Boy, there are lots of people who would like to say that the next verse said, "He said no." A lot of people would like that. There are people who are Christian people who don't pay taxes. They don't think they have any reason to pay taxes, they don't like what's done with their money and so forth and so they don't pay. And some of them get away with it because the government knows that to prosecute and track them all down and go through the fight would be to lose more money than you would gain. But Jesus, does He pay taxes? Verse 25, "Peter said yes...yes, Jesus always pays His didrachma." And you can imply from that that He always paid His taxes...always. Jesus is not a tax evader. He's not a tax dodger.”

1C. Before Peter could even ask Jesus about this tax matter Jesus spoke up to deal with the subject. It had to take Peter by surprise that Jesus knew about the tax collector asking him about this issue. Jesus was able to know what was going on about him, and this was just another illustration to Peter of his omniscience and deity. He knew what Peter was coming to ask him, and he has an answer even before Peter could ask . Jesus asks him a question, and this was a common way Jesus used to teach. It was a simple question with a simple answer, but it made it clear that Jesus as God's son was not liable for paying the temple tax. Kings did not make their sons pay them taxes, and God does not make his Son pay taxes.

1D. David Thomas, “A characteristic act in the conduct of Peter, What was Peter s reply to these tax-collectors ? Did he, before he gave the answer, consult his spiritual Master? or, did he pause a moment for a little reflection? No. "He saith, YES." How Peter-like this ! How beautifully it harmonizes with the whole of his impulsive history The un-artistic record of little expressions and actions like these in the evangelical history, which so thoroughly agree with the temperament and tenor of the individual's life, is to me no feeble argument in favor of the truthfulness of the writer.”

2. Broadus, “Peter s ready answer, Yes, most naturally suggests that Jesus had paid in previous years, and so there was no doubt that he would pay now. The fact that Matt, records this incident without any explanation as to the nature and design of the

contribution, is one of the many proofs that he wrote especially" for Jewish readers, to whom the matter would be familiar.”

3. College Press Harold Fowler, “PRECIPITATE PARRY BY PETER He saith, Yea. On the basis of Christ’s previous practice, Peter responds correctly that He does pay. Without even pausing to wonder whether Jesus NEEDED to present any of the offerings commanded in the law, Peter leaps to the defensive and presumes to give a positive answer. Since, in the fisherman’s estimate his Lord is a Hebrew of the Hebrews, and since the tax is obligatory for every self-respecting, Law-abiding Hebrew, Peter reasoned, his Master obviously HAD to pay the tax every year. Although Jesus had apparently paid the tax on former occasions, He had taken a position in the meantime, a position that Peter himself had accepted, i.e. that of being the Christ, God’s Son. (Mt. 16:13-20) Now, in contrast to all previous years, were Jesus to pay the tax without explaining His motives for so doing, He would have caused very serious misunderstandings for His followers, especially those spiritually-minded souls who could sense the incongruity of the King’s Son paying taxes to His own Father. But Peter, in his concern to place his Teacher in a favorable light with the tax people, had overlooked the relationship of Jesus’ divine Sonship to their question. He had not thought through his own confession to see its practical ramifications for the earthly life of Jesus. And when he came into the house, Jesus spake first to him. Returning home from some errand in downtown Capernaum where he had been accosted by the census people, he was met, not by a scolding for his impetuous inference, but by a puzzle. Jesus spake first to him. Had Peter intended to mention his conversation in town? Edersheim thinks that he would have had no intention of telling Jesus about the conversation, since his defense of the Master was but another way of eliminating opposition to Jesus in its every form. He had answered without previous permission, so he probably sensed that the Lord would not have approved his decision. Whether he intended to bring it up or not, the Lord anticipated it and furnished His disciple not only the essentials for arriving at a correct solution to his question, but gave him additional proof of His omniscience. He showed Peter that He knew about the discussion while that disciple was away from Him. Feel the psychological soundness of His

approach to a question about which Peter stood on the wrong side: What do you think, Simon? Rather than browbeat him for his wrongness, Jesus invites him to ponder a phase of normal, royal administration and give his opinion. Simon: is this a kindly, familiar use of Peter’s real name (cf. Lk. 24:34; Ac. 16:14), or, when addressed to him who should have been “Peter” and what this implies, does it imply that Jesus addressed His friend as the man who yet needed to learn much? (Cf. Mk. 14:37; Lk. 22:31; Jn. 21:15-17) The question is easy because of the absurdity it involves: Toll or tribute is tax money for the support of the kings themselves and their sons as well. To tax their sons is tantamount to taxing themselves, like one hand paying the other. No, kings collect taxes, not from their own sons, but from those outside the royal family, i.e, from strangers” 4. J.C. Ryle, “Let us observe, in the first place, our Lord's perfect knowledge of everything that is said and done in this world. We are told that those who "collected the two drachma tax came to Peter, and said, "Doesn't your teacher pay the temple tax?" He said, 'Yes.'" It was evident that our Lord was not present, when the question was asked and the answer given. And yet no sooner did Peter come into the house than our Lord asked him, "What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth receive toll or tribute?" He showed that He was as well acquainted with the conversation, as if He had been listening or standing by. There is something unspeakably solemn in the thought that the Lord Jesus knows all things. There is an eye that sees all our daily conduct. There is an ear that hears all our daily words. All things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him, with whom we have to do. Concealment is impossible. Hypocrisy is useless. We may deceive ministers. We may fool our family and neighbors. But the Lord sees us through and through. We cannot deceive Christ. We ought to endeavor to make practical use of this truth. We should strive to live as in the Lord's sight, and, like Abraham, to "walk before him." (Gen. 17:1.) Let it be our daily aim to say nothing we would not like Christ to hear, and to do nothing we would not like Christ to see. Let us measure every difficult question as to right and wrong by one simple test, "How would I behave, if Jesus was standing by my side?" Such a standard is not extravagant and absurd. It is a standard that interferes with no duty or relation of life. It interferes with nothing but sin. Happy is he that tries to realize his Lord's presence, and to do all and say all as unto Christ.”

26"From others," Peter answered. "Then the sons are exempt," Jesus said to him.
1. Henry, “Now, He appeals to the way of the kings of the earth, which is, to take tribute of strangers, of the subjects of their kingdom, or foreigners that deal with them, but not of their own children that are of their families; there is such a community of goods between parents and children, and a joint-interest in what they have, that it would be absurd for the parents to levy taxes upon the children, or demand any thing from them; it is like one hand taxing the other. He applies this to himself; Then are the children free. Christ is the Son of God, and Heir of all things; the temple is his temple (Malachi 3:1), his Father's house (John 2:16), in it he is faithful as a Son in his own house (Hebrews 3:6), and therefore not obliged to pay this tax for the service of the temple. Thus Christ asserts his right, lest his paying this tribute should be misimproved to the weakening of his title as the Son of God, and the King of Israel, and should have looked like a disowning of it himself. These immunities of the children are to be extended no further than our Lord Jesus himself. God's children are freed by grace and adoption from the slavery of sin and Satan, but not from their subjection to civil magistrates in civil things; here the law of Christ is express; Let every soul (sanctified souls not excepted) be subject to the higher powers. Render to Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's.

