Humor is a very efficient way of resisting and even subverting the unjust status quo. Jesus was a master of this technique. Many of his parables tell that story and are gems of humorous observations and social commentary. Sometime, he went even further employing absurd humor.
Here I need to give you a little bit of an introduction. Disciple Peter, we are told was accused that his master Jesus did not pay the temple tax. Peter lied claiming that Jesus did. Jesus probably overheard it, afterward took Peter aside and talked with him. He asked him whether children of a king paid taxes to their father. Under feudalism the answer was self evident - Of course not! Then Jesus gave to Peter a very bizarre instruction. Take a fishing rod, catch a fish, find a silver coin in its mouth and pay with it taxes for me and you.
The pious commentators twist themselves into knots interpreting this bizarre instruction and firmly asserting an even more bizarre and unique self serving miracle. Well, the miracle is actually not reported. Commentators just infer it - if Jesus commanded it, it must had happened that way!
Oh, how very pious and at least, according to my opinion, how very wrong! Can you imagine fish with a large silver coin in its mouth being caught on a hook? And that was exactly the instruction. I am not a fisherman and I know it is an absurd situation.
It was an Adynaton - sarcastic hyperbolic figure of speech. When hens grow teeth, When cats grow horns, When fish build nests on the poplar trees, On the second Thursday of the week! Those are all modern European examples of this type of expression. And we know that Jesus used that figure of speech before - do you remember threading a camel through the needle’s eye?
In our English speaking world with not that many fishermen among us I would interpret Jesus’ instruction this way: Peter, go to a forest, catch a flying pig, sell it and pay our taxes.
Jesus had a keen sense of humor and resisted unjust taxation with biting sarcasm. And that is something you might not know about the Bible.
This Sunday we will hear about Jesus calling fishermen what he offered them and what they provided back to him. And why it is still relevant for us today.