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vain, unless Christ by his presence and blessing crown them with success. What a proof Christ here gives of his Divinity and Godhead! Christ our Mediator is true God; and as such he had a sovereign power and providence over all the creatures ; the cattle on a thousand hills, and all the fish swimming in the sea, are obedient to his power, and observant of his commands.
What a complication of miracles were here ! as soon as they came to land they discerned another miracle—“a fire of coals, and fish laid thereon, and bread,” — all created and produced by Christ out of nothing, at this time, as an evidence of Divine power : for, before they could get the fish to shore, they saw fish broiling upon coals, which makes it evident that these were none of the fish which they had caught. Christ, when he pleases, for the benefit and comfort of his people, will work miracle upon miracle, mercy upon mercy, one wonder upon the head of another : for here, after a miracle at sea, they met with another miracle at land !
This full draught of fishes, which Peter and the rest of the disciples now had, might probably presage that great and wonderful success, which he and they were afterwards to have in fishing for men. Here we have a hundred and fifty and three great fishes caught at one draught: but we find three thousand souls converted by one sermon of Peter.—Acts ii.
Rev. W. BURKITT.
Christ first called these disciples when they were employed in the duties of their proper profession in life, and he now manifests himself to them while they were so engaged; (John xxi. 4-13.) perhaps particularly intending thereby to encourage an honest industry, in which indeed we are far more likely to enjoy his presence, and to converse with him, than when we throw away our time in idleness and inactivity.
Awhile he leaves them to labour in vain, that when the plentiful draught of fishes came, it might be the more remarkable. Sometimes he may
deal thus with his ministers, in their endeavours to catch men ; that we may be convinced thereby to whose power we owe our success, and may not sacrifice to our own net, or burn incense to our own drag.—Hab. i. 16.
All the disciples rejoiced at the appearance of their Lord; but Peter was the foremost to cast himself at his feet. Conscious that so much had been forgiven him, he is solicitous to show that he loves much.
Let none imagine this miracle was merely intended for a demonstration of Christ's Divine power over all that passeth through the paths of the sea. -Psal. viii. 8. It was also the work of wisdom and bounty. By the sale of so many large and fine fishes, a seasonable provision was made for the subsistence of his disciples at Jerusalem, while they were waiting for the descent of the Spirit.—Luke xxiv. 49. Let every circumstance of this kind encourage us to trust him as the Lord of nature and of grace, who will withhold from us no necessary supply of either, while we are making it our humble and faithful care to promote his glory.
They that received the tribute-money;” in Talmudic language, they that collect the shekels; for not the publicans, or Roman tax-gatherers, are meant. There was a tribute that was paid to Cæsar by the Jews; (See Matt, xxii. 17.) but that is expressed by another word, and was paid in Roman coin, which bore Cæsar's image and superscription : but this designs the collection of the half shekel, paid yearly for the service of the temple.
The origin of this custom, was an order of the LORD to Moses, upon numbering the people; that every one that was twenty years of age and upwards, should give half a shekel, as atonement-money, or as a ransom for his soul; which was to be disposed of for the service of the tabernacle. -Exod. xxx. 12, 16. This does not appear to have been designed for a perpetual law, or to be paid yearly: in the time of Joash, King of Judah, a collection was made for the repairs of the temple, and the collection of Moses in the wilderness was urged by way of example: but no mention is made of the half shekel they should pay. In the time of Nehemiah, there was a yearly charge of the third part of a shekel, for the service of the temple; not by a Divine order, nor any law of Moses. From this it became fixed, that every year a half shekel should be paid by every Israelite, excepting women, children, and servants, towards the necessary charges of the temple service, and this obtained in the time of Christ. On the fifteenth of the month Adar, tables were placed, and collectors sat, in every city in Judea ; so that we need not wonder that we hear of receivers of the half shekel at Capernaum.
