The Tribute Money
Thursday, I discussed the life and work of Masaccio with my students. We viewed a slide of The Tribute Money as I retold the story from Matthew 17:24-27. There is a moment in this story that captivates me. Here is the scene, from The Message-
24 When they arrived at Capernaum, the tax men came to Peter and asked, "Does your teacher pay taxes?" 25 Peter said, "Of course." But as soon as they were in the house, Jesus confronted him. "Simon, what do you think? When a king levies taxes, who pays--his children or his subjects?"26 He answered, "His subjects." Jesus said, "Then the children get off free, right? 27 But so we don't upset them needlessly, go down to the lake, cast a hook, and pull in the first fish that bites. Open its mouth and you'll find a coin. Take it and give it to the tax men. It will be enough for both of us."
Simon Peter and the fish
Here is the moment that grabs me- "cast a hook".
The greek word for hook in this verse is agkistron and is used once in the entire New Testament. I commented to my students that fishing in 1st Century Galilee usually involved the casting of nets. So, I asked my students, "Why did Jesus tell Peter to use a hook?" I posed the question to all 5 art classes and each time at least one student responded, "Because he only needed to catch one fish!" Truth is elegantly simple. One fish contained one coin which was sufficient for two.
Removing the coin
Matthew Henry's commentary reads:
"Peter felt sure his Master was ready to do what was right. Christ spoke first to give him proof that no thought can be withholden from Him. We must never decline our duty for fear of giving offense; but we must sometimes deny ourselves in our worldly interests, rather than give offense. However the money was lodged in the fish, He who knows all things alone could know it, and only Almighty power could bring it to Peter's hook. The power and the poverty of Christ should be mentioned together. If called by providence to be poor, like our Lord, let us trust in His power, and our God shall supply all our need, according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. In the way of obedience, in the course, perhaps, of our usual calling, as He helped Peter, so He will help us. And if any sudden call should occur, which we are not prepared to meet, let us not apply to others, till we first seek Christ."