Small and Unmiraculous Miracle
Christ--the same yesterday, today and
17:24-27: On their arrival in Capernaum,
the tax collectors for the Temple tax
came to Peter and asked him, "Doesn't
your teacher pay the Temple tax?"
course he does," Peter replied.
Then he went into the house to talk
to Jesus about it. But before he had
a chance to speak, Jesus asked him,
"What do you think, Peter_*_? Do
kings tax their own people or the foreigners
they have conquered?"
tax the foreigners," Peter replied.
"Well, then," Jesus said,
"the citizens are free! However,
we don't want to offend them, so go
down to the lake and throw in a line.
Open the mouth of the first fish you
catch, and you will find a coin. Take
the coin and pay the tax for both of
us." (New Living Translation)
find it interesting that only Matthew,
the tax collector, chose to tell us
the story of Jesus, Peter and the collectors
of the Temple tax. But it is an interesting
miracle for many other reasons. First
of all, it is so unmiraculous. In fact,
if you look closely you'll notice that
the miracle itself isn't even given.
Matthew only tells us of Jesus' instructions
to Peter. There is no follow-up whatsoever.
We are left to assume that everything
happened just as Jesus said it would.
(A safe assumption!)
Michael Card's album A Fragile Stone
familiar hometown, Capernaum, seems
to have changed as Peter and Jesus made
their way back to his house, their base
of operations in Galilee. Peter was
still trying to cope with what Jesus
had just revealed to them; that he was
soon to die. Jesus' promise of resurrection
might have provided a measure of comfort
to Peter, if only he or any of the others
had been able to grasp it. The last
few days had been a roller coaster ride
for them all. First there was the intensity
of his confession, then the dazzling
Transfiguration of Jesus on the mountaintop.
How is a pious Jewish man supposed to
recover after seeing Moses and Elijah?
now the crowds were gone. What's more,
the excitement was missing too. They
were, all of them, bone tired from their
long journey. They were emotionally
exhausted as well from all that Jesus
had said about what awaited him in Jerusalem
in the weeks to come. As far as we know
it was to be their last time to be in
fact that the Temple tax collectors
had come to ask at all was still another
indication that much had changed in
Capernaum, that Jesus' reputation was
beginning to erode. After all, this
was a tax from which Jesus should have
been exempt, since religious teachers
were normally not expected to pay the
Temple tax. It was too great an emotional
leap for the tired fisherman to return
from his mountain top vision to the
drudgery of taxes.
take your hand line and cast into the
lake. The first fish you bring up will
have a coin in its mouth. Use it to
pay the tax for both of us. After all,
we don't want to offend them."
Peter reached behind the door and took
his line and hook from the peg where
he always left them hanging. Without
a word he wandered down to the shoreline,
puzzled that after being called to be
a fisher of men he was now being asked
to fish for fish once more. "Since
when does he not want to offend anyone!"
he muttered as he trudged down to the
is an enigmatic story to say the least.
The depressed tone of the story can
be read between the lines. Things had
indeed changed for Jesus and his disciples
in Capernaum. He is being treated in
many ways like a foreigner, being asked
to pay a tax from which he was clearly
exempt. His statement about not wanting
to offend anyone I find to be perhaps
the most miraculous and mysterious part
of the unmiraclous story.
cannot help but believe that in addition
to leaving out the miracle, Matthew
chose for some unknown reason to leave
out the real reason for the strange
story of the coin in the fish's mouth.
And that is that once upon a time two
tired servants of God stumbled back
home to find, no longer a flock of the
faithful, but demanding religious people
waiting for them at the door. Knowing
that the least indiscretion would only
mean more conflict for the both of them,
one chose to exercise his awesome and
unlimited power to make appear out of
nowhere a couple of dollars to pay the
fee the men at the door were hounding
them for. All this for the glorious
purpose that the two of them might share
an uninterrupted evening together of
talk and meal fellowship since in a
few days one of them would be leaving
that place never to return.
small and "unmiraculous" miracle,
or was it?
the Lord of all would want to spend
an uninterrupted evening with his best
friend, is that not miraculous? "Pay
the tax for you and me," Jesus
That Jesus would invite Peter to participate
in making the miracle happen... is that
I believe Jesus, who is the same yesterday,
today and forever, is still about unmiraculous
miracles. I trust and believe that his
desire is still to spend time with me,
a person he had called his friend. So
let's keep an eye out and look for these
kinds of small, amazing miracles. He
is doing them all around and in us everyday.
the Study is a monthly syndicated column
by Michael Card. For more information
about Michael Card or his new book and
album, A Fragile Stone, go to www.michaelcard.com.