2. College Press Harold Fowler, “PROPER PREROGATIVE OF A POTENTATE’S POSTERITY And when he said, From strangers, he had answered correctly, but Jesus must make His real point, using the half of the answer that Peter omitted: Therefore the SONS are . Two reasons prohibit our seeing in the plural soizs any application of His principle to the disciples, or even properly to Peter: 1. The essence of the argument does not depend upon whether the royal family is represented by one son or by several, since the contrast is between those who are members of the royal family, hence exempt, and those who are not, hence obligated to pay. (Plummer, Matthew, 245) 2. The question raised by the collectors is not whether Peter, or the Twelve, pay, but whether Jesus Himself does. It is nowhere doubted that the disciples are liable. In fact, all God-fearing Hebrews were

“sons of God” in this secondary sense (cf. Hos. 1 : l O ; Isa. 43:6), sons but the very law in question rendered none so bound to pay this tax as they. So the plural sons does not consider Peter and Jesus together as “sons of God’s Kingdom,” Jesus as God’s true Son; Peter, His sons disciple, a true “son of the Kingdom.” In fact, what was Jesus implying in His conclusion about the exemption? 1. The tax money in question was designated for the service of the temple, the house of the true King of Israel, God Himself. Josephus (Antiquities XVIII, 9, 1) affirms that Jesus’ contemporaries considered this tax as offered to God. 2. Both God and Peter had confessed Jesus to be “the Son of the living God.” (16:16; 17:s) 3. If He is the Son of God, the King and Owner of the temple, then the tax destined for its service does not apply to Him. Should He contribute tax money to His own Father’s house? (Cf. Jn. 2:16) Why should He weaken His title as “Son of God,” or appear to disown it by acting in a manner out of character with its dignity? If this is all Jesus said about His own exemption, then we may admire His kindness in not exulting over Peter’s wrong thinking, by saying: “So, you see, Simon, how WRONG you were to commit me to pay taxes I do not even owe?” He just gently draws out the implication and lets Peter think it over and see the obvious conclusions. This is the face value of His little puzzle, but consider the unstated, but nonetheless indisputable, magnitude of these implications: 1. In His attitude, God’s Son towers above the Temple of God and the Mosaic legislation that collected half-shekels for its service. Indeed, “something greater than the temple is here!” (Mt. 12:6) He challenges His obligation to pay this tax only for Himself, because all those who were not sons in the unique, unshared sense of His Sonship, were still liable. 2. Without any preamble or a word of explanation from Peter, Jesus led him around a veritable labyrinth of theological speculation about whether the Messiah, as typical Hebrew, should offer sacrifices, and, by means of a simple illustration, pointed out the right

solution. Only One with,the certainty of Heaven could keep it that simple, that true and that conclusive. If He were not the Son of God in the highest sense of that word, even His conclusion, so rich in implications, is blasphemy, and He would have no choice but to pay the tax like everyone else. 3. Another reason for not submitting to the tax, which could have laid before the disciples, is based on one of the purposes of the tax. It served as a ransom for the souls of the individuals being counted in the census, (Ex. 30:11-16) How could He who is the God appointed ransom for all men somehow be thought to need a ransom for His own life? To admit obligation at this point would cast doubt His true relation to God and to all other human beings.

3. Morrison, “It follows therefore that the sons are free from obligation to contribute. They are exempted, as Principal Campbell freely renders the word. Such is the general principle. Our Savior leaves Peter to make the particular application ; which is obvious enough, and of deep doctrinal significance. Jesus was a King's Son. He was the Son of the King of heaven. He was the Son of God. Peter himself had but recently declared it, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God (chap. xvi. 16). And hence, since the didrachms, or temple dues, were an offering, or contribution, or assessment, paid to God, the Son of God should not be held liable to contribute. Our Savior thus claims to be the Prince-royal of the universe. The temple was His Father's house on earth. It could not be that His Father would wish Him to be assessed. Such is the Savior's reasoning. It is missed entirely by all such as imagine that the didrachms referred to were a civil tax going to the Roman emperor. It is missed also by all such as do not recognize that the temple in Jerusalem was one of the palaces of the King of heaven. It is missed likewise by all such as imagine that Peter and the other apostles, and the other Jewish Christians too, and even all Christians ― to all of whom, in a sense, the designation sons of God belongs ― are, as really as Himself, included by Jesus in His logical conclusion.”

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." 1. Was this a miracle, or was it a case of Jesus having knowledge that nobody else could have of that fish carrying a coin in its mouth? The miracle might be that Peter would catch this very fish the first cast of his line. It all borders on miracle, but it could be a case of special providence with Jesus having uncanny knowledge. This, however, is harder to believe than a miracle, and so seeing it as another miracle is the most likely way to see it. The problem is that it is generally believed that Jesus never did a miracle for his own personal benefit, but if this is a miracle, it appears that it was for his own personal benefit, and it seems trivial to do a miracle for so little benefit.
1B. Barnes sees this as providence and omniscience rather than miracle. He wrote, money. stater, “Thou shalt find a piece of money. In the original, thou shalt find a stater, a Roman silver coin of the value of four drachms, or one shekel, and of course sufficient to pay the tribute for two, himself and Peter. In whatever way this is regarded, it is proof that Jesus was possessed of Divine attributes. If he knew that the first fish that came up would have such a coin in his mouth, it was proof of omniscience. If he created the coin for the occasion, and placed it there, then it was proof of Divine power. The former is the most probable supposition. It is by no means absurd that a fish should have swallowed a silver coin. Many of them bite eagerly at anything bright, and would not hesitate, therefore, at swallowing a piece of money.”

