Peter and His Fish

In my study of Matthew, I find myself drawn again to the passage in Matthew 17 where it’s time to pay temple taxes. Jesus engages Peter with a line of questioning essentially telling Peter that children of God don’t necessarily have to pay the temple tax, but they should. And then the most curious thing happens: Jesus says, “But so that we may not cause offense, 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.”

Jesus uses the ordinary things of Peter’s life: the lake, the fishing line, the fish. Peter knows all about these things. The lake and fish are his whole life before Jesus calls him to follow Him. But this time? Something whimsical and miraculous happens. The fish Peter will catch will contain the tax money they need in his mouth. Think about it. Did Jesus command the fish to swim to the bottom of the lake and retrieve a coin? Did Jesus make a coin miraculously appear in the mouth of the fish? If so, why not just hand Peter the coin at the beginning? Why make him go fishing? 

It makes me wonder if God kept needing to teach Peter this new way of kingdom living with Him. It will always involve the miraculous and supernatural alongside the ordinary things of life. It will always involve provision and power in ways we aren’t expecting. I also notice that Peter had to obey God to see the miracle. He had to go fishing–something probably at this point mundane and boring to him. Sometimes, I’m learning, the miracle comes where we’re just doing ordinary things. To the outsider (and even to ourselves), we’re just going about the day. But the whole time, God is behind the scenes and about to do something extraordinary.

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