Happy New year to all my readers! I haven’t been feeling so inspired to write fiction lately, so I’ll post a story I wrote long ago but have never shared publicly. This is my version of one of the miraculous incidents recorded in the Bible.
THE LOST COIN
Who dropped it?
Was it a Roman soldier, striding along the dock, digging out the boat fare from his little leather bag? Maybe he had spent a few days at the spa in Tiberius for refreshment and was on his way back to his post.
Perhaps, hurrying to the boat, he slipped on a greasy spot and one of his coins went flying. He heard it splunk as it hit the water. He shrugged and hurried on. What was one coin, anyway?
Was it a servant girl, sent to the dock to buy fish for the family’s supper? Perhaps it was her first time handling money and her hands shook as she was paying for the fish? To her horror, one silver coin slipped between her fingers. It hit the dock and before she could grab it again it rolled along a plank and over the edge. She heard it splunk as it hit the water.
Oh, what would mistress say if she came back with not enough fish?! Would the master even accuse her of stealing it? But with a smile and a nod the kind fisherman handed her all the fish she needed and waved her on her way. She would have been so grateful!
Or was it a young boy, waiting while his merchant father inspected some cargo. Perhaps his father had given him this silver coin to amuse himself through the long business talk.
Maybe he was flipping it in the air because he liked the way it sparkled in the sunshine? Then he missed catching it! With a small thump the coin landed on the dock and rolled over the edge. He heard it splunk as it fell into the water. Quickly he ran to the edge of the dock and watched it sink down, down, down.
The Bible does not say who dropped it. But God had a plan for this little silver coin.
A fish was swimming around under the dock, looking up, waiting for some juicy bug to light on the surface. Suddenly something sparkly flashed through the water, coming down, down, toward him. A huge silver beetle! Yum!
The fish opened its mouth as wide as it could, anticipating the delicious crunch, and into its mouth went the coin. But it was not juicy and squishy. It was a cold, hard lump!
The fish tried to swallow but the coin was too big. He tried to spit it out but it wouldn’t budge. He wiggled this way and that, he swam in big circles, he leaped from the water and back down. But nothing would shake this awful hard thing loose from his mouth. It was stuck!
“Hey, Simon, wait a minute!”
Simon Peter, who was following Jesus into the house, stopped and turned to see who was calling him. Several men were coming toward him through the crowd, those men who came around once in awhile to collect the tribute money to help pay for the upkeep of the temple.
“Your Master is staying with you right now, isn’t He?” one of them asked.
“Yes,” Peter replied, then looked around at the crowd of people. Why did they ask? The whole town of Capernaum knew that Jesus was staying at his house!
“Your Master pays tribute, doesn’t He?” another man continued. “We’re collecting. Everyone needs to pay the tax to keep up the temple.”
Peter frowned. Did He? Did Jesus pay tax for the upkeep of the temple? Well, Jesus seemed to want to live just like everyone else and obey all the laws, so He probably did.
“Yes,” answered Peter. “I believe so. I’ll go and ask Him.” But he walked into the house wondering.
Why should Jesus have to pay for the upkeep of the temple? Jesus was the Son of God–and God was the owner of the temple. Why, that would be like making Herod’s sons pay for the upkeep on their palace!
Jesus looked up at Peter as he entered the house. “Peter,” He asked, “From whom do the kings of the earth demand tribute money? From their own people, or from the foreign lands they have conquered?”
“From the foreigners,” Peter answered, puzzled.
“Then the children are free?” Jesus asked.
“Well, yes,” Peter replied, more puzzled yet.
Jesus knew what the men had asked for. He knew the question going through Peter’s mind. And he wanted to teach an important lesson to the people listening. So He explained that it was true; as God’s Son, He should not have to pay for the temple upkeep, for the temple was His Father’s earthly house.
“But we must obey the laws of the land as much as possible while we are in this life. We don’t want to offend them and cause needless trouble.”
“Take a hook and line,” He instructed, “and go down to the lake. Throw your hook into the water. The first fish you catch, open its mouth and you will find a coin. Take that coin to the tribute collector and pay the tribute for you and me.”
Peter, still puzzled, hunted through the fishing gear that he had set aside when Jesus first called him to be a disciple. A fish with a coins in its mouth?
Well, we’ll see, he thought. He found a line and a hook and headed toward the lake of Galilee.
By now the fish may have carried that awful coin in its mouth for several days. Perhaps he had swum from one end of the lake to the other searching for food, but not able to chew anything. Pressing hard on the same spots all day and all night, the coin was like a bad toothache.
He was swimming slowly in the water near Capernaum when a tiny silvery thing splashed into the water not far away. Other fish darted away, frightened by this odd-looking bug, but the big fish was so hungry!
He opened his mouth as best he could and caught the tiny thing. But it was not a bug at all. It was a sharp barbed thing that jabbed into the roof of his mouth and there it stuck.
Now something was tugging on this sharp hook. It dug deep into the roof of his mouth. He wiggled and tried to break free, but he was so weak he could hardly resist. He was being pulled closer to the shore, the hook jabbing him every time he jerked back. Finally exhausted, he gave up the fight.
Peter, standing knee-deep in the shallows, reached down and lifted the limp fish out of the water. Holding its jaws open with one hand, he carefully removed the hook. Then he poked a finger into its mouth and felt the coin.
Peter was amazed. How could it be that, in this whole huge lake, the one fish with a coin stuck in its mouth would get caught on his hook? How could it be that Jesus would know that? Grasping the coin with his finger and thumb, he gave a little tug and out it came.
Now he looked at the fish. “Someone will be happy to catch you someday, “ he said, “but you’d better fatten up a bit first.” And he tossed it back into the lake.
Then he examined the coin, marvelling. “Truly Jesus is the Lord and ruler of all Creation!” he declared as he waded back to shore.
For awhile the exhausted fish floated in the shallow water near the shore. Then he opened and closed his mouth a few times–just to be sure.
The hook was gone! That horrible big lump was gone! What a relief! He flipped his tail back and forth, pushing himself into the deeper water.
His mouth was very sore, but not too sore to nibble from the weeds growing on the lake bottom. Small water beetles swam among the weeds; he would eat lots of those. Never again was he going to be tempted by sparkling things that fell from the blue above!
He swirled his fins and away he swam, so glad to be free. Being a fish, he had no idea that he was part of one of Jesus’ miracles.