1C. Barclay has many objections to a literal view, and he gives his own speculation about what really happened. It is more than a little fishy to me, but here is his opinion: “Now we come to the story itself If we take it with a bald and crude literalism, it means that Jesus told Peter to go and catch a fish, and that he would find a stater in the fish's mouth which would be sufficient to pay the tax for both of them. It is not irrelevant to note that the gospel never tells us that Peter did so. Before we begin to examine the story we must remember that all oriental people love to say a thing in the most dramatic and vivid way possible; and that they love to say a thing with the flash of a smile. This miracle is difficult on three grounds. (i) God does not send a miracle to enable us to do what we can quite well do for ourselves. That would be to harm us and not to help us. However poor the disciples were, they did not need a miracle to enable them to earn two half-shekels. It was not beyond human power to earn such a sum. (ii) This miracle transgresses the great decision of Jesus that he would never use his miraculous power for his own ends. He could have turned stones into bread to satisfy his own hunger--but he refused. He could have used his power to enhance his own prestige as a wonder-worker--but he refused. In the wilderness Jesus decided once and for all that he would not and could not selfishly use his power. If this story is taken with a crude literalism, it does show Jesus using his divine power to satisfy his own personal needs--and that is what Jesus would never do. (iii) If this miracle is taken literally, there is a sense in which it is even immoral. Life would become chaotic if a man could pay his debts by finding coins in fishes' mouths. Life was never meant to be arranged in such a way that men could meet their obligations in such a lazy and effortless way. "The gods," said one of the great Greeks, "have ordained that sweat should be the price of all things." That is just as true for the Christian thinker as it was for the Greek. If all this is so, what are we to say? Are we to say that this is a mere legendary story, mere imaginative fiction, with no truth behind it at all? Far from it. Beyond a doubt something happened. Let us remember again the Jewish love of dramatic vividness. Undoubtedly what happened was this. Jesus said to Peter: "Yes, Peter. You're right. We, too, must pay our just and lawful debts. Well, you know how to do it. Back you go to the fishing for a day. You'll get plenty of money in the fishes' mouths to pay our dues! A day at the fishing will soon produce all we need." Jesus was saying, "Back to your job, Peter; that's the way to pay your debts." So the typist will find a new coat in the keys of her typewriter. The motor mechanic will find food for himself and his wife and family in the cylinder of the motor car. The teacher will find money to pay his way in the blackboard and the chalk. The clerk will

find enough to support himself and his dear ones in the ledger and in the account sheets. When Jesus said this, he said it with that swift smile of his and with his gift for dramatic language. He was not telling Peter literally to get coins in fishes' mouths. He was telling him that in his day's work he would get what he needed to pay his way.

1D. Morrison notes, “"Lake of Tiberias, on the margin of which Capernaum was situated. And cast an hook : Or, as anglers might now say, throw a line. This is the only place in the New Testament in which a fish hook, or angle,and fishing with a fish hook, are referred to. In all other places net fishing only is spoken of."

“Notwithstanding, them… 2. GILL, “Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them… Though Christ could have maintained his right of exemption from payment, by such strong and clear reasons and arguments; yet he chose to forgo it, lest any should be offended with him, and look upon him as a transgressor of the law; one that had no regard to the temple, and slighted the worship and service of it, and so be prejudiced against him, and his doctrines: which, by the way, may teach us to be careful to give no offense, to Jew or Gentile, or the church of God; though it may be to our own disadvantage, when the honor and interest of religion lie at stake. This was a wonderful instance of the omniscience of Christ, who knew there was in such a fish, such a piece of money, as exactly answered the present exigence, and that that would come first to Peter's hook; and of his omnipotence, if not in forming this piece of money immediately in the fish's mouth, as is thought by some, yet in causing this fish to come to Peter's hook first, and as soon as cast in; and of his power and dominion over all creatures, even over the fishes of the sea; and so proved himself to be what he suggested, the Son of the King of kings; and to be a greater person than the kings of the earth, to whom tribute was paid: and yet, at the same time, it declares his great poverty as man, that he had not a shekel to pay on such an occasion, without working a miracle; and his great condescension to do it, rather than give offense by non-payment: thee; and take, and give unto them for me and thee; for the half shekel was expected of Peter, as well as of Christ, and he had not wherewith to pay it; and this Christ knew, and therefore provides for both. But why did not Christ pay for the other disciples, as well as for himself and Peter? It may be replied, that this money would pay for no more than two: but this is not a full answer; Christ could have ordered more money in the same way he did this: it may then be further said, that only he and Peter were looked upon as inhabitants of this place;

and so the rest were not called upon here, but in their respective cities, where they might pay also, and, besides, were not now present.”

3. Henry, “For what reason Christ waived his privilege, and paid this tribute, though exemption--Lest he was entitled to an exemption--Lest we should offend them. Few knew, as Peter did, that he was the Son of God; and it would have been a diminution to the honor of that great truth, which was yet a secret, to advance it now, to serve such a purpose as this. Therefore Christ drops that argument, and considers, that if he should refuse this payment, it would increase people's prejudice against him and his doctrine, and alienate their affections from him, and therefore he resolves to pay it. Note, Christian prudence and humility teach us, in many cases, to recede from our right, rather than give offense by insisting upon it. We must never decline our duty for fear of giving offense (Christ's preaching and miracles offended them, yet he went on with 15:12,13, him, Matthew 15:12,13, better offend men than God); but we must sometimes deny ourselves in that which is our secular interest, rather than give offense; as Paul, 1 8:13,Ro+14:13.” Corinthians 8:13,Ro+14:13.”

3B. Henry goes on to give some great comments. “The poverty of Christ; he had not fifteen pence at command to pay his tax with, though he cured so many that were 8:9. diseased; it seems, he did all gratis; for our sakes he became poor, 2 Corinthians 8:9. (Luke 8:3), In his ordinary expenses, he lived upon alms (Luke 8:3), and in extraordinary ones, he lived upon miracles. He did not order Judas to pay this out of the bag which he carried; that was for subsistence, and he would not order that for his particular use, which was intended for the benefit of the community. The power of Christ, in fetching money out of a fish's mouth for this purpose. Whether his omnipotence put it there, or his omniscience knew that it was there, it comes all to one; it was an evidence of his divinity, and that he is Lord of hosts. Those creatures that are most remote from man are at the command of Christ, even the fishes of the sea are under his feet (Psalms 8:5); and to evidence his dominion in this lower world, and to accommodate himself to his present state of humiliation, he chose to take it out of a fish's mouth, when he could have taken it out of an angel's hand. Now observe, [1.] Peter must catch the fish by angling. Even in miracles he would use means to encourage industry and endeavor. Peter has something to do, and it is in the way of his own calling too; to teach us diligence in the employment we are called to, and called in. Do we expect that Christ should give to us? Let us be ready to work for him. [2.] The fish came up, with money in the mouth of it, which represents to us the reward of obedience in obedience. What work we do at Christ's command brings its own pay along with it: In keeping God's commands, as well as after keeping them,

there is great reward, Psalms 19:11. Peter was made a fisher of men, and those that he caught thus, came up; where the heart is opened to entertain Christ's word, the hand is open to encourage his ministers. [3.] The piece of money was just enough to pay the tax for Christ and Peter. Thou shalt find a stater, the value of a Jewish shekel, which would pay the poll-tax for two, 30:13. for it was half a shekel, Exodus 30:13. Christ could as easily have commanded a bag of money as a piece of money; but he would teach us not to covet superfluities, but, having enough for our present occasions, therewith to be content, and not to distrust God, though we live but from hand to mouth. Christ made the fish his cash-keeper; and why may not we make God's providence our storehouse and treasury? If we have a competency for today, let to-morrow take thought for the things of itself. Christ paid for himself and Peter, because it is probable that here he only was assessed, and of him it was at this time demanded; perhaps the rest had paid already, or were to pay elsewhere.”

