I think he misses fishing. In a boat, he knew what he was doing. After the keel grated across sand and they were off, he was at home. Out on the water in the wee hours, there wasn’t much he needed to say to others who worked alongside. Casting nets under stars required stamina, not conversation.
Now he has to talk a lot more than he’s used to. He gets himself in trouble every time he opens his mouth. On land, forgive me, he is a fish out of water. This time it’s the tax. They asked him, and he answered hotly, without skipping a beat — the teacher pays his due. But he didn’t know if what he said was true.
Jesus is indulgent. As if he knows Peter will soon be telling a bigger lie by the light of courtyard fires. If he can forgive him that whopper (and he will), he can forgive this little fish story. Jesus will make good. He will pay the tax. For Peter. And to avoid offense. That’s why, having put his foot in his mouth, Peter is coming down here to discover what’s in mine.
Soon he’ll be dropping in a line, fishing again. And all I ask in return for this favor, Lord—for this neat trick we concocted to save his face—is that, after removing the coin, he might take the hook out too, and throw me back.