We have been looking at the Mysteries of the Kingdom of God for a few months now where we have been studying Jesus’ parables that describe how God’s kingdom works and what it looks like. Thus far, we have looked at seven parables that Jesus taught in Matthew chapter 13, Mark chapter 4, and Luke chapter 8 in His famous “Sermon by the Sea.” We have learned some incredible truths from how the Lord established His kingdom in the first place to why He did it. And the latter was the most recent thing we have been studying by looking at Jesus’ Parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl of Great Price.
In these two parables, we learned that the Lord was first this man/merchant in them because He first sought out and saved we who were lost and paid His all to purchase us out of the world. Thus, He began His kingdom by seeing a valuable treasure and pearl of great price that was hidden to the naked eye. He came to seek and save that which was lost and paid the greatest price to redeem us—that pearl of great price and that treasure hidden in the field. That’s you!
But like it is with valuable things like treasures and pearls, they are not usually found on the surface. They must be dug for because they are hidden underground, underwater, within rocks, inside of oysters, etc. God designed it this way—because the true riches and treasures that are found only in Christ are hidden in Him. And since Christ now lives in us, we have those treasures hidden in us, awaiting our discovery.
So, we are those hidden treasures & pearls of great price that the Lord searched for and bought for Himself. This is how valuable we are in His sight, and it is what caused Him to pay such a tremendous price to apprehend us!
You see, sometimes we get so wrapped up in the greatness of the price that was paid that we totally miss the value of the object that was being paid for. Church, while we certainly need to always honor the great price Jesus paid for our salvation, we also need to realize that if God were willing to pay such a great price for us, then we must have had some value as well.
Do you believe God is a wise investor? Well, He did choose the Jewish people, did He not? Yes, saints, the Lord knows how to make a sound investment. Well, do you think He would have paid that high of a price if there was not some comparable value in the item he was purchasing? Of course not! No, He paid such a great price for us because of the great value He saw in us. Thank you, Jesus! He saw a treasure in each one of us and He saw a pearl of great price in this church that He saw in His heart to create!
Now we move on to the final parable that Jesus taught in His “sermon by the sea”—which is appropriate for its subject matter, the Parable of the Dragnet. This parable was the last one recorded before Jesus asked His disciples— “Have you understood all these things?”—to which they responded— “Yes, Lord.” (See Matthew 13:51). So, this parable is how Jesus chose to wrap up His teachings on the kingdom of God/heaven, and fittingly so because this parable illustrates to us the culmination of all things in His kingdom. Let’s look at it …
In Matthew 13:47-50, Jesus says, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind, which, when it was full, they drew to shore; and they sat down and gathered the good into vessels, but threw the bad away. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”
THE COAT OF MANY COLORS
First of all, before we look at the dragnet itself, let’s consider where it was being cast and what it was intended to gather:
Jesus said that the dragnet was cast into the “sea”: We need to understand that the sea is oftentimes used Scripturally as a "type of humanity. Therefore, this dragnet was being cast into the sea of this world where all of mankind resides to gather something. And Jesus went on to say that in this sea of humanity, there are “some of every kind” that are being gathered. Amen.
Church, in the ocean, there are many different kinds of fish: There are blue fish. There are green fish. There are red fish. There are black fish. There are white fish. Likewise, in mankind we have people of all different races, creeds, and colors. The point is that it doesn’t matter what kind of fish you are or what color your scales are, we are all in the same “boat”—in this case, we are all in the same net. Yes, we all make up the church of the Lord Jesus Christ—and His church is made up of all different denominations and skin color.
You see, I see the church as Joseph’s coat of many colors: We know that Joseph was a type of the Lord Jesus Christ in more ways than one. But one of the things I believe we can see in his story is how the coat of many colors that he was clothed with by his father is a type of all of us who have put on Christ. Yes, it described how we are made up of all different kinds of races, creeds, and colors, yet we are all woven together in Christ and one in Him. Amen.
So, this spiritual dragnet is cast into the waters of mankind is collecting all kinds of fish. So, let’s look at what this dragnet is …
WHAT IS THE DRAGNET?
Now when Jesus refers to the “dragnet” here, He was not referring to that television series that ran back in the 50’s & 60’s. That’s just the facts, ma’am! No, He was referring to a weighted net that was used by fishermen to drag through a body of water to catch an abundance of fish. This was the primary way that people fished back in their day, mind you—not with rods, hooks, and lures, but with nets like this.
And aren’t you glad that the Lord fishes for us this way? He doesn’t use specific lures or bait, which would only catch certain kinds of fish. No, He uses a dragnet that will gather “some of every kind.” Praise the Lord!
So, this “dragnet” is obviously the tool that you and I are to use to be the fishers of men that we are called to be. So, what do you suppose this spiritual dragnet is? What is it that we cast into the waters to catch people and bring them into the boat with us? It’s the gospel, of course! Yes, it’s the Word of God that the Lord has commissioned us to preach to every creature in the waters of this world (a point we will revisit shortly). Therefore, the gospel message is what we have been given to “draw” sinners to repentance and bring them into the boat with us.
