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
What’s the point of recording this interaction with Jesus? I believe there are lessons to be learned here as Jesus acts out a parable of sorts.
This isn’t just about paying taxes. This is about sonship. Jesus is the Son of God, so He is completely except from any and all taxes. When the Ultimate King is your Father, you don’t pay taxes. As for any king, the children are exempt.
Yet, I believe Jesus is pointing to a greater truth. As sons and daughters of the King of Kings, we too are exempt. But our exemption is about sin. Jesus paid the price for our sin so that we don’t have to pay the price. Jesus’s death and resurrection made us children of God. Our faith in Jesus is how we entered the family. Faith in Jesus is how we received and accepted our adoption papers. Now, as sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father, we are exempt from having to pay the price of sin.
Then we learn that Jesus doesn’t pay the tax because He has to; He pays the tax because He doesn’t want to offend the tax-collector. To show the disciples and the Temple tax-collectors that Jesus is Lord of all creation, He gets creative with how He gets the money for the tax.
He sends his fisherman disciple, Peter, to catch a fish. The first fish Peter catches will have a single coin in its mouth, a shekel worth four drachma. I think it is significant that Peter doesn’t find two coins each worth two drachma. Instead, Peter finds a four-drachma coin.
The number four throughout the Bible represents God’s creation (four corners of the earth, four winds, four seasons). So, Peter finds a four-drachma coin. Jesus is saying that He is Lord of all creation even in the way He pays His Temple tax! In order to orchestrate a fish having the exact needed coin in its mouth for paying two people’s Temple tax, and to have Peter catch that exact fish, He would have to be Lord of all creation.
Creation must obey Jesus if He commands it to do something. We see this truth on display in this story and in many others–the wind and waves (Matthew 8:26-27), the fig tree (Matthew 21:19-21), the miraculous catch of fish (John 21:6), etc. This same principle also applies to every physical healing Jesus ever did. When He commands the body to be healed, it must obey.
Jesus is Lord of all creation!