Verse 27. "Lest we-offend them" - Be a stumbling-block to the priests, or rulers of the Jews, I will pay the tribute-go thou to the sea-cast a hook, and take the first fish-thou shalt find a piece of money, stathra, a stater.
This piece of money was equal in value to four drachms, or two shekels, (five shillings of our money,) and consequently was sufficient to pay the tribute for our Lord and Peter, which amounted to about half-a-crown each. If the stater was in the mouth or belly of the fish before, who can help admiring the wisdom of Christ, that discovered it there? If it was not before in the mouth of the fish, who can help admiring the power of Christ, that impelled the fish to go where the stater had been lost in the bottom of the sea, take it up, come towards the shore where Peter was fishing, and, with the stater in its mouth or stomach, catch hold of the hook that was to draw it out of the water? But suppose there was no stater there, which is as likely as otherwise, then Jesus created it for the purpose, and here his omnipotence was shown; for to make a thing exist that did not exist before is an act of unlimited power, however small the thing itself may be. Some suppose that the haddock was the fish caught by Peter, because this fish has a blackish mark on each side of its neck or shoulders, as seems to exhibit the impression of a finger and thumb. The haddock is the gadus eglesinus. But this being a sea fish, could not be a native of the sea of Galilee or Tiberias, &c., for the river Jordan runs through the sea of Galilee, and falls into the Dead Sea, which has no outlet to the ocean: no sea fish of any kind can be found there; and we may add to this, that Belzoni, a learned traveler, who examined the produce of the lake of Tiberias, found only trouts, pikes, chevins, and tenches. That it may, besides these, have some fishes peculiar to itself, as most extensive fresh water lakes have, need not be denied; but it could have no sea fish.
THE account of the transfiguration, the peculiar case of the lunatic, with his cure, and the miracle wrought to pay the tribute money, render this one of the most interesting and instructive chapters in the New Testament.
1. To what has already been said on the subject of the transfiguration, nothing need be added: I have given that sense to it which the circumstances of the case, the construction of the words, and the analogy of faith warrant. That others have understood the whole transaction differently, is readily granted. Some of the foreign critics, who are also called divines, have stripped it, by their mode of interpretation, of all its strength, use, and meaning. With them, it is thus to be understood:-"Jesus, with his disciples, Peter, James, and John, went by night into a mountain, for the purpose of prayer and meditation; while thus engaged, the animal spirits of the disciples were overcome by watching and fatigue, and they fell asleep: in this sleep they dreamed, or Peter only dreamed, that he saw his Master encompassed with a glorious light, and that Moses and Elijah were conversing with him. That early in the morning, just as the sun was rising, there happened some electric or thunder-like explosions (a thing not unfrequent near some mountains) by which the disciples were suddenly awoke; that Peter, whose mind was strongly impressed with his dream, seeing the rising sun shine gloriously upon his Master, and his strongly impressed senses calling to remembrance his late vision, he for a moment imagined he saw, not only the glory of which he had dreamed, but the persons also-Moses and Elijah, still standing on the mount with Christ; that not being as yet sufficiently awake, finding the images impressed on his imagination fleeting away with his returning exercise of reason, he cried out, before he was aware, Lord! it is good for its to be here, let us make three tabernacles, &c.; but in a short time, having recovered the regular use of his senses, he perceived that it was a dream; and, having told it to our Lord and his brother disciples, lest the Jews might take occasion of jealousy from it, he was desired to tell the vision to no man." This is the substance of that strange explanation given by those learned men to this extraordinary transaction; a mode of interpretation only calculated to support that system which makes it an important point to deny and decry all supernatural and miraculous influence, and to explain away all the spirituality of the New Testament. Whatever ingenuity may be in this pretended elucidation, every unprejudiced person must see that it can never be brought to accord with the letter and concomitant circumstances of this most remarkable case.
2. The cure of the deaf and dumb lunatic has been treated, by the same critics, in nearly the same way, and for the same obvious design, namely, to exclude from the world all supernatural agency; and could they succeed in this, of what value, or, indeed, utility, could the whole New Testament be to mankind? We might be well astonished to find such a history, with such a great variety of curious and apparently interesting circumstances:-a wondrous person, labouring, preaching, suffering, dying, &c., &c., without having scarcely any thing in view, but a sort of merely moral reformation of the outward man! Truly, this:-" Is like an ocean into tempest toss'd, To waft a feather, or to drown a fly." But the truth of God's miraculous interpositions, the miracles of the New Testament, demoniacal possessions and influence, the atonement, the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the regeneration of the corrupted human heart, &c., etc ,, must not be given up to please a certain description of persons, who have no commerce with God themselves, and cannot bear that others should either have or pretend to it.
3. The miracle wrought for the paying of the temple tribute money, is exceedingly remarkable. The note on ver. 27, brings this particularly to view. To what is there said, it may be added, that our Lord seems to have wrought this miracle for the following purposes:-1.
More forcibly to impress the minds of his disciples, and his followers in general, with the necessity and propriety of being subject to all the laws of the different states, kingdoms, &c., wheresoever the providence of God might cast their lot.
2. To show forth his own unlimited power and knowledge, that they might be fully convinced that he knew all things, even to the most minute; and could do whatsoever he pleased; and that both his wisdom and power were continually interested in behalf of his true disciples.
3. To teach all believers a firm trust and reliance on Divine Providence, the sources of which can never be exhausted; and which, directed by infinite wisdom and love, will make every provision essentially requisite for the comfort and support, of life. How many of the poor followers of Christ have been enabled to discern his kind hand, even in the means furnished them to discharge the taxes laid on them by the state! The profane and the unprincipled may deride, and mock on, but the people of God know it to be their duty, and their interest, to be subject to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake; and, while his grace and providence render this obedience, in things both spiritual and secular, possible, his love, which their hearts feel, renders their duty their delight. The accomplishment of such ends as these is worthy both of the wisdom and benevolence of Christ.