Do you know how hard it would have been for these fishermen to catch fish without a net? In fact, what if they had no tools whatsoever to catch these fish with and were expected to do it with their hands? Well, I would imagine they would not be having fish for dinner that night! Well, just as we obviously need tools to successfully catch fish, we need tools to be successful fishers of men. And one of these tools is the gospel itself!
You see, far too many people lean on their own techniques and eloquent words to evangelize. And the problem with this is that they are relying on their own efforts to see people converted. Church, people receiving Jesus is not going to occur because we do everything perfect. People will receive Jesus when the true gospel of Jesus is preached. Why? Because the Word does the work. Never forget that! The gospel changes people—not the ones who share the gospel. This is a point we have made over and over in these messages on the kingdom of God, but it is point worth making again—the Word does the work in people’s lives. Planting its seed in our hearts will change us from the inside to the outside. Amen!
Now part of the gospel certainly involves our testimony and how the gospel itself changed our lives. Yes, it’s not just about us preaching the Bible to people, but also involves us proclaiming how the gospel has impacted us. But how many people lean on even how perfectly they share their testimony? As the Lord once showed me, all one needs to get a “conviction” in a court of law is a “testimony.” Likewise, all we need to see someone brought under the “conviction” of the Holy Spirit is the word of our “testimony.” It’s not about how great of an orator we are or how much charisma we have; it’s all about the truth we are sharing. So, if we will just open our mouths and share the good news of Jesus Himself and/or how Jesus changed our lives, the Holy Spirit can then perform His ministry of convicting the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment.
THE ART OF NET CASTING
However, while we do not have to know the Bible backwards and forwards or be the most eloquent of speech to be a good witness, there is an art to “casting our net”:
How many of you know that there is an art to casting these nets and collecting the fish? If you or I were to go out on a lake today and start trying to fish that way, we would probably be unsuccessful. But someone who is proficient in using this method of fishing would most certainly catch more fish than us, wouldn’t they?
Well, I believe that when it comes to us casting our nets before people, it’s not just important that we do it; how we do it is important too. And again, I’m not talking about doing all the natural, carnal things perfectly; I am referring to doing things right “spiritually.” In other words, being Spirit-filled and Spirit-led is what greatly increases our effectiveness in the waters of evangelism.
Church, I believe that the Holy Spirit is the best & most experienced fisherman in the business! He knows how to cast the gospel before people and get the best return. The key is us being led by the Holy Spirit in who, when, and how to share the gospel with people. He will lead us to the right people at the right time if we will yield to Him.
Just think about it—what if when you went fishing, you were able to somehow know exactly where the fish were at and weren’t just casting your net aimlessly in places where they were not at? That would be awesome, wouldn’t it? Well, the Holy Spirit is there to supernaturally give us the best information when it comes to being fishers of men.
For example, you might be in church and someone across the sanctuary catches your eye that you don’t recognize. Your heart goes out to them for some reason and it just “seems good” that you go introduce yourself to them. So, you yield to that prompting and are “moved with compassion,” and as you are talking to them, the Lord shows you something about them—they just lost a loved one and are deeply saddened. So, you share with them things that come to you—perhaps Scriptures you didn’t even know you knew—and it greatly ministers to them.
Another example might be that we are in a restaurant, and we notice someone there who is obviously having a bad day. So, love wells up in our hearts for them and we approach them, with a desire to share the truth with them. In the conversation, we ask them if they know Jesus and discover that they are not a believer. So then, the Holy Spirit starts giving you all kinds of parable like examples to use to share the truth with them, mixing in Scriptures in with them. You didn’t even know you knew those things! The person is obviously touched by the Holy Spirit and receives Jesus right then and there in that restaurant.
So, what happened in these two examples? First, the Holy Spirit showed them to you. Then He showed you what they were going through. And, finally, He brought the verses up in your heart to share with them. So, that is just one of the myriad of ways that the Holy Spirit can help us in sharing the love of God with others and seeing their lives changed.
But it’s not going to be a formula or some mechanical method of evangelism. It needs to be a love motivated, Holy Spirit inspired thing—which will require us being flexible and willing to yield to the Spirit of God inside of us.
But as we talk about being Spirit led etc., don’t be mistaken: The Lord wants everyone to hear the Gospel. So, it won’t be a case that the Holy Spirit is not leading us to share the truth in love more times than He does. No, it will actually be few and far between the times that we are not led to share Christ with others.
