This parable we are studying today is often referred to as the Parable of the Drag-Net or other wise known by its proper name the seine net. We note that most scholars consider vv. 47 and 48 to be where this one stops and vv. 49-50 were added later.
Matthew 13: 47-50
47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; 48 when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50 and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
I am getting ahead of myself but it is at v. 48 that the sorting out starts. In those added verses 49-50 we have the when and how those sorted out are dealt with. So now back to the net. The drag-net had corks at the top and the weights were at the bottom. When the net was dragged it formed a cone into which all creatures of the sea in its path were caught. In Galilee the net was drawn to the shore and the fishermen started the sorting out process. There were vessels there on shore that most likely contained water into which the fish were put. This was done to ensure that the fish remained as fresh as possible for the market. Those things that were useless or unusable were cast away. Our first point to be made is that the seine net gathers every kind of creature. We have seen how Jesus through these parables would paint a picture that all who had ears could hear, see and understand. We might picture the church much like that net. When we cast our net it should also bring in all people. Ours must be the invitation of Christ…all are welcome, the gospel is for all. It is an all embracing call to salvation and there can be no selective preaching of the gospel. The gospel was for everyone. We as the church have over the years accepted this with no hesitation because it is the right way and the will of our Savior. Not so in the ancient world, there were barriers and blatant contempt between the people everywhere.
In the Greek world those who could not speak that language were look on with contempt. There was the difference between slave and free man. Aristotle believed there were those that were meant to serve, so as to leave the cultured class free of any of the ordinary tasks of the day. There were those who spent their lives seeking wisdom and then those simple folk of simple minds. These people were the uneducated and ignorant and they were held in contempt. The Roman world was much simpler. There was the Roman citizen and then the rest of the world, commonly referred to as the lesser breeds. Rome in its day was truly a thing of wonder. In the latter years it became a place that used the lesser folks for the ease and comfort of the Roman citizen. The Jewish world had the most barriers. The first was short and to the point…They believed themselves to be the chosen people, the only people in the world God loved. They looked down with contempt on any other race. The next barrier was between man and woman. Pretty much a case of women being despised. There is no better proof of this than their morning prayer…The Jew thanked God, that, “Thou hast not created me a Gentile, a slave or a woman.” The attitude of most Jews was that women didn’t matter. Sadly we are not done yet. Two other groups, those who keep the law and those that did not. Those that didn’t, they were called, The People of the Land. Most Jews would not do business with them, or allow marriage between a Jew and them. In addition to that they did not keep company with them or travel anywhere with them. The Jew had utter contempt for those who did not keep the law. To the Jew goodness and badness was related to your keeping the ceremonial law, but they went past that. They believed there was a great joy in heaven when a sinner went down. Barclay uses the story of the woman who was caught in an act of adultery (John 8: 1-11) to make this point. She was to be stoned to death as per Jewish law. Stoning though a harsh and horrible death administered by the people was not shied away from by the people and they did not see the harshness of it. They were most eager to get on with it. The picture presented here is they seemed to find a grim and sadistic pleasure in it. This attitude prevailed among the Jews. The Jews were disappointed by the fact that Jesus was a friend to the sinners and outcasts. Let’s go to vv. 3-5 in Psalm 24.
Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
And who shall stand in his holy place?
Those who have clean hands and pure hearts,
who do not lift up their souls to what is false,
and do not swear deceitfully.
Without the presence of God or the grace of Christ this shuts most of us out. This was the Jewish thought and was the example of utter contempt for the sinner.
There are still the barriers of this day. The Parable tells us of an all inclusive, wide open invitation to Christ. Unfortunately the sins of exclusiveness and contempt still are part of the church today. We can find the attitude that a person can sink so low they are no longer redeemable. There is the story of the great scholar Muretus. He traveled to many cites teaching and learning, then found himself sick in an Italian city, no-one really knew who he was. The doctors treating him thought him to be a vagrant with no friends or resources. They felt no one would miss him and he was of little use. They were speaking in Latin, the scholar’s language. At the close of their conversation he looked up and said to them“call no man worthless for whom Christ died.” We are of course in this day and in this country dealing with a race problem, the issue of color prejudice. Our attitude toward persons of color is one of condescension. That is not the Christian way of treating all people as brothers and sisters, all are equally a part of the family of God. We still as members of the church have an attitude problem. We tend toward the habit of labeling people good or bad, closing our hearts, minds and doors to the sinner because they make us uncomfortable. We must ask ourselves if we turn them away where can they go? There is and always will be a mixture in the church. If the church were for only the perfect people it would be hard pressed to seat a choir. The mixture of good and bad within the church is a testament to its purpose.
Remember the net and the fact that it gathered all in its path, then when brought ashore the sorting out of the good and bad started? The bad were cast away. We would do well to understand that when we are confronted with Christ it is at that moment. our actions judge ourselves and are judged by God. We are making the decision in which direction our lives will go. Will you be cast away?
Life is Good