“Each who is numbered in the census shall give this: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary (the shekel is twenty gerahs), half a shekel as an offering to the LORD. Every one who is numbered in the census, from twenty years old and upward, shall give the LORD’s offering. The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less, than the half shekel, when you give the LORD’s offering to make atonement for yourselves. And you shall take the atonement money from the people of Israel, and shall appoint it for the service of the tent of meeting; that it may bring the people of Israel to remembrance before the LORD, so as to make atonement for yourselves.”
“When they came to Caperna-um, the collectors of the half-shekel tax went up to Peter and said, “Does not your teacher pay the tax?” He said, “Yes.” And when he came home, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tribute? From their sons or from others?” And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook, and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel; take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.”
“But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we are now justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. Not only so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received our reconciliation. (atonement)”
For the longest time, the account of the coin in the fish’s mouth had me questioning, “Why”? The Matthew account is the only gospel that tells of it. I thought it must have some significance for it to be mentioned so I delved into it. Here again is the importance of reading the Old Testament to understand the New. The half shekel tax was an atonement tax for the sanctuary implemented by God, as we see in Exodus. It was a payment (sacrifice) to be given so that the people of Israel would remember man’s need for atonement with God.
We know that Christ was our atonement (or reconciliation) as the verse in Romans indicates. But why did Jesus use such an amazing and miraculous way to pay the half shekel tax? He could have paid it easily from the money he and the disciples had in their money box (see John 4:12-6), but he had a greater lesson to teach here. He told Peter to go and cast a hook and the first fish he caught would have the amount needed for the atonement. Here is the spiritual application of this enacted parable: Christ, not Peter, provided what was required for the atonement tax. God also provided our atonement by giving us His son, Jesus. Our spiritual atonement or reconciliation with God can only be paid by Christ.
The other lesson for us has to do with Peter. The disciple had to have the faith to listen to his Master, get his line and hook, walk to the sea, and cast his line into it. Once he did that, he saw that by his faith and his action his atonement was provided.
May we understand the atoning work our Lord has done for us. May our faith compel us to do those things that seem impossible in an unbelieving world.