Parable of the Net, 23 August 2015

Matthew 13:47-58

Series Overview: this summertime series will examine the various parables of Jesus recorded in thirteenth chapter of Matthew.

Big Idea: Judgment Day is coming for all of us. Are you ready?


Life is filled with tension.

Should I talk or be quiet?
Spend or save?
Laugh or cry?
Work or play?

Of course the answer to all of the above is “yes.”

a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace. (Ecclesiastes 3:2-8)

Pastor Andy Stanley has famously said while we often seek to eliminate tension as a problem to solve, some tensions are merely to be managed. We must embrace the “both/and” rather than the “either/or.” Frequently the tension is good.
Last year we did a series entitled, “Covenant & Kingdom.” God invites us into relationship with Himself, welcoming His children in covenant. He also challenges us to be involved in His Kingdom activity. The tension is good.

Today we conclude our series on the parables of Matthew 13. Like the parable of the weeds, it exposes a tension between extremes much like the wheat and the weeds, the good and the bad. How do we deal with the tension? How do we live in the tension?

“Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like…(Matthew 13:47a)

Again Jesus talks about the kingdom of heaven. Notice He doesn’t say this is what heaven is like, but rather the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom of heaven is not a place; it is not the kingdom in heaven but the kingdom of heaven, wherever the rule and reign of God takes place. On a related note, the Bible doesn’t teach the end of this world, but rather the end of the age.

We live in the in-between, between the now and the not yet. It can be awkward. This week I was with a group of pastors and the subject of healing came up. Does God heal today? One pastor said, “God always heals. Someday we will have new bodies with no sickness, death, or disease.” While it is true that someday God will heal, sometimes He heals our present bodies in our present life…but not always. Why not? I don’t fully understand.

What I have learned in our daughter’s journey is that although God did not heal her in the way we wanted or the timing we wanted, she is more fully alive today than ever before, filled with faith, peace and joy, and this past week she was not only walking but swam for the first time in about three years at the beach! Praise God! The kingdom of heaven is so present in her life and I’m thrilled to see it daily. Once again, thank you for your prayers and support of her and our family. God does answer prayer!

"Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. (Matthew 13:47)

Have you ever fished with a net?

There are many different fishing methods. The most common today probably involves a pole, line, hook, and bait. The bait goes on the hook which is on the line which is on the pole and the bait is cast into the water to attract hungry fish.

A variation on this is fly fishing, made famous in the movie
A River Runs Through It in 1999. My understanding is instead of the bait gently resting below the surface of the water, it moves above it.

A family legend has it that my cousin developed a unique way to fish…at Greenfield Village. He saw some nice fish in one of the ponds, attracted the fish with popcorn, and smacked them with his wallet before removing them from the water! I don’t recommend this action as it is cause for removal from the park!

In all of the mentioned methods of fishing, the goal is to catch one, nice fish. If the fisherman—or fisherwoman—is unsatisfied with the result, the fish is tossed back into the water and work begins again on finding a suitable fish.

Jesus’ parable describes a different type of fishing. A dragnet is placed in the water and multiple fish are caught at once.

"Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. (Matthew 13:47)

In most of my fishing expeditions, the thought of catching even one, small fish is exhilarating since usually I catch nothing. I can’t imagine multiple fish, let alone multiple fish at once!

This type of net used to be the most important fishing method. The net was “shaped like a long 750 to 1,000 foot wall, upwards of 25 feet high at the center, and 5 feet high at the ends. The foot-rope was weighted with sinkers, while the head-rope floated with attached corks, enabling the net wall to be dragged toward shore by both ends, trapping fish inside.”*

*Wilkins, Michael J. (2009-05-26). The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew (p. 489). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

"Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. (Matthew 13:47-48)

Like the wheat and the weeds, the good and bad fish are taken together and then separated. For a season, the good and bad coexist. They are not quarantined. This explains much of the tension in our world. Despite the desires of some to escape from reality and create a utopian society apart from sin and evil, it is inescapable.

"Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 13:47-50)

Surely Jesus didn’t say this! Jesus is all about love and happiness, right? People have tried to rationalize away these words, but I think Jesus meant what He said. Good and bad may coexist, but Judgment Day will separate them. The destination of the wicked is described as a blazing furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

John MacArthur notes, “Jesus spoke more of hell than any of the prophets or apostles did-perhaps for the reason that its horrible truth would be all but impossible to accept had not the Son of God Himself absolutely affirmed it. It had special emphasis in Jesus’ teaching from the beginning to the end of His earthly ministry. He said more about hell than about love. More than all other teachers in the Bible combined, He warned men of hell, promising no escape for those who refused His gracious, loving offer of salvation.”