3C. J. C. Ryle, “Let us observe, in the next place, our Lord's almighty power over all creation. He makes a fish his paymaster. He makes a voiceless creature bring the tribute-money to meet the collector's demand. Well says Jerome, "I know not which to admire most here, our Lord's foreknowledge, or His greatness." We see here a literal fulfillment of the Psalmist's words, "You make him ruler over the works of your hands; You have put all things under his feet--all sheep and oxen, yes, and the animals of the field, the birds of the sky, the fish of the sea, and whatever passes through the paths of the seas." (Psalm 8:6-8.) Our Lord's example in this case deserves attention of all who profess and call themselves Christians. There is deep wisdom in those seven words, "so that we may not offend them." They teach us plainly, that there are matters in which Christ's people ought to forgo their own opinions, and submit to requirements which they may not thoroughly approve, rather than give offence and "hinder the Gospel of Christ." God's rights undoubtedly we ought never to give up; but we may sometimes safely give up our own. It may sound very fine and seem very heroic to be always standing out tenaciously for our rights. But it may well be doubted, with such a passage as this, whether such tenacity is always wise, and shows the mind of Christ. There are occasions, when it shows more grace in a Christian to submit than to resist. Let us remember this passage as CITIZENS. We may not like all the political measures of our rulers. We may disapprove of some of the taxes they impose. But the grand question after all is--Will it do any good to the cause of religion to resist the powers that be? Are their measures really injuring our souls? If not, let us hold our peace, "so that we may not offend them." "A Christian," says Bullinger, "never ought to disturb the public peace for things of mere temporary importance."

“Surrendering 4. Intervarsity Press, “Surrendering "Rights" for the Sake of the Gospel (17:27) Jesus' point here is similar to Paul's point in 1 Corinthians 9 and 10:29-33: one should sacrifice one's own privileges for the sake of the gospel. Head or poll taxes normally listed specific exceptions who would not have to pay (for example, N. Lewis 1983:169). Conquerors subjected conquered peoples, not their own subjects, to taxation. Priests were exempt from the two-drachma tax cited here (Reicke 1974:168; E. Sanders 1990:50); so in later times were rabbis (France 1985:268). Most significant here, dependents of a king were naturally exempt from his taxes (Derrett 1970:255). Jesus Supplies These Needs As Well As Other Needs (17:27) The four-drachma coin probably is a Tyrian stater, precisely enough to pay two persons' temple dues (Avi-Yonah 1974-1976:60-61). Following an old Greek story, some Jewish stories of uncertain date speak of God blessing pious people by leading them to find precious objects in fish (Bultmann 1968:238; Jeremias 1971:87). If Peter knew of such stories, the moral of Jesus' causing him to find money in a fish would not be lost on him. This is irony of a sort: the King's children can pay the tax because the King gives them the money to do so (Patte 1987:247). Jesus can take care of his people who walk close to him.

5. Macarthur, “Now wait a minute. We...you mean we don't want to offend the lost, the tax collectors, the IRS, the government? We don't want to offend them? That's right, we don't want to offend them. No, no, we don't want to offend them. Oh, I think there are some evangelical Christians who must offend them a lot, don't you? I mean, they must be sick of them. They must be saying to themselves, "I don't know what kind of religion Christianity is, the kind they've got, but I sure wouldn't want anything to do with it." You see, you know, when Christians attack and attack against the government, I'm not talking about moral issues, I'm talking about just general policy, I think we need to speak against sin and evil and we need to even say "Thou art the man" when there's a sinner and an evil doer. But when you...we just continually attack, I think we offend. We do offend. But we don't want to offend them, see. Why? Well, because we don't want them to throw out our message. Isn't that right? Because they won't accept us. So the Lord paid His taxes.”

5B. David Thomas, “The simple reason Christ here assigns for performing a miracle to pay tribute was, "Lest we should offend" And why would He have offended had He not done so ? Because the Jewish Temple was a national

institution, and popular sentiment was as yet in its favor; as must indeed be the case with all national institutions. Popular sentiment is the life of all national organizations ; as soon as that departs, the vital sap has left the tree, root and branch, to rot. Christ acted through life upon this principle. He did not put Himself in antagonism with the recognized institutions and authorities of His country. Though he denounced, in no measured terms, dishonesties, carnalities, ambitions, iniquities, and all other moral evils, that worked like demons in the heart of society, you never find Him oppose the ordinances of the Temple, the constitution of the Sanhedrim, or even the political power which a foreign despot exercised over His country. He formed no associations to battle with institutions.”

6. College Press Harold Fowler covers this verse with more comments than all others combined. He answers many of the questions that are stimulated by this strange and unusual miracle. He titles this verse, “POSTPONED BY PLIABILITY AND A PURPOSE TO PROTECT PEOPLE

17:27 But, lest we cause them to stumble . . . We means both Peter and Jesus, because the former had rashly taken a position that committed the other to pay. So both would be involved in any scandal caused by Jesus’ refusal to pay it now. The collectors of the half shekel would not have understood Jesus’ divine right not to pay. Unless convinced of His deity, they would have interpreted His proper refusal to pay as claiming a liberty He did not truly possess and as evidence of a lack of reverence for God, the temple and the Law, and they would have been unnecessarily horrified, whereas there was no Hebrew in all the history of Israel that ever had a higher, more intelligent regard for God and His will. Does this section furnish an answer to the question whether Jesus attended the feasts, offered the sacrifices, and generally respected every other requisite of God’s Law given through Moses? May we conclude, on the basis of what He reveals about Himself

and His policy in this incident, that it was His normal practice to do everything that it was right for a Hebrew to do? (Mt. 3:15) 1. He had been born under the law to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive the adoption as sons. (Gal. 4:4, 5) There was no intrinsic need for Him to be circumcised (Lk. 2:21) or purified (Lk. 2:22f), except “to perform everything according to the law of the Lord” (Lk. 2:39). Is the temple tax question but a tip of the iceberg of legal obligations which Jesus made it His standard policy to respect? 2. The changes in OT legislation, that Jesus taught would go into effect after His death had set aside the old covenant. (Heb. 9:15-17; Col. :13, 14; Eph. 2:14f) Examples: a. The distinction between clean and unclean meats (Mt. 15:ll; b. The centralized place of worship (Jn. 4:21-24) c. To what extent did He participate in Passovers without offering sacrifices and sharing in the meals? (Jn. 2:13-23; Lk. 22:l.S; cf. 1 Co. :18) The Bible does not positively say whether Jesus did or did not offer animal sacrifices-even as thank-offerings to God for His goodness. Nevertheless, simple silence on this question is not a positive argument. Rather, His refusal to offer sacrifices without accompanying His refusal with appropriate explanations to His contemporaries would have caused far more scandal than His refusal to pay the temple tax! For Him to have offered such sacrifices in the temple when not obligated to do so and when fully aware of the temporary character of the Mosaic system would not have contravened His deity, any more than paying the ransom involved in the temple tax would have disproven His right to be the Redeemer, any more than submission to John’s baptism would have proven Him sinful merely because one of the primary purposes of that rite was “the forgiveness of sins.” (Mk. 1:4; Lk. 3:3) 3. There is no warrant for affirming that Jesus and the Apostles had never paid the temple tax during the three preceding years of His ministry, as if Peter hurried anxiously to get a ruling from Jesus on the matter. Such anxiety would have been psychologically impossible, if a precedent had already been established. But there is no textual indication that Peter was anxious for a ruling

