Greetings from Kenya! I have been here for 10 days, and return home this coming week. I am adding many new readers this week, so if you are new, we are well along in a series entitled "Go and . . ." that focuses on the times in the gospels when Jesus told people to go and do something specific. You can read all the past entries here, but for now, let's look at this week's story based on the account in Matthew 17:24-27:
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.”
In Moses’ time, each person over the age of 20 was to give an annual half-shekel offering (the equivalent of two Roman drachmas) for the support of the tabernacle (see Exodus 30:11-16). This practice was obviously still being observed in Jesus' day some 1,500 years later to maintain the temple. When the tax collectors asked Peter if Jesus paid the tax, he impetuously responded in the affirmative. When he next met Jesus, the Lord raised the issue with Peter, indicating that He was royalty and did not have to pay the tax, which was a veiled reference to Jesus' position as King of Israel.
Peter had made a commitment, however, and Jesus cooperated with Peter's promise to pay the tax. He then told Peter to throw out his fishing line and to examine the first fish he found, which would have the coin for the tax for both of them in its mouth. The story does not indicate that Peter did this, but the assumption certainly is that Peter found it just as Jesus had promised.
This story follows immediately after Jesus had predicted His death and resurrection, not long after His transfiguration and close to the time when Peter had his "get behind me Satan" encounter with Jesus in Matthew 16. This story is a simple but clear confirmation that Jesus knew what He was talking about! If He could predict that a fish caught on the first try would have money in its mouth and be accurate, then He was accurate in everything He said.
There is another aspect to the story and it is Jesus' cooperation with and tolerance of Peter's less-than-perfect behavior. Peter made a rash statement, and Jesus did not overrule His disciple's commitment to pay. Instead, Jesus agreed to pay on behalf of them both to cover Peter's mistake. I take great comfort from this story, for I too have made many mis-steps in my pursuit of purpose. I would like to believe that some of those mistakes were honest in that I made the best decision with the information I had while desiring to do the will of God. In response to my imperfection, Jesus did not abandon me. He did not revoke my purpose or chastise my efforts.
God is not nearly as short-tempered as we have sometimes made Him out to be. He is not as concerned about us "getting ahead of Him" or "missing Him" as we sometimes are. That reality should free us, not to be rash and cavalier about what we do, but to move forward with our ideas and creativity in an attempt to bear fruit for Him. For example, I cannot say that the Lord "told" me to write any of my books. I had ideas, I wrote, and now I am helping others write. There have been times when I threw out a line and found the provision I needed, just in the nick of time.
Can you imagine the impact it had on Peter when he went down and caught that fish? What a sense of joy and wonder He must have experienced? What a sense of relief that He had the money to do what He had promised to do. Our faith commitments, when realized, are always the most exhilarating experiences in our walk with the Lord and become our most meaningful testimonies. I urge you to trust the Lord and step out to do God's will, no longer afraid that you are overstepping your bounds, but are functioning in partnership with your Lord who is for you, not against you, despite your imperfections. Have a blessed week!