This is a warning, friends. Jesus never said all roads lead to heaven. In fact, He said

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)

Jesus did not say everyone goes to heaven when they die. He said essentially we choose in this life whether we want to spend eternity with God or apart from God in the next life.

The thing about warnings is they can be ignored but the consequences are the same.

This past week was the ten year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf. I heard a woman tell of the decision her and her husband made to ignore the warnings. They stayed in their house, the storms came, the roof crashed upon them, her husband beside her did not survive, and she found herself in a tree clinging to her life for six hours. Six hours in a tree! I wonder how many times she thought, “I should have listened to the warnings.”

For two thousand years—or more—God has been issuing warnings, yet so many ignore them. Friends, don’t ignore this warning. I’m not saying this to scare you but merely to warn you—Judgment Day is coming. The good fish and bad fish will be separated.

As a good fish, it can be frustrating to see the bad fish doing bad things without justice, but justice is coming. Right now all are receiving mercy, but someday all will receive justice.

But just a moment. I said, “As a good fish.” The reality is we’re all bad fish! John wrote

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. (1 John 1:8)

All of us have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, His standard of perfection…which is why we need grace! We need sanctification, the process of becoming like Jesus. We need the Holy Spirit to strengthen us when are tempted and resist the devil. We need forgiveness so we can forgive others. We need love so we can love.

We’re all bad fish but the gospel is we don’t remain bad fish. Jesus is LORD and as we submit to His Lordship and follow Him we are transformed. We
can change!

Another Parable?

The thirteenth chapter of Matthew continues…

“Have you understood all these things?” Jesus asked.

“Yes,” they replied.

He said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.” (Matthew 13:51-52)

Earlier they had no clue what Jesus meant by the parables! The disciples will teach what Jesus taught them, both the ancient scriptures and HIs modern parables and teaching. They have received a treasure from Jesus they are to pass on to future generations of disciples, including us. They are to know, experience, and teach the kingdom.

Today we are ambassadors of the kingdom of heaven, the greatest treasure of this world, and each day we should repeatedly give thanks for the incredible value of this gift that we handle, our source of true joy.

Final Words

The thirteenth chapter of Matthew concludes…

When Jesus had finished these parables, he moved on from there. Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked. “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” And they took offense at him.

But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town and in his own home.”

And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith. (Matthew 13:53-58)

Some people don’t know Jesus. Others think they know Him too well! He’s nothing special, just Joe’s son.

Jesus once asked His friend, “Who do people say that I am?” People had many views of Jesus then…and they still do today.

He’s a prophet.
He’s a teacher.
He’s a radical.
He’s a nice man.
He’s God but not human.
He’s human but not God.

Jesus declared in word and deed both His humanity and deity. He is fully man and fully God. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He is the only way to the Father. He died and rose again. He is alive today, preparing a place for us.

We don’t have time to unpack this last verse, but unbelief limited the power of God. Remember, faith is not merely something in your head. It requires action. Could it be that our lives lack faith and, therefore, God’s power is limited?

So What?

1. We all need grace. We’re all bad fish, made good not by our actions but the actions of Jesus. It’s not what we do that makes us good fish but what Jesus has done. Hallelujah!

2. We need to warn the bad fish about Judgment Day. It is coming whether people deny it or not. Ignoring hurricane warnings does not stop the storm.

3. It’s easy to miss Jesus. Familiarity breeds contempt.

Michael Wilkins writes, “Rejection of God’s gospel message through his prophets has not ceased. Much of the secularist Western world is also familiar with Jesus. They pride themselves on being ultramodern or postmodern and cannot conceive how such an ancient message is relevant to our world. Jesus is like a comfortable old shoe that they can sing about at Christmas, but he isn’t serviceable for everyday life.”

One reason we gather each week is to be reminded of God’s amazing grace so it can transform us and those around us. We need to get Him out of the little box we call “Sunday morning Messiah” or “historical figure” or “SOS when I’m in trouble” and recognize King Jesus as LORD, 24/7/365.


Some ideas from
The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew by Michael J. Wilkins, Zondervan.

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.