the Fish that First Cometh Up
Matthew 15:38 - Matthew 20:9
Elder Bednar defined tender mercies as ‘very personal and individualized blessings, strength, protection, assurances, guidance, loving-kindnesses, consolation, support and spiritual gifts which we receive from and because of and through the Lord Jesus Christ.” (David A. Bednar, “The Tender Mercies of the Lord,” Liahona, May 2005, 99–102)
Many people consider this type of blessing a coincidence. I have learned otherwise. Often what we think of as a coincidence is really a tender mercy from the Lord.
I believe that there are two rules we can apply to a situation to see if it might be a tender mercy. The first rule is found in D&C 46:15, “And again, to some it is given…according as the Lord will, suiting his mercies according to the conditions of the children of men.” (emphasis added) From this scripture we learn that the Lord is able to suit his tender mercies according to the condition we are currently in
The second rule is found in Alma 25:17, “the Lord had granted unto them according to their prayers, and …he had also verified his word unto them in every particular.” (emphasis added) From this scripture we learn that the Lord is also aware of the particular needs that fill our life. These two scriptures lead us to believe that if a coincidence is suited to the condition we are in, and fills a particular need, it might not be a coincidence after all. Instead, we should view it as a tender mercy from the Lord.
In the seventeenth chapter of Matthew we read about one of these tender mercy moments.
The Savior was in Capernaum. While there, a tax collector approached Peter and asked if his master would be paying the tribute, or in other words, the temple tax. Peter answered yes and then walked into the home where Jesus was.
Jesus asked Peter, “What thinkest thou, Simon? Of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? Of their own children, or of strangers?”(Matthew 17:25) Peter answered, “Of strangers.” So Jesus replied, “Then are the children free.” (Matthew 17:26)
In that moment it must have become instantly clear to Peter that the temple was the House of God, and the Savior was the Son of God.
Since earthly princes would obviously not pay a tax on their own home, of course the Savior should not be expected to pay taxes on His Father’s House.
The Savior understood the particulars of the financial situation they were currently in. He also knew the condition of the hearts of those who came collecting. With those two things in mind He answered Peter, “Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee.” (Matthew 17:27)
Consider for a moment the circumstance and particulars of this scripture story.
Elder Talmage states, “We cannot doubt that what Jesus had promised was realized. …The knowledge that there was in the lake a fish having a coin in its gullet, that the coin was of the denomination specified, and that that particular fish would rise, and be the first to rise to Peter’s hook, is as incomprehensible to man’s finite understanding as are the means by which any of Christ’s miracles were wrought.” (JTC, 357.)
The Savior knew instantly how to answer the particular need of the circumstance they were in, and a tender mercy was orchestrated.
Tender mercy stories are not just recorded in the scriptures.
Our God is a merciful God. He is able to send tender mercies according to our conditions, suited to the particular moments we face. If we watch for them they will become miracles amidst the ordinary details of our life.
Moments like this are often times unexplainable,
but that doesn't make them less real.