Peter, when asked if his master did not pay this tribute, answered at once that he did; knowing him to be ready for every act of piety and equity. But Jesus, preventing his mention of the subject by showing that he knew what had passed, asked him, of whom kings were accustomed to levy taxes ; whether of their own children, or of strangers. Children, in this connexion, must be understood literally; and strangers must mean the children of others; for kings generally collect taxes from their subjects, though their own families be exempted. By this question he intimated, that as he was “the Son of God,” the Lord of the temple, he had no right to contribute to the expenses there incurred, for the benefit of those who in themselves were strangers and enemies. “ Our Saviour's argument, why he should not pay this tribute, as being the Son of that King to whom it was paid, holds not with reference to the other tribute paid to Cæsar, he being not the son of Cæsar, but of God.”—Whitby. Lest, however, any should take offence at his refusal, as if regardless of the temple worship, he waved his privilege: and as he had no money, he ordered Peter to cast a hook into the sea, which was close by, and assured him that in the mouth of the first fish which he caught, he should find a piece of money, containing a shekel of silver, which would suffice for them both. By whatever means this piece of money was lodged in the mouth of the fish, omniscience alone could discover it there, and omnipotence ensure its being first brought to the hook of Peter !
Rev. T. Scott.
Our Lord's eye pierced through the whole world of waters; discerned the fish that had just swallowed a piece of silver-coin, and guided its course to Peter's hook. It is true, when the gatherers of the sacred tax came to collect his share for the reparation of the temple, he had not a sufficiency of money to satisfy so small a demand ; yet he takes occasion, from this most abject poverty, to manifest the immensity of his riches. He makes the deep his revenue, and bids the scaly nations bring him their tribute. Never was such indigence associated with such magnificence! Never, never let us forget, that the indigence was ours, the magnificence all his own!
How wonderful is this seemingly little miracle l or rather, what a cluster of wonders is comprised in this single act 1 - That any fish, with money
in its mouth, should be catched, — with money just of such a value, - and in the
very first fish that offered itself! What a pregnant display of omniscience to know, of omnipotence to over-rule, all these fortuitous incidents !
Rev. J. HERVEY.
I see no reason to suppose this piece of money was
ted on this occasion : but supposing that the fish had accidentally swallowed it, (perhaps as it was falling into the water, near some other prey,) I cannot forbear remarking how illustrious a degree of knowledge and power our Lord discovered in the case before us; knowledge, in penetrating into the bowels of this animal, though in the sea; and power, in directing this particular fish to Peter's hook, though he himself was at a distance. Hardly any circumstance can be imagined more fit to encourage him and his brethren in a firm dependance on Divine providence. And it is very natural to reflect how easily Christ could, if he had seen fit, have drawn up immense treasures, by this very method, from the heart of the sea : but he intended that his servants should be enriched and adorned in a much nobler manner than with pearls and costly array. That extent of knowledge and power which our Lord displayed on this occasion, can be at no loss for means to repay whatever we may sacrifice for his sake.
What an affecting mixture of glory and abasement was there in Christ's appearance on earth!
He shone in the majesty of God; was attended with glorified saints; was avouched and owned by his Father's immediate voice; and the disciples saw his glory, as the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth : and yet for our sakes he became so poor as not to have a shekel to spare, without a miracle to provide it! O glorious and condescending Saviour! He that could command a fish to come to Peter's hook, with a piece of money, which either by his onniscience he knew was in its mouth, or by his omnipotence he put into it, could easily have supplied himself with all the stores and riches of nature; and he that raised himself from the dead, could easily have prevented his sufferings and death, if he had not chosen to submit to them. But, as his Father had in eternal counsels determined, he freely consented to them, that he might glorify him on earth, and bring redemption to his people.
Jesus left the chief-priests and scribes" confounded and put to silence, and went out of Jerusalem ; partly to remove all suspicion of seizing the city and government, and setting himself up as a temporal prince. He went to Bethany to converse with his dear friends, Lazarus, and Martha, and Mary, who were all of this place, and where he could lodge and rest quietly. Christ went with the iwelve to Bethany, as Mark affirms, so these returned with him, as is clear from what follows. Thus Christ, day after day, went to and from Jerusalem : in the evening he went to Bethany, or to some part of the Mount of Olives, and there abode all night, and returned in the day-time to Jerusalem, and taught in the temple : for it does not appear that he was one night in Jerusalem before the night of the passover. He hungered ; which proves the truth of his human nature. “ And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only.” Mark says, “ He came, if haply he might find any thing thereon ;" which must be understood of him as man ; for as he hungered as man, so he judged and expected as man, from the appearance of this fig-tree, that he might find fruit upon it; and which is no contradiction to his Deity, and his having the Spirit of God; especially since, as Bishop Kidder observes, such an expectation is attributed to God himself. -Isai. v. 2-4.
