Be a Good Fish
The Parable of the Dragnet, Matthew 13:47-50
by Dr. G. Steve Kinnard
47“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and all kinds of fish were gathered into it. 48After it was full, the fishermen pulled it onto shore. They sat down sorting the fish–keeping the good and throwing away the bad. 49This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and gather the wicked from the righteous 50casting the wicked into the furnace of fire. Where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.”
The parable of the dragnet is also a parable about the end of time. Unlike the parable of the wheat and weeds, which precede it in Matthew’s gospel, it does not focus on good and evil existing side by side (although that is inferred from the parable). It contains the same lesson as the parable of the weeds among the wheat—at the end of time God will separate good from evil. So choose to be good.
The parable is short and simple. A net is thrown into the sea and it gathers all types of fish. This is the common dragnet, which was used in the first century and is still used today. The net doesn’t discern what it catches. It catches anything within its reach. As the net is pulled to shore, it becomes full of fish. Once on shore, the fishermen begin to look through the net and separate the good fish from the bad. They keep the good and throw away the bad.
Jesus makes it abundantly clear that he is talking about judgment at the end of days. In verse 49 he says, “This is how it will be at the end of the age.” At the end of the age, angels will appear. They will separate the wicked from the righteous. The wicked will be cast into a furnace of fire. The righteous will escape the flames.
In this short parable, Jesus continues to explain what will occur at the end of time. The Jews were very confused over what was going to transpire at the end of time. One group, the Sadducees, believed there was no resurrection. They believed that after you died, you were dead and gone. The Pharisees believed in the resurrection, but there was much discussion among this sect as to what was going to happen at the resurrection. Jesus wanted to take the confusion away, so he spoke often about the end of time.
Jesus is very clear on what will happen to the wicked. They will be cast into the fiery furnace. Will they feel pain as they enter this place of torment? Yes, there will much weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Jesus makes it clear that hell is a place of pain and torment, a place to be avoided at all costs. Although we are not given quite as dramatic a picture of hell as Dante gives in his Inferno, Jesus gives us a clear enough picture to let us know that we don’t want to be bad fish.
There isn’t much worse in life than bad fish. They aren’t edible. They stink. They make everything around them stink. You can use them for fertilizer, but the smell of fish fertilizer destroys your day; and if you are around the putrid smell long enough, it will destroy your olfactory nerves. I’m not sure that Febreze can handle the smell of rotting fish. Bad fish are, well, for lack of a better word, BAD.
The other night my family was in New York City enjoying a nice birthday dinner for our daughter by marriage, Corinne. We all met at Union Square Park. There were six adults and two grandkids.
–My favorite picture of our daughter by marriage, Corinne, and our grandson, Bradley
It was a crisp November night, cold, but not freezing. The buildings were bright. The lights were sparkling. The Christmas season had begun, and NYC at Christmas is magical.
Our meal was fantastic. We enjoyed amazing ramen noodles and pork buns at a restaurant just off of 14th Street, and then we went to Max Brenner for dinner. Yes, it’s true, Max Brenner makes chocolate pizza. My son by marriage, Rob got some. It’s fantastic when you can end a birthday celebration with chocolate.
The only problem was the walk back to our van. We parked on Thirteenth St. between 5th and 6th. The next day, Monday, was garbage pickup day in that neighborhood. So in the early evening on Sunday, everyone started lining the sidewalks with their bags of garbage. It’s amazing how much garbage can come from one New York City apartment building.
As we reached the van, we had to wait a few minutes to get the grandchildren situated. In those few brief minutes, we were stifled by the smell of rotting fish. There must have been a garbage bag filled with discarded fish, and it stank to high heaven. There isn’t much worse in life than the smell of bad, stinky fish. We couldn’t get away from the reek of bad fish quickly enough.
The moral of that story is the same as the lesson from the parable—Don’t be a bad fish. Be a good fish.
And, how do you become a good fish? Imitate Jesus. Love him. Study him. Learn from him. Think like him. Act like him. Be him.
Imitating Jesus is always the right choice to make in life. And by making that choice, you prepare your heart for the next life.
So, be a good fish. Be like Jesus.