Image: Butterfly bush, North Garden, Virginia, July, 2022.
Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on Matthew 17:22-27.
Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and given unto them for me and thee (Matthew 17:27).
This miracle is one of the most unusual in the Gospels. Only Matthew has a record of it.
Men come asking Peter whether or not his master pays the “tribute” (17:24). This is likely a reference to the Jewish “half-shekel” tax, extending back to the time of Moses for the support of the tabernacle (and later temple) worship (see Exodus 30:11-16).
When Peter comes to Christ to inquire, our Lord “prevents” (gets ahead of) him by already knowing of the query (17:25). The Lord asks whether kings take tribute from their children (sons) or from strangers? When Peter says from strangers, the Lord declares, “Then the children [sons] are free” (26).
His point is that since he is the Son of David (Matthew 1:1) and the Son of God (Matthew 16:16), he need not pay the tax. Yet so as not to offend (Greek: skandalizo) he sends Peter out to collect the funds needed for the tribute, making provision in a most extraordinary manner (17:27).
He sends Peter, a fisherman, out to fish, not with a net, but with a hook. He tells him to look in the mouth of the first fish he catches to find a “piece of money,” and with it to pay the tribute for himself and Peter. This is a miracle that modern naturalists love to hate. How could this be? And yet, the believer knows that with God nothing is impossible.
What does this miracle mean? Rick Warren suggested years ago it implied that evangelism (fishing) would result in adequate church funding. If you catch them, they will give money! Clearly that is wrong.
The real point is the power of Christ. What a marvel of provision this is! He superintended a coin to come into the mouth of the fish, Peter to cast the hook, the fish to bite the hook, and Peter to discover the coin.
What is more, there is a foreshadowing of what is to come. He, as Son of God, did not have to pay the price, and yet he did. What is more, he paid it for Peter, his disciple. This anticipates his substitutionary atonement on the cross.
He is, in fact, the King of Kings, and the Lord of Lords.
Who is your King?
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle