It seems wherever you go, companies are warning you about their products. Grab a cup of coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts or Café 1905, and, on the lid, you’ll see, “Caution: Contents Hot.” The gas cap of a recreational vehicle says: “Never use a lit match or an open flame to check fuel level.” A carton of eggs advises: “This product may contain eggs.” And a hair drier instructs users: “Do not use while sleeping!” All kidding aside, there are some warnings that we should take seriously. Parents tell their children, “Never touch a hot stove.” If the Weather Service issues a tornado warning, you should seek shelter. If you suddenly feel dizzy, experience chest pain, or sense a tingly feeling down your arm, your body might be warning you; you should listen. Jesus tells his disciples a parable to warn them.
Jesus said, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a net that was let down into the sea that catches all kinds of fish (Matthew 13:47).” Jesus refers to a specific type of net here. According to modern day descriptions, a dragnet would have been 800 to 1,500 feet long and over six feet wide. Cork or light wood would have been attached to the top long-side of the net to enable it to float. Weights would have hung from the bottom long-side. Ropes would have been fastened to each end, and the net could have been pulled out to sea by two boats and anchored onto the shore. Just as God’s arms are wide, so too does God’s Kingdom gather people of every kind.
Jesus said, “When the net was full, having pulled the net up onto the shore and sitting down, the fisherman collected the good fish into baskets and threw out the bad ones (Matthew 13:48).” Although the net of the Kingdom gathers in all sorts of people, people will respond differently to Jesus’ kingdom message. The righteous are those who accept Christ, his message, and new way of life. The wicked are those who reject Christ and the newness of life he offers. (cp. Matthew 13:49-50)
The parable was given to those who allegedly believe. One commentator says, “Matthew never tires of warning his readers of the reality of judgement and hence the importance of genuine discipleship.” The parable forces us to ask ourselves: “Which fish am I – the righteous or the wicked?” It also warns us to tell others about the Kingdom; God desires none to perish and wants all to hear his message of salvation.