Life has its ups and downs. Have you ever returned from a reinvigorating trip to find a tax demand in the waiting mail reminding you it’s tax season? That’s how Peter must have felt when Jesus and His disciples returned from the mount of transfiguration. Tax collectors saw Peter coming.
“Does your teacher not pay the two-drachma tax?”
He said, “Yes.”
And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth collect customs or poll-tax, from their sons or from strangers?”
And upon his saying, “From strangers,” Jesus said to him, “Consequently the sons are exempt. But lest we give them offense, go to the sea and throw in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a stater. Take that and give it to them for you and Me.” (Matthew 17:24-27)
Assuming that it ends as Jesus indicated, perhaps this is Jesus’ strangest miracle. It raises questions like: What was the point? And, was it necessary? Surely Peter and Jesus could have come up with four drachma somehow.
Several of Jesus’ other miracles seem similarly unnecessary—until we view them as demonstrations. These miracles indicate an extravagant kingdom breaking into ordinary life events. Why wait for the boat to come to shore when you can walk on water? Why not bless fishermen friends with record-breaking catches? Don’t buy more wine when Jesus can make it from water.1
Miracles speed or override natural processes. Jesus seems to have watched for opportunities to do them to demonstrate the abundant power of the kingdom in everyday life. His miracles were a taste of heaven, a glimpse of the glory of human life as God intended it.
That’s something to remember as we go about our daily routines. What opportunities arise to invite heaven to earth, to act with the authority of God’s children? In Jesus’ time, sickness and poverty had few remedies. Jesus was famous for healing miracles and He fed hungry crowds. They comprised the bulk of His demonstrations of the kingdom. Modern medicine, social safety-nets, and caring charities alleviate many problems. Don’t despise governments or organizations for caring, but don’t forget heaven’s solutions either. Physical and practical needs are a chance for God to shortcut human solutions and to be glorified. Tax season can be miracle season too.
The second point—the one Jesus gave—was about privilege. God’s children are not subject to the world’s limitations. But, although we are exempt, we humbly avoid offending. Instead, our Father, the King, protects us and provides for us. If it feels, on occasion, like a free ride . . . it is.
- Matt. 14:22-33; Luke 5:4-11; John 2:1-10; 21:4-6. [↩]