A Coin in a Fish Head

After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma temple tax came to Peter and asked, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?”

“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 children or from others?”

“From others,” Peter answered.

“Then the children are exempt,” Jesus said to him.  “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.”

–          Matthew 17:24-27



“Of all the miracles in the new testament, this one is probably the quirkiest.  What are we to make of it?  To understand it properly, we need to look at the details.”

–          Eric Metaxas, Miracles


First, Metaxas explained about the drachma and fishing, something that Peter was good at.


Then he states, “As with all the miracles Jesus does, there’s more than meets the eye, and it is meant to point us to see something beyond the miracle itself.  Certainly one of the most important aspects of this story is how it demonstrates a specific aspect of the character of Jesus, namely that of his graciousness.  Jesus makes clear in what he says to Peter that they don’t really need to pay the tax, but he says that they will do so anyway, ‘so that no one is offended.’”


To explain the Temple tax, the tax was established in Exodus 30:13 (to build everything for the tabernacle), but the tax fell aside afterward.  In 2 Kings 12, Jehoash, reestablishes the tax to repair the temple, thus the tax was considered the ‘temple tax.’


Metaxas explains this as ‘going the extra mile’ (Matthew 5:38-42).  In this part of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is explaining not only how we should live, but how He will die.  He’ll pay the penalty of sin for us, thus ‘going the extra mile.’


Metaxas adds to this the overflowing abundance of God’s love as explained to the Samaritan woman at the well.  (John 4:13-14)


With each miracle, Jesus shows us part of His character and part of what it means to follow Him.

  • The lame will walk, but in our sinful state we are unable to take up our mat and follow Jesus. We must repent and leave our sinful state behind.
  • The blind will see, but without Jesus in our hearts we do not truly see Life, see Truth, see anything, until Jesus cleanses our eyes for us to see clearly and understand.


At the end of most of His parables, Jesus says for those who have ears to hear, peeking into the hidden meaning within the parable.  Again, pointing to our seeing (understanding).


The chapter on Biblical miracles in Metaxas’ book only mentions three in detail, this odd tale of a fish with coins in its mouth, the feeding of the five thousand to establish Jesus as a caring, abundant giver who could multiply the resources, and the raising of Lazarus to prove Jesus had power over death.  Metaxas spends time comparing the multiplication miracle being like the multiplication performed by Elisha with the oil in 2 Kings 4.  As for the raising of Lazarus (John 11), Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem to die and be resurrected Himself.


Jesus was an abundant giver during His ministry, but He still is today.  He provides what we need and He is always with us.


The Apostle Paul said that when he was weak, that was when he was strong.  Paul knew that in his weakness, Jesus would provide the strength, and there is no limit to God’s power


Soli Deo Gloria.  Glory to God alone.


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