or that he even wanted to talk about it. Jesus’ anticipation of Peter’s mentioning the tax conversation can be interpreted differently, not as anxiety on Peter’s part, but as urgency on the Lord’s part. The Lord desired to furnish Peter additional proof of His Sonship to God. It is better to assume that Peter well knew that the Lord paid every year, for the simple reason that, had He not done so, Peter could not have truthfully answered “Yes” regarding a yearly tax. Also, would not the Apostles have Yes” already questioned Jesus about His non-payment and already received the information just now revealed for them in out text? If we rightly object that Jesus did not have to subject Himself to the indignities of offering animal sacrifices required of other Hebrews, we still have not positively affirmed that He did not actually offer them. In an exquisite passage rich in insight, Bruce observes: Surely, a life containing so many indignities and incongruities,which was, in fact, one grand indignity from beginning to end,-it was a small matter to be obliged to pay annually, for the benefit of the temple, the paltry sum of fifteen pence! He who with marvelous patience went through all the rest, could not possibly mean to stumble and scruple at so trifling a matter . . . He wished them to understand . . , that it was not a thing of course that He should pay, any more than it was a thing of course that He should become a man, and, so to speak, leave His royal state behind and assume the rank of a peasant: that was an act of voluntary humiliation, forming one item in the course of humiliation, to which He voluntarily submitted, beginning with His birth, and ending with His death and burial. For our magnanimous Lord, the dilemma was easy to resolve: to refuse to pay, merely to prove a point for some, would cause others to stumble and cost the salvation of some precious souls, but to pay when under no obligation to so do, costs exactly one didrachrna and He could teach His disciples deference! So He paid, and in so doing He did not violate either His own freedom or the conscience of others. Rather, by submitting, He demonstrated his majesty. Lest we cause them to stumble, expresses Jesus’ concern for the weak and ignorant. By His example He instructs all disciples not to abuse their freedom and to be sensitive to unbelievers, refraining

from unnecessarily offending those could be positively influenced to accept the Gospel. Although we cannot permit or refuse compliance to a thing on any other grounds, we cannot refuse on this one. The requirement wholly uncalled for in Jesus’ case He found absolutely irresistible on the ground of others’ weakness. Although He was exempt from the tax because of Who He was, His interest was not in exercising His proper prerogatives, but in helping to protect others from stumbling. Jesus’ justification for waiving His privileges may well have been identical to that of Paul. (1 Co. 9:l23) To relinquish one’s own undeniable, inalienable personal rights for the good of others is true self-denial and the story of Jesus’ life. (On self-denial, see ”The Cost of Our Salvation” after 16:28.) Behold how “though He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor!” He did not possess one half-shekel to His name, and yet His honesty would not divert community funds for private need. 3. THE PRAISEWORTHY PERFORMANCE OF THIS PRINCIPLE OF PRECEDENCE He paid by procuring the money in such a way as to furnish surprising evidence that He really was the King’s Son and exempt as He had said. Go thou to the sea (of Galilee just outside Capernaum) and cast a hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a shekel: take that, and give unto them for me and thee. How would this particular choice of miracles have impressed His fisherman-Apostle? This alone justifies the miracle of the coin in the fish’s mouth against all His detractors. Anyone who can either create a fish with the right coin in its mouth and bring it to Peter’s hook as the first one to bite, or else knew that such a fish would so come, and tell the fisherman to go catch it, qualifies for temple tax exemption, because only Deity can do that! Jesus is not the mere son of an earthly potentate, but the Son of the Owner of the cattle on a thousand hills, and if He cannot make use of one small fish to bring Him a coin to fill the need, what kind of Son is He?! The moral purpose and spiritual instruction in his miracle were aimed squarely at Peter, and indirectly and secondarily at us. The coin itself was not shekel, as translated in our text, but a silver coin equivalent to the Jewish shekel, hence enough to pay two half-shekel taxes. Take that, and give unto them for me and thee. Why pay for Peter too? He was not a Son of God, hence not exempt in the way Jesus

was. However, his constant association with Jesus in His whirlwind ministry may not have permitted him leisure to pay his just dues as a true Hebrew. Therefore, when Peter took Jesus’ payment to the collectors, they might well have questioned Peter about his own tax payment, and were they to find him delinquent, there would be another cause of stumbling. So Jesus paid for them both to eliminate any possible cause for scandal. The money the Lord furnished, however, was not “for us,” as if both were sons of God in the same sense, but ,for me and .for yourself; the Son who is exempt and the citizen who is not. The payments are identical, but the reason for which each of them is paid is different. OBJECTIONS TO THIS “FISH STORY” I . There is no real miracle here. Some would suggest that Jesus’ reference to the fish be understood metaphorically: “In the fish that you will catch you will find what will pay for us.’’ Accordingly, this might mean that the fish would sell for the right amount. And since we are not told that Peter actually did find a coin in the mouth of a fish, the confirmation of the prediction’s exact terms is missing. ANSWER: Matthew did not need to elaborate on Peter’s obedience to Jesus’ orders, the latter not being essential to the account of Jesus’ teaching about the temple tax. The fact that the miracle is not described means that the emphasis of this story is not on the miracle, Matthew’s purpose being to teach Jewish Christians their duty not to abuse their freedom. However, the natural impression on the reader is that the order was obeyed and that the miracle really occurred, This impression is confirmed by the skeptics’ own attacks based on this impression. But to demythologize the miracle by reducing His statement to “You will find our tax money (in the sale of) the very first catch,” excludes divine foreknowledge and, in its place, substitutes simple, human probability prediction. 2. It was not beyond human power to earn such a trifling sum. “A day or two of fishing by the Apostles would have brought in enough money to pay the tax for themselves and Jesus too. Therefore this miracle violates the usual principle that supernatural means are not used where natural means suffice. Poor as Jesus and His disciples were, the putting together a sum equivalent to the salary for four

