And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Does not your master pay tribute?…
This was not an entangling question, such as was afterwards put by the scribes, who asked if it was lawful to pay tribute to Caesar. There was no question of the lawfulness of this tax, and all that the collectors wished to know was whether Jesus wished to pay the tax at Capernaum or at Jerusalem, or whether perhaps he had not some special claim for exemption. Peter, as usual, does not stop to think, but promptly assures them that his Master certainly considered himself taxable. No sooner does Peter come in than Jesus, without further introduction, says, "What thinkest thou, Simon? the kings of the earth, from whom do they receive toll or tribute? from their sons, or from strangers?" Peter promptly answered, "From strangers." "Therefore," says our Lord, "the sons are free." The heavenly King could obviously require no tax from him whom Peter had only a day or two ago acknowledged to be, in a special sense, the Son of God. He had no intention, however, of standing on his right, and claiming exemption. His whole life was a foregoing of his rights as God's Son. He submitted to this tax, therefore, as he submitted to baptism. But that Peter at least might clearly understand that this payment and every act of his human life was a voluntary humiliation, he provides the money in a manner which is meant to exhibit him as the Lord of nature. When Peter went down to the lake, and found all as his Master had said, he cannot but have thought with himself, "Certainly our Master is as humble as he bids us be. He has all nature at command, and yet makes no sign to these tax gatherers. He bids us accommodate ourselves to the ignorance and prejudice of those about us, as he himself stoops to the smallest child." This miracle, then, was meant to instruct; especially to illustrate the humility of Jesus. It was intended to follow up the teaching of the Transfiguration and of Peter's confession; and, on the other hand, to put in a concrete and visible form the teaching regarding humility which our Lord at this time gave to his disciples. Peter was to be helped to see that the most Divine thing about our Lord was his becoming man, and submitting day by day to all that was involved in that. And in this miracle he had his first easy lesson; for in it he was himself the instrument at once of his Lord's Divinity and of his submission. Our Lord himself assigns a reason for the payment: "Lest," he says, "we should offend," or become a cause of stumbling. To all followers of Christ, then, this action of our Lord says, "Forego your rights rather than cause any ignorant person to stumble at your conduct." We are very apt to justify ourselves by maintaining that it was not we, but the person who stumbled, who was in fault; if he was so narrow minded, so weak, he would have stumbled at something else if not at that. "Yes," says our Lord, "it is quite true; it must needs be that offences come, but woe to that man by whom they come!" All men die, but murder is not on that account a venial sin. Our Lord miraculously paid Peter's tax as well as his own. He supplied him out of his Father's treasury, giving him an inkling of the truth afterwards to be set in the clearest light, that in Christ we are all children of God, and that in him we get from God far more than ever we can give to him. - D.
Parallel VersesKJV: And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute?