Read Matthew 13:47-52
“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 fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Growing up, I went fishing frequently with my father. One of our most memorable excursions was a trip to fish at Reed Lake in Manitoba, Canada. Now this was real fishing! One of the things I remember most was the amount of fish you could see just below our boat in the fish finder. There were also a wide variety of species privy to that area. Walleye, Sauger, Northern Pike, Yellow Perch, Whitefish, Lake Trout, Goldeye, and Channel Catfish to name a few.
I can’t help but visualize the view from that fish finder when I read this passage. The kingdom of heaven is like the net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. So we have caught fish, which are the ones in the net, and we have uncaught fish, which were still in the lake. The caught ones in the net represents those in the kingdom of heaven. The uncaught fish that remain in the lake, represents the world. It says that there were all kinds of fish in the net and the fisherman collected the good fish in baskets and threw away the bad. The fishermen represent the angels at the end of the age separating the wicked from the righteous.
I believe this parable is in correlation with the parable of the weeds in Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43. It starts out saying, “Once again.” This infers that he is restating something already told. The interesting thing about the net parable is that when Jesus calls his disciples he said, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). Back in bible times when people fished they used nets cast out onto the side of the boat. They didn’t use a fishing pole, lures or fishing line like we do today. So this story had a deeper meaning for the disciples. Jesus then asks, “Have you understood all these things?” “Yes, they replied.” Now it doesn’t say exactly who Jesus was speaking to and exactly who replied here. If we go back to Matthew 13:10 before all the secrets of heaven were discussed, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in the parables?” Jesus then replies, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whomever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. This is why I speak to them in parables (vs. 11-13).” So this indicates that all the parables were being spoken directly to the disciples and indirectly to the other people listening that day. The disciples would have made the connection about fishing for men and casting their net.
He says this about the rest of the audience, “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. In them is fulfilled the prophesy of Isaiah: You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn and I would heal them. But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear (vs. 13-16).
Digging deeper: Why do you think the “people” that Jesus was referring to in Matthew 13:15 had calloused hearts?