working days is not so serious a matter as to require a miracle to raise such a trifling sum,” ANSWER: Natural means would never have sufficed in this situation to prove what Jesus proved by this sign of His true Sonship, nor demonstrated that Jesus needed not to submit to the humiliation of paying a tax for the support of the royal house. Divine power is required to testify that all nature serves HIM, and that, as His father’s Son, He possessed all things. Admittedly, the intrinsic value of the sum is trifling, but this can never be thought the basis for considering the miracle as having been worked for a very trifling purpose! Is it a trifling purpose to show His disciples how profound was His voluntary submission to a servile obligation, despite His full consciousness of His own identity? And is it a trifling purpose to establish that identity by choosing a manner of payment which would contemporaneously illustrate Himself “as the Lord of nature, to whom all creatures in land or sea were subject, and all their movements familiar, while yet so humbled as to need the services of the meanest of them”? (Bruce, Training, 219) Even so, Jesus sent Peter to go fishing. He did not will the fish to come to Him at the edge of the lake and drop the coin within His reach. He made use of ordinary human means to complete the miracle. 3. It served the personal need and was done for the personal benefit of the one who worked the miracle. “If this story be taken in its crude literalism, it would show Jesus using His divine power to satisfy His own personal needs. But He had decided never to use His miraculous power selfishly to satisfy His own hunger or to enhance His prestige as a worker of wonders. (Mt. 4:l-ll) Thus, taken literally, this story violates Jesus’ own character and wilderness decision.” ANSWER. Instead of seeming to compromise the completeness of His humiliation, this miracle only makes it that much more glaringly conspicuous, as if the miracle story proclaimed: “Notice who it is that must pay this tax and is so painfully poor that He must stoop to such a level in order to pay it! It is He who has ‘dominion over the works of your hands . . . the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the sea!’ ” Psa. 8:68; 50: 11) So, rather than profit in such a way as to alleviate His

human life of hardship by the use of His divine power, He is still teaching others the reality of His humiliation. If this seems an exception to His normal rule of doing nothing miraculous for His own benefit. “the exception, however, had the same reason as the rule, and therefore proved the rule.” (Bruce, Training, 220) 3. The story is immoral that it encourages man to suppose that by a stroke of good luck he can solve his problems, meet his obligations without exertion on his part. ANSWER: Those who accuse the Lord of solving His probIems without exertion should consider how much it cost Jesus to place Himself in the incongruous position of becoming a man at all. Let them decide whether HE would have considered it a “stroke of good fortune” or “meeting one’s obligations in a lazy, effortless way,” when His entire life was one grand indignity, one continuous and voluntary servant hood, from start to finish. No, the miracle story, by its very nature and the lessons it teaches, distinguish Jesus the miracle-worker from any common mortal who would excuse himself for effortless laziness and refusal to pay the normal price of work for all things. 4, The miracle is grotesque and unworthy of God: “The very idea of using a fish to deliver tax payments, indeed!” ANSWER: Consider God’s use of animals to do His bidding: Nu, 21:6; 22:21-33; 1 Kg. 13:24; 17:4-6; 2 Kg. 17:25f; Ezek, 14:15, and especially God’s use of the great fish to deliver Jonah! Jon. 1:17; 2:l-10. Why shouldn’t He have had to take the coin from the FISH’S mouth when HE could have taken it from an ANGEL’S hand! On the other hand, Jesus did some other scandalous things (Mi. 11:6) like going to a cross. (1 Co. 1:18-23) More grotesque than that …! EVIDENCES OF JESUS’ DIVINE DIGNITY REVEALED IN THIS SECTION 1. Omniscience is revealed. 2. His consciousness of His true Sonship. (17:25) 3. His considerate deference to others’ weakness shown in His unwillingness to take offense at nor scandalize those who would not understand His reasons. (17:27)

4. His omnipotence was again manifest in drawing the right fish the one that had precisely the right coin) to Peter’s hook first. Or else, by divine omniscience He knew that the coin was there and that the fish would come to Peter’s hook. He knew and foretold that God would pay His tax in this way. 5. His generousness with Peter: not only did He not scold him for his unfitting answer, but He shared His own bounty to pay Peter’s tax along with His own. (17:27) God does things like this.”

7. "Poor as Christ and His disciples were, the raising of three or four shillings does not appear to be a matter that calls for a miracle. Moreover, in the advantage gained by the finding of the coin, Jesus Himself shared. Indeed the chief use of the money was to pay His tax for Him. These objections would have more force, if our Lord had turned a stone into a stater} or had created the money required. The miracle lies solely in His knowing beforehand that there would be no need to dip into the bag which Judas carried, but that God would provide exactly what was required. This supernatural knowledge was a lesson to Peter, and through him to Christendom, respecting the character and the freedom of the Christ The Father was about to enable the Son to avoid violating either His own freedom or the consciences of those who could not understand that freedom. Jesus knows this, and He allows Peter to know it There is nothing incredible in the manner in which the money is found. Such things have happened, and our Lord may have foretold that it would happen to Peter." Author unknown

8. SCHAFF, PHILIP “To explain this as meaning the value of the fish for which it was to be sold, is frivolous ; no single fish thus caught had such a value. The piece of money was in the mouth of the fish. Our Lord here exhibits miraculous power, in drawing by the force of His will this fish to that place at that time, as well as foreknowledge of the event. The two coincide in Divine ope-

rations. This miracle was not a freak of power, but had a definite and proper motive ; the money was provided in a way that asserted Christ's dignity to Peter, and yet gave no offense.”

9. Spurgeon, “If the question had remained by itself, clear from other circumstances, our Lord might, on principle, have declined to pay the tribute-money; but Peter’s rash declaration had compromised his Lord, and he would not seem to be false to the promise made by his follower. Besides, Peter would be involved in a dispute, and Jesus will far rather pay than leave his servant in a difficulty. When the pocket is involved in a matter of principle, we must be careful that we do not even seem to be saving our money by a pretense. Usually, it will be wisest to pay under protest, lest it should appear that we are careful of conscience in a special degree when we can also be careful of our cash. The manner of payment prevented the act from compromising our Lord. Very interesting was the hooking of the fish which brought the silver in its mouth. “Take up fish that first cometh up and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shall find a piece of money.” Very remarkable the providence which caused the shekel to fall into the sea, and made the fish first to swallow it, and then to rise to the hook as soon as Peter began his angling. Thus the great Son pays the tax levied for his Father’s house; but he exercises his royal prerogative in the act, and takes the shekel out of the royal treasury. As man he pays, but first as God he causes the fish to bring him the shekel in its mouth. The piece of money was enough to pay for Peter as well as for his Lord. Thus did our Lord submit to be treated as one who had forfeited life, and must have a half-shekel paid as redemption-money for him. This he has done for our sake, and in association with us; and we are redeemed by his act, and in union with him: for he said of the piece of money, “That take, and go unto them for me and thee.” There were not two half-shekels, but one piece of money, paid for Jesus and Peter: thus we see that his people are joined with him in the one redemption.

党He bore on the tree the sentence for me, And now both the Surety and sinner are free.” The obvious moral lesson is, — Pay rather than cause offense. But far greater and deeper truths lie slumbering down below. They are such as these: the glorious freedom of the Son, his coming under tribute for our sakes, and the clearance of himself and us by the one payment which he himself provided.”

10. Macarthur, “I have to believe that he threw the fish back. You can't waste a fish like that. In fact, that fish may be in heaven, I don't know. Swimming in the river of life...for all I know. Marvelous fish. In the Old Testament God used a big one. In the New Testament He used a little one."

