But, lest we cause them to stumble, go thou to the sea, and cast a hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a shekel: that take, and give unto them for me and thee.Matthew 17:27 ASV
In paying that temple tax, Jesus did so out of charity and good will, not out of obligation.
Christ was a Son over his own house, not a servant in another’s; the head of the Theocracy, not one of its subordinate members – so that it was TO HIM in his Father that offerings were to be made, not FROM HIM to be received.
Christ’s submission to this tax reminds one of his request for baptism at the hands of John the Baptist. There, he might likewise have claimed an exemption, which fact John strongly affirmed, but he did not claim it.
It was his perfect observance of all obligations and, as in the case here, his going beyond all true obligations in order to do that which was becoming, thus leaving no cause for offense, that enabled him to say that he had come to “fulfill” the law and the prophets. Born under the law, he came not to destroy, but to fulfill, its every provision in the most perfect and exacting sense.
The existence of a fish with a coin in its mouth, which it had swallowed and was too large to go down, is not hard to understand. There have been many examples similar to this; and Wilson tells of a cod caught with a watch in its stomach, and the watch was still running!
The miracle is seen in the absolute power and knowledge of the Master who directed the fish to Peter’s hook and at the precise moment required. Trench wrote:
We see here, as at Jonah 1:17, that in the lower spheres of creaturely life, there is unconscious obedience to him; that these also are not out of God, but move in him, and are, without knowing it, for grace or for judgment, the active ministers of his will.
Note also that Christ never touched the money. There is no evidence that he ever did. On the occasion of the question about the tribute money, he said, “Show me the tribute money!” Money was apparently something that others touched, but not the Saviour.