Christ did not expect to find figs on other trees, which he saw in abundance as he passed along, because the time of common ordinary figs being ripe, was not come. Nisan, the month in which the passover was kept, is the time of the putting forth of leaves, from which they reckon five full months before the figs are ripe: but this being full of leaves, appeared to be of a different kind from other fig-trees, and of that sort which they call Benoth Shuach, as Dr. Lightfoot conjectures, which were a kind of white figs that were not ripe till the third year. This tree put forth its fruit the first year, which hung on it the second, and were brought to perfection on the third : so that when it was three years old, it had fruit of the first, second, and third years on it: or it might be one of that sort which brought forth fruit twice a year; for of such sort of fig-trees we read in the Jewish writings. But there being no fruit on it, Jesus said unto it, “ Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever.”
Christ having said these words, its sap was dried up, it lost its verdure; its leaves were shrivelled and shrunk up, and dropped off, and the whole was blasted.
This tree was an emblem of the Jews : Christ being hungry, and
very desirous of the salvation of men, came first to them, from whom, on account of their large profession of religion, and great pretensions to holiness, and the many advantages they enjoyed, humanly speaking, much fruit of righteousness might have been expected; but alas ! he found nothing but mere words, empty boast, an outward show of religion, a bare performance of trifling ceremonies, and oral tradition : wherefore Christ rejected them; and, in a little time after, the kingdom of God, the gospel, was taken away from them, and their temple, city, and nation entirely destroyed !
Christ's miracles hitherto were all wrought for the good of men, and proved the power of his grace and blessing (the sending of the devils into the herd of swine was but a permission :) but now, at last, he would give a specimen of his curse; yet not on any man, woman, or child, because the great day of his wrath is not yet come; but on an inanimate tree, set forth for an example. “ Come learn a parable of the fig-tree.”—Matt. xxiv. 32. The scope of it is the same with the parable of the fig-tree, Luke xiii. 6.
This cursing of the barren fig-tree represents the state of hypocrites in general; and so it teaches us, that Christ looks for the power of religion from those that make profession of it. Christ's just expectations from flourishing professors are often disappointed. As one of the chiefest blessings, and which was the first in order, is, Be fruitful ; so one of the saddest curses is, Be no more fruitful! A hypocritical professor commonly withers in this world, the effect of the curse of Christ !
This cursing of the fig-tree represents the state of the nation and people of the Jews in particular : they were a fig-tree planted in Christ's way, as a church.
Now, observe the disappointment they gave to our Lord Jesus. They “ called Abraham their father; but did not do the works of Abraham;" they professed themselves expectants of the Messiah, but, when he came, they did not receive and entertain him. Never any good came from them, (except the particular persons among them that believed,) after they rejected Christ: they became worse and worse; till they were unchurched, and their place and nation rooted up; their beauty was defaced, their temple, and priesthood, and sacrifices, and festivals, and all the glories of their church and state, fell like leaves in autumn. How soon did their fig-tree wither away, after they said, “ His blood be on us and on our children.”
REV. M. HENRY.
The immediate use made of this withering of the fig-tree, was to confirm the faith of the apostles, by an evident example of that power, a share of which was to be communicated to themselves. You have witnessed the power of God. Have faith in him : ask in such faith, and
shall be enabled to exercise such power. But though our Lord seized the opportunity of this miracle for the confirmation of his apostles' faith, its significant nature was intended to indicate the judgment of which this and the three succeeding chapters are full, the rejection of the Jewish nation. It declares the accomplishment of Isaiah's prophecy, Isai. v. 3-5. The Lord had come, “ seeking fruit of the fig-tree planted in his vineyard :" it bore an outward profession ; its leaves were flourishing; as the “ Jew rested in the law, and made his boast of God.” But when he came to it, he found nothing thereon, but leaves only; a mere profession. So the day of utter destruction was at hand; Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever!"
We must remember, that the dealings of God with nations are a specimen of his dealing with individuals. God applies the culture of his word, and distils the dew of his grace upon the heart : and he expects that “ the earth should drink in the rain that falleth oft upon it, and bring forth herbs meet for him by whom it is dressed.”—Heb. vi. 7.
BISHOP J. B. SUMNER.