CONCLUSIONS

1. I have a feeling that this miracle was in part to cover Peter's mistake in jumping to the conclusion that Jesus would pay the tax. He answered without consulting Jesus, and it was a hasty answer without authority. Jesus had to either come through or make Peter a liar, and so he gave Peter an amazing illustration of his being the Son of God by knowing what he said even when he was not there, and by being able to provide for this need by an awesome miracle that involved his profession as a fisherman. Peter had to be deeply impressed by this miracle, and hopefully learned not to make promises without talking to Jesus first. Peter put Jesus and himself in a bind by his hasty answer. Jesus taught him a lesson on the fact that he did not have to pay the tax as the Son of the King, but he went ahead anyway lest the tax collector he talked to would consider him a liar or deceiver, and been offended by the whole affair. The miracle was in part to save Peter again, and to save the reputation of Jesus and his followers.

2. John Macarthur has a serious application of this event for all of us to think about. “Listen, however unpleasant it might be, however difficult, however seemingly inequitable it might be, and though we are not even a part of the world system, we are to fulfill our duties as citizens. We are free from man's law, in a sense. Yes...bound by the law of God. But the law of God says you do not offend. If Jesus hadn't paid His tax, do you know what He would have said to those people? "I

don't care about your temple, I don't care about its service. I don't care about your nation. I don't care about you people at all." You think they would have listened to His message? When you're a good citizen you say I care about this nation, I care about this people, I care about its leadership, I care about this country and I want to do what's right. And people are drawn to such a person. Now this takes us right back, let's go again, right back to 1 Peter chapter 2. And I want to end where we started. It says in 1 Peter 2:13, here we go back to what we said, "Submit then to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake, whether it be to the king, as supreme, or unto governors, or unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evil doers," that's the policeman, "and for the praise of them that do well, for so is the will of God that with well doing you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men." Your righteous deeds, you see, your well doing, your honorable life style will become a rebuke to their criticism. Be a good citizen, pay your taxes. You'll rebuke the evil doers and you'll bring people to a knowledge of the Savior. In other words, Jesus sets the utter pattern. He submitted to authorities that He had no reason to submit to, in a divine sense. He had submitted to authorities that had no right to do to Him what they did, but He did it for our sake. Can we do the same for the sake of our society? It's a very important message and I trust the Spirit of God to confirm it to our hearts. Willingly did Jesus choose to suffer unjustly for the sake of the salvation of others, that's our pattern.”

3. Gary North sees the principle of what Jesus is teaching was applied by Christians in relationship to Rome, and the result was a victory instead of the great defeat the Jews suffered by choosing rebellion rather than submission. He wrote, “Jesus set forth a principle of dominion: do not give offense to those foreigners who rule over you. They have a rival confession. This confession can be undermined through preaching and obedience to God, which involves outward obedience to civil rulers. It can be transformed. The basis of this transformation is not revolutionary action. Rather, it is confessional and ethical: word and deed evangelism.

Jesus here established a program of conquest: dominion by subordination. He established priorities: the payment of tribute rather than giving offense by revolutionary action. The church's acceptance of these political priorities is what saved it from the Great Tribulation in A.D. 70. The top priority here was peace. By paying tribute, His disciples avoided a confrontation with Rome. This gained time for the work of evangelism. Evangelism eventually undermined Rome's confession. Rome was baptized in the fourth century, as the Great Commission mandates (Matt. 28:19).”

4. Alexander Maclaren had done the most to define the purpose of this strange and unusual miracle. I quote a large portion of his message because he is eloquent in making this, which so many trivialize, a truly powerful miracle message. “This

singular miracle of finding the coin in the fish’s mouth and giving it for the tributemoney is unlike our Lord’s other works in several particulars. It is the only miracle—with the exception of the cursing of the barren fig-tree, and the episode of the unclean spirits entering into the swine—in which there is no message of love or blessing for man’s sorrow and pain. It is the only miracle in which our Lord uses His power for His own service or help, and it is like the whole brood of legendary miracles, and unlike all the rest of Christ’s in that, at first sight, it seems done for a very trivial end—the providing of some three shillings of our money.

Now, if we put all these things together, the absence of any alleviation of man’s sorrow, the presence of a personal end, and the apparent triviality of the result secured, I think we shall see that the only explanation of the miracle is given by regarding it as being what I may call a teaching one, full of instruction with regard to our Lord’s character, person, and work. It is a parable as well as a miracle, and it is in that aspect that I wish to look at it now, and try to bring out its lessons. I. We have here, first, the freedom of the Son. But now what is the freedom based on sonship which our Lord here claims? I have said that this tax was levied with a double meaning; first, it was an atonement or ransom for the soul; second, it was devoted to the temple and its worship. And now, mark, that in both these aspects our Lord alleges His true sonship as the reason why He is exempt from it.

That is to say, first, Jesus Christ claims to have no need of a ransom for His soul. Never one word dropped from His lips which indicated the smallest consciousness of flaw or failure, of defect or imperfection, still less of actual transgression. He takes His position outside the circle of sinful men which includes all others. It is a strange characteristic in a religious teacher, very unlike the usual tone of devout men. And stranger still is the fact that the absence of this consciousness of evil has never been felt to be itself evil and a blot. Think of a David’s agony of penitence. Think of a Paul’s, ‘Of whom I am chief!’ Think of the long wail of an Augustine’s confessions. Think of the stormy self-accusations of a Luther; and then think that He who inspired them all, never, by word or deed, betrayed the slightest consciousness that in Himself there was the smallest deflection from the perfect line of right, the least speck or stain on the perfect gold of His purity. And remember, too, that when He challenges the world with, ‘Which of you convinceth Me of sin?’ with the exception of half a dozen men, of whom we can scarcely say whether their want of spiritual insight or their arrogance of self-importance is the most flagrant, who, in the course of nineteen centuries, have ventured to fling their little handfuls of mud at Him, the whole world has answered, ‘Thou art fairer than the children of men; grace is poured into Thy lips.’

The Son needs no ‘ransom for His soul,’ which, being translated, is but this: the purity and the innocence of Jesus Christ, which is a manifest fact in His biography,

is only explicable when we believe that we have before us the Incarnate God, and therefore the Perfect Man. And the Son needs no temple for His worship. His whole life, as human, was a life of communion and prayer with His Father in heaven. And just because He ‘dwelt in’ God’s ‘bosom all the year,’ for Him ritual and temple were naught. Sense-bound men needed them; He needed them not. ‘In this place,’ said He, ‘is one greater than the temple.’ He was all which the temple symbolised. Was it the dwelling-place of God, the place of sacrifice, the meeting-place of man with God, the place of divine manifestation? ‘The temple of His body’ was in deepest reality all these. In it dwelt the whole fulness of the Godhead. It was at once sacrifice and place of sacrifice, even as He is the true everlasting Priest. In Him men see God, and meet with God. He is greater than the temple because He is the true temple, and He is the true temple because He is the Son. And because He is the Son, therefore He is free from all dependence upon, and connection with, the outward worship of ceremony and sacrifice and priest and ritual.

