Kefa Goes Fishing Again

In my last post, we learned that Kefa accompanied Yeshua, Ya’akov, and Yochanan Up to the Mount of the Transfiguration. In this post, we see that Yeshua asks Kefa to Go Fishing Again.

24 When they came to K’far-Nachum (Capernaum), the collectors of the half-shekel came to Kefa and said, “Doesn’t your rabbi pay the Temple tax?”

The Temple tax goes back to the time of the Exodus when the Israeli’s were levied the tax to pay for the upkeep of the Tabernacle and was carried over when the Temple was built.

13 Everyone subject to the census is to pay as an offering to Adonai half a shekel [one-fifth of an ounce of silver] – by the standard of the sanctuary shekel (a shekel equals twenty gerahs). 14 Everyone over twenty years of age who is subject to the census is to give this offering to Adonai –15 the rich is not to give more or the poor less than the half-shekel when giving Adonai’s offering to atone for your lives. 16 You are to take the atonement money from the people of Isra’el and use it for the service in the tent of meeting so that it will be a reminder of the people of Isra’el before Adonai to atone for your lives.” ~ Exodus 30:13-16 (CJB)

The tax was equivalent to one or two days’ wages for an average worker.

25 “Of course He does,” said Kefa. When he arrived home, Yeshua spoke first. “Shim’ on, what’s your opinion? The kings of the earth – from whom do they collect duties and taxes? From their sons or from others?”

Like a good prophet, Yeshua responds to Kefa before Kefa even brings up the matter (see 1 Sam 9:20; 1 Kings 14:6; 2 Kings 5:26; 6:32).

Remember, when Kefa was on the mountain, the voice of the Father interrupted him. Here in the house, he’s interrupted by the Son.

26 “From others,” he answered. “Then,” said Yeshua, “The sons are exempt.

In tax contexts, exempt means typically “free from obligation” concerning tax. Since a royal family did not tax itself, Yeshua’s point is that the Son of God should not be taxed for the upkeep of His Father’s house.

Because Yeshua’s disciples were children of the true King, they were also exempt from the obligation to support the Temple. This had enormous implications for Jewish Believers. If Temple taxes were no longer obligatory, sacrifices and other offerings were also now optional.

27 But to avoid offending them – go to the lake, throw out a line, and take the first fish you catch. Open its mouth, and you will find a shekel. Take it and give it to them for me and for you.” ~ Matthew 17:24-27 (CJB)

Based on solidarity with the rest of the Jewish community, however, Yeshua pays the tax. If some of Matthew’s [1] Messianic readers were looking for an excuse to avoid paying the tax on their own day, this text would encourage them to pay it instead.

Through divine knowledge, Yeshua knew that a nearby fish had swallowed an amount of money that was sufficient to pay the tax. He also exercised authority over nature, ensuring that the fish would take the bait Kefa offered.

Yeshua commanded Kefa to throw out a line. Jon Courson has an interesting take on this command.

The command in itself would have been most curious because professional fishermen like Kefa didn’t use a hook and line. That was rookie equipment. It would be like Jose Canseco [2] using a batting tee. Real fishermen used nets and boats. But Kefa humbly obeyed. And I can see him walking along the shore, carrying his little pole and tackle box, as his colleagues looked at each other and whispered, “What’s he doing?”[3]

It is the only miracle using one fish. Yeshua had multiplied the fish for Kefa (see Luke 5:1-11), and He would repeat that miracle (see John 21:1ff). But in this case, He used only one fish. When we consider the complexity of this miracle, it amazes us. First, someone had to lose a coin in the water. Then, a fish had to take that coin in its mouth and retain it. That same fish then had to bite on Kefa’s hook – with an impediment in its mouth – and be caught. You cannot naturally explain all of this. It is too complicated for an accident and too impossible for human management.

In my next post, we continue our chronological journey of Kefa and learn he asks Yeshua about forgiveness.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] Matthew’s account is the only one presented in the Gospels.

[2] For those who may not know, Jose was an MLB outfielder and designated hitter from 1985-2001 playing most of his career with the Oakland A’s. He admitted using performance-enhancing drugs (steroids) and wrote a tell-all book in 2005.

[3] Jon Courson’s Application Commentary New Testament.

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