Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
In Matthew 13, Jesus stressed in parables five (buried treasure) and six (priceless pearl) the extreme value of His Kingdom. It didn’t take long for its worth to prove itself. Jesus brought light into a totally dark, barren world.
Eusebus the historian pictured the sway of Rome’s Empire from heathenism to Christianity this way, “Like a sunbeam it streamed over the face of the earth.”
Parable seven in Matthew 13 is about the dragnet. In this short story Jesus highlighted the serious nature of His Kingdom. It is not trite; it deals with forever.
For several of the Twelve, fishing was their occupation, their way of life. It was therefore natural and practical for Jesus to use fishing as the basis for one of His short stories. Jesus wanted the Disciples to think spiritual thoughts always. He intended for them to be reminded of Him even in the mundane activities of life.
Matthew 13:47-48 (Holman) “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a large net thrown into the sea. It collected every kind of fish, and when it was full, they dragged it ashore, sat down, and gathered the good fish into containers, but threw out the worthless ones.”
Casting and drawing the dragnet was a common occurrence on the Sea of Galilee. The Twelve would have done, or seen this done, several times each day.
The net was usually pulled through the water between two boats. Weights pulled the net’s front-top down to a certain depth. Floats kept the back-top afloat.
Dragged through the water like a leaning-backward circle or rectangle, this open-topped net caught everything that entered it. At rest the net hung limp in the water. As it filled, it developed a cone shaped drag. Experienced fishermen could tell when the net was filling by the weight of its pull, by the increase of its drag.
With much effort and exertion the full heavy dragnet was pulled ashore. Edible fish were kept and sent to market. Non-edible fish were thrown out.
In this parable, what was Jesus teaching us about the Kingdom of God? At least three truths. One, the sea pictures all people living in this world.
The ancients often described this life as “the sea.” A fit metaphor of our plight, it pictured the storms and tempests of affliction we all face. “The sea” bespoke life’s continual churning of troubles, its restlessness and instability.
All people, Christians and non-Christians, share this unsettled existence. In this life, there is no ultimate separation between Christ-followers and unbelievers. The saved and the lost exist side by side, our lives intermingling with one another.
No final separation exists here between us and them. Believers must mingle with the world. Our duty is to influence them, not to withdraw into holy huddles.
God does grant us temporary retreats into the church, into the fellowship of believers, to renew us. God allows us to come apart temporarily to be rejuvenated.
This occasional withdrawal into the circle of Christ-followers is not meant to be an ultimate escape from the world, but rather a way whereby we are better prepared to live in the midst of unbelievers. Jesus would come away to pray, and to commune with the Twelve, but then returned to eat with publicans and sinners.
Fortunately, a day is coming when there will be no more sea (RV 21:1), no ebb and flow, no storms, no whirlwinds. In that world “the wicked cease to make trouble, and there the weary find rest” (Job 3:17). Till then, as long as we are in this world, we live in “the sea” with all others, seeking to save as many as we can.
Two, the division on the shore pictures Judgment Day. At the seaside each fish was examined to determine its status, to decide if it should be kept or tossed. The message is clear. Each person will be judged. A day of reckoning is coming.
The fishermen “sat down.” The dividing was done with deliberation, no confusion or haste. Thus shall Judgment Day be. Division will not be haphazard. There will be no errors, no misjudgments. Decisions will be precise and accurate.
Three, the dragnet pictures the unstoppable forward progress of all lives toward eternity. Every breath brings us a moment closer to the everlasting shore. Each person on Earth is being pulled, as in a dragnet, toward a final reckoning.
Satan, the god of this world, made a chaotic mess of life in this world. But God retained to Himself one ordained program the devil cannot thwart or muddle.
God’s dragnet, His relentless march of history toward a climax, collects in its path everyone, all people, good and bad. Satan can do nothing to impede this.
We’re all going on. We can’t stand still and can’t break through to the past. All who think they can slip through the meshes are wrong. None escape. Time’s relentless march continues for us all. We have a predetermined deadline to meet.
Many flit about as if they will be forever free, but God has a sovereign plan for all that won’t go away. His purpose for all of us is quietly being accomplished.
Don’t be fooled into thinking if we keep God out of our thoughts now, we are keeping ourselves out of His thoughts. We may never think of Him, but be assured He is always thinking of us. We are always on God’s radar screen.
Many live unwisely. They go through life, thinking shallowly. Thoughts of eternity never cross their minds. They think they live in liberty, and in their limited cocoon they do, but on the horizon, a dragnet is closing in. Invisible lines have been dropped into our world and are silently and slowly drawing tighter.
Every day the dragnet comes closer for all. Through sorrow and joy, at work and play, though we are oblivious to it, the dragnet is drawing nearer.
In this world we are granted God-given freedom to chart our own spiritual destiny, but once the net is drawn, we will no longer be free to regulate our fate. A day will finally come when what we are is what we always shall be.