II. Now, there is a second lesson that I would gather from this miracle—the voluntary submission of the Son to the bonds from which He is free.

Is it not a symbol of the very heart of the meaning of His Incarnation? ‘For as much as the children are partakers of flesh and blood He also Himself likewise takes part of the same.’ ‘He is found in fashion as a man.’ He chooses to enter within the limits and the obligations of humanity. Round the radiant glories of the divinity, He gathers the folds of the veil of human flesh. He immerses the pillar of fire in a cloud of smoke. He comes amongst us, taking on His own wrists the fetters that bind us, suffering Himself to be ‘cribbed, cabined, and confined’ within the narrow limits of our manhood, in order that by His voluntary acceptance of it we may be redeemed from our corruption.

Is it not a parable of His life and lowly obedience? He proclaimed the same principle as the guide for all His conduct, when, sinless, He presented Himself to John for the ‘baptism of repentance,’ and overcame the baptizer’s scruples with the words, ‘Thus it becomes us to fulfill all righteousness.’ He comes under the law. Bound to no such service, He binds Himself to all human duties that He may hallow the bonds which He has worn, may set us the pattern of perfect obedience, and may know a servant’s heart.

The Prince is free, but King’s Son though He be, He goes among His Father’s poor subjects, lives their squalid lives, makes experience of their poverty, and hardens His hands by laboring like them. Sympathy He ‘learned in huts where poor men lie.’

Is it not the rehearsal in parable of His death? He was free from the bonds of mortality, and He took upon Him our human flesh. He was free from the necessity of death, even after He had taken our flesh upon Him. But, being free from the necessity, He submitted to the actuality, and laid down His life of Himself, because of His loving will, to save and help each of us. Oh, dear friends! we never can understand the meaning and the beauty, either of the life or of the death of our Master, unless we look at each from this point of view, that it is His willing acceptance of the bonds that bind us. His own loving will brought Him here; His own loving will kept Him here; His own loving will impelled Him along the path of life, though at every step of it He trod as with naked feet upon burning iron; His own loving Will brought Him to the Cross; His own loving will, and not the Roman soldiers’ nails, fastened Him to it. Let us look, then, to Him with thankfulness, and recognize in that death His thorough identification with all the bonds and miseries of our condition. He ‘took part of the same that through death He might deliver them that by fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.’”

III. Then there is another lesson which I think we may fairly gather from this miracle, viz. that we have here the supernatural glory which ever accompanies the humiliation of the Son.

The miracle, at first sight, appears to be for a very trivial end. Men have made merry with it by reason of that very triviality. But the miracle is vindicated, peculiar as it is, by a deep divine congruity and decorum. He will submit, Son though He be, to this complete identification of Himself with us. But He will so submit as, even in submitting, to assert His divine dignity. As has been well said, ‘In the midst of the act of submission majesty flashes forth.’ A multiform miracle—containing many miracles in one—a miracle of omniscience, and a miracle of influence over the lower creatures is wrought. The first fish that rises carries in its mouth the exact sum needed.

Here, therefore, we have another illustration of that remarkable blending of humiliation and glory, which is a characteristic of our Lord’s life. These two strands are always twined together, like a twisted line of gold and black. At each moment of special abasement there is some special coruscation of the brightness of His glory. Whensoever He stoops there is something accompanying the stooping, to tell how great and how merciful He is who bows. Out of the deepest darkness there flashes some light. So at His cradle, which seems to be the identifying of Him with humanity in its most helpless and lowest condition, there shall be angels, and the stars in their courses shall bow and move to guide wise men from afar with offerings to His feet. And at His Cross, where He sounds the very bass string and touches the lowest point of humiliation and defeat, a clearer vision sees in that humiliation the highest glory.

And thus, here, He will not only identify Himself with sinful men who need a ransom, and with sense-bound men who need a sacrifice and a temple, but He will so identify Himself with them as that He shall send His power into the recesses of the lake, where His knowledge sees, as clearly as our eyes see the men that stand beside us, and obedient to an unconscious impulse from Him, the dumb creature that had swallowed, as it sunk, the shining stater that had dropped out of the girdle of some fisherman, shall rise first to the hook; in token that not only in His Father’s house does He rule as a Son over His own house, but that He ‘doeth as He hath pleased, in all deep places,’ and that in Him the ancient hope is fulfilled of a Son of Man who ‘hath dominion over the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the sea.’ The miracle was for a trivial end in appearance, but it was a demonstration, though to one man only at first, yet through him to all the world, that this Christ, in His lowliness, is the Everlasting Son of the Father.

IV. And so, lastly, we have here also the lesson of the sufficiency for us all of what He provides.

挿That take, and give unto them for Me and for thee. He does not say ‘For us.’ He and Peter do not stand on the game level. He has chosen to submit Himself to the obligations, Peter was necessarily under them. That which is found by miracle in the fish’s mouth is precisely the amount required for both the one and the other. It is rendered, as the original has it, ‘Instead of thee and Me,’ putting emphasis upon the characteristic of the tribute as being ransom, or payment, for a man’s soul.

And so, although this thought is not part of the original purpose of the miracle, and, therefore, is different from those which I have already been dwelling on, which are part of that purpose, I think we may fairly see here this great truth,—that that which Christ brings to us by supernatural act, far greater than the miracle here, is enough for all the claims and obligations that God, or man, or law, or conscience have upon any of us. His perfect obedience and stainless life discharged for Himself all the obligations to law and righteousness under which He came as a Man; His perfect life and His mighty death are for us the full discharge of all that can be brought against us.

There are many and solemn claims and claimants upon each of us. Law and duty, that awful ‘ought’ which should rule our lives and which we have broken thousands of times, come to each of us in many an hour of clear vision, and take us by the throat, and say, ‘Pay us what thou owest!’ And there is a Judgment Day before all of us; which is no mere bugbear to frighten children, but will be a fact of experience in our case. Friend! how are you going to meet your obligations? You owe God all your

love, all your heart, will, strength, service. What an awful score of unpaid debts, with accumulated interest, there stands against each of our names! Think of some bankrupt sitting in his counting-house with a balance-sheet before him that shows his hopeless insolvency. He sits and broods, and broods, and does not know what in the world he is going to do. The door opens—a messenger enters and gives him an envelope. He tears it open, and there flutters out a cheque that more than pays it all. The illustration is a very low one; it does not cover the whole ground of Christ’s work for you. It puts a possibly commercial aspect into it, which we have to take care of lest it become the exclusive one; but it is true for all that. You are the bankrupt. What have you to pay? Oh, behold that precious treasure of gold tried in the fire, which is Christ’s righteousness and Christ’s death; and by faith in Him, ‘that take and give’ and all the debt will be discharged, and you will be set free and made a son by that Son who has taken upon Himself all our bonds, and so has broken them; who has taken upon Himself all our debts, and so has canceled them every one.”

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