You see, Jesus told us to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15). He didn’t say go into the parts of the world that I lead you to and preach the gospel to those I put on your heart. No, the Lord already told the church to go everywhere and preach to everyone. Of course, this does not mean that you and I are to personally go everywhere and preach the gospel to everyone. That’s not possible. But what it does mean is that the Great Commission involves us being willing to proclaim the gospel where we are at. Always remember: the truth of God’s Word always trumps any perceived directions from the Holy Spirit. Why? Because the Holy Spirit is not going to lead one to do the opposite of what the Scriptures clearly teach us to do.
So, yes, more often than not, the Holy Spirit will be leading us to share the gospel with others because the Lord wants as many people as possible to come into His family. To me, this describes the purpose of the dragnet in Jesus’ parable—it is to be cast before all mankind with the intent to gather as many as possible. Amen.
THE NET IS FULL!
Therefore, this is why Jesus went on to say, “which when it was full …”
You know, the Lord is all about the net being full, isn’t He? We have a couple of instances in the Bible where the Lord showed His goodness to His fishermen disciples:
In one instance, He “rented” Simon’s boat for His ministry’s purpose, teaching the multitudes from it (See Luke 5:1-11). Well, after Jesus was done, He told Peter to launch out and let down his nets for a catch—to which Peter responded— “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless, at Your Word I will let down the net.” Now most people read this as if Peter was doing something admirable here in agreeing to let down the net like the Lord told him to even though they had caught nothing. I don’t believe this was admirable at all. I see Peter as saying something to the effect of— “Lord, we haven’t caught nothing, so this in on you that we are casting the nets down again and will continue to catch nothing.” In other words, I believe Peter was relieving himself of all responsibility, so he didn’t look bad if they tried again and failed. Also, notice that Jesus told him to let down the nets (plural), and he responded by saying he will let down the net (singular). Therefore, he was being obedient, but only partially obedient. So, guess what would have happened if he would have let down all of the dragnets? I think we all could agree that all of them would have been filled! This is why I believe Peter responded the way he did, when he saw the great number of fish they had taken in (i.e., “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord”). He knew what was in his heart. He knew what he had done.
But the fact is, the Lord desired to fill all of their nets up, not just the one Peter let down. Therefore, it was them who did not allow the full magnitude of that provision to occur. I wonder if we’ve ever done that. Have we ever only partially obeyed the Lord and not had the best attitude while doing that? I’m sure we have all been guilty of this at some point. But Isaiah 1:19 teaches us that we have to be willing and obedient to eat the good of the land—not just obedient. Sure, you might eat of the land just by sheer obedience, but you might not eat the good of it without a willing heart. Amen? The Lord wants our nets to be full of the good of the land!
The other instance I refer to is after Jesus’ resurrection: In John chapter 21, He appeared to His disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, but they didn’t recognize them. He speaks to them from the shore, asking them if they had caught anything. So, when they answered Him that they hadn’t, He told them to cast the net on the right side of the boat and they would find some. Now, the word “some” is not in the original text, and that is because they didn’t wind up catching just some; we are told that they caught a multitude! In this case, they had to drag the net to land because it was full of 153 large fish. However, the net did not break (See John 21:1-11)!
Now the interesting part of this story to me is that they initially didn’t recognize Him. For some reason, their eyes were constrained from knowing that it was Him just like those disciples on the Road to Emmaus. But it was when they experienced yet another miraculous catch of fish that they recognized Him, saying, “It is the Lord!” In other words, while they didn’t recognize Him physically, they recognized His goodness! Yes, they were reminded of how the Lord is in the “net filling” business.
Now the net being filled in this parable is indicative of when the fullness of time comes where all things are complete and ready to be pulled ashore. Jesus told us that this gospel of the kingdom must be preached in all the world and then the end will come. And the reason that it works this way is because the Fisher of men wants His net full. In other words, He wants as many in His net as possible—all because He is merciful and not willing that any be wasted or perish. Yes, He wants His gospel being heard by everyone!
And, church, there absolutely is a “fullness of time” where the dragnet will be pulled out of the waters and drawn to the shore. That will be the end of time where we will all be brought before the judgment seat—the thing which this parable is speaking of where the good will be separated from the bad, the just from the wicked. Jesus described this event elsewhere when He spoke of the time when the sheep would be separated from the goats (See Matthew 25:31-46).
This is a very serious and sober time, friends—because we need to know that just because we are in the net doesn’t automatically mean we are “just fish.” In other words, just because one calls themselves a Christian, goes to church, etc. does not mean that they really are a child of God. No, what makes us good and just in the sight of God is not whether we are good and just in our behavior and actions, but whether we have been born again or not and walk by faith in Jesus. Yes, it is not whether we simply name of the name of Christ or not but whether we have truly put on Christ and born of His Spirit.
Church, when we consider God’s kingdom, what is truly important is the outcome—and that is the point Jesus is making in this parable. He was teaching us that the gospel is sweeping through the world, and it is collecting all kinds of fish, and there is a Day of reckoning that’s coming soon and very soon. As one of our elders, Donna Nye, likes to say, “Get ready! Get ready! Get ready!”