Jesus concludes a day of sharing parables with this one:
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind: Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away. So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just.” (Matthew 13:47-49)
The message of this parable resonates with many who are listening to Jesus this day, especially the professional fishermen in the audience. After all, Jesus is describing the process they use in their work:
- Put the net into the water and leave it there for a while.
- Eventually, bring it up and (hopefully) there are fish in the net.
- However, not all of the fish in the net will be ones that can be sold (some types of fish are inedible, some may be damaged, etc.).
- So, the unusable fish need to be separated out and disposed of before bringing the haul to market to be sold.
Someone who is not familiar with the process may question why a professional fisherman is catching fish that wind up being unusable. Why can’t he just catch the good ones?
Well, the simple answer is — When you cast out a net, you never know what you’re going to catch. When you’re fishing this way, you’re not identifying individual fish in the sea to target. Rather, you’re setting up a mechanism (a net) to attract a wide variety of sea life. Those who come in are those who come in. You then work with what you have in the net and determine which of those fish are usable and which ones aren’t.
There may well be times when fish that appear unfit at first wind up being useful while others that appear normal at first wind up being damaged in some way. That’s why it’s best to wait until the end of the day to sort out the fish, when it’s clear which fish are usable and which ones aren’t.
Hopefully, the parallels are clear between this parable and our responsibility to grow the kingdom of God, to be “fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19):
- We are to share the gospel with all mankind, not a select few.
- Those who come in are those who come in.
- Some people may not look like those who we might consider to be likely candidates to be members of the church — However, these might well turn out to be wonderful church members, perhaps even more so than people who initially appeared to be better candidates.
- Regardless, it’s not our responsibility to sort out individual people and decide who will be in the kingdom of heaven — the Lord and His angels will take care of that at the end of life on earth.
So, let’s do our best to cast out the net of the gospel among all who we can. Understand that when you cast out a net, you never know what you’re going to catch, so people who come into the church may not look like us or act like us. But if they’re souls who the Lord has drawn into His Church, they are certainly worthy of our love and respect as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Let’s allow the Lord to use us as fishers of men (and women) to grow the kingdom of God.
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.