“When they came to Capernaum, those who collected the double-drachma tax approached Peter and said, ‘Doesn’t your Teacher pay the double-drachma tax?’ ‘Yes,’ He said. When he went into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, ‘What do you think, Simon? Who do earthly kings collect tariffs or taxes from? From their sons, or from strangers?’ ‘From strangers,’ he said. ‘Then the sons are free,” Jesus told him. “But so we don’t offend them, go to the sea, cast in a fishhook, and catch the first fish that comes up. When you open its mouth, you’ll find a coin. Take it and give it to them for Me and you.’” Matthew 17:24-27 (HCSB)
A “double-drachma” wasn’t a wrestling move. It was a tax established in Exodus 30:11-16. The tax’s original purpose was to atone for any mortal sin that an Israelite soldier might commit in battle. The tax was utterly unnecessary because Israel didn’t have an army! It was even more unnecessary that Messiah, the One who would Himself atone for ALL sin, should pay the tax.
King Herod had greatly expanded the temple complex. Part of this expansion included the building of a marketplace. It was Herod’s version of Walmart. It is suggested that Herod re-imposed the double drachma tax to pressure the public to pay for his construction projects.
Jesus would not have sinned by ignoring the tax, yet He paid it. The temple was the house of the Lord, and Jesus detested what it had become. Herod’s expansions were designed to extort worshipers. Now, Jesus, God’s Son, was asked to pay for unwanted additions to His Father’s house! Jesus had plans to take a whip and clear Herod’s merchants from the temple complex, but that would be another day.
Jesus still had ministry to do around Galilee. Paying the tax kept Him and His disciples on the good side of the religious Jews in the area. He chose His battles wisely. He was winning souls as well as saving them. That’s a lesson for us all: Keep the main “thing” the main thing.
By asking Jesus and Peter to pay the double drachma, the tax collectors prove they didn’t believe Jesus was the Messiah. They treated Him as a common stranger in God’s house instead of its inheritor.
Finally, observe Jesus and Peter didn’t have money readily available. Perhaps Jesus was showing Peter he would eventually be supported by a byproduct of evangelism: offerings. Fish symbolize evangelism. This community support system is observed in Acts 2, where early Messianic believers committed “all they owned” to the community of believers, laying their belongings at the apostles’ feet. Even today, the Church is supported in this manner by the generous support of Kingdom-minded believers.
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