Because of joy 4

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was cast into the sea that caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, they pulled it ashore, sat down, and put the good fish into containers and threw the bad away. It will be this way at the end of the age. Angels will come and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Matthew 13:48-50

The final parable in this set of three teaches us a similar lesson to the parable of the weeds (Matthew 13:24-30; 36-43), and seen in the context of the 3 parables put together, we see God’s final act after the redemption of Israel (depicted as hidden treasure) and the Gentiles (depicted as pearls). This act is the separation of the evil from the righteous. The symbolism here is obvious, the net represents the gospel, the sea as the world and the fish as the souls of men.

Once again, a few things are noted here:

All kinds of fish were caught

This develops the evidence that the gospel goes out not just to the Jews, but also to the Gentiles (Matthew 15:22,28:19). It could also be a picture of the various forms of “salvation” as depicted by the farmer who sows the seed (Matthew 13:1-23). In the light of Jesus’ explanation of the parable of the weeds, where the variety is seen as “people of the kingdom” (Matthew 13:38) and “people of the evil one” (Matthew 13:39), it would be a closer fit to view this passage as talking about the variety of believers and non-believers who hear the message. For hearing is not necessarily understanding and understanding the gospel is crucial (Matthew 13:14-17; 19-23).

The nets are brought in only when they are full – at the end of the age

Similar to Matthew 13:28-30, the judgement of all things belong to Christ when He comes again. We do not separate the evil from the good now, instead we live together on this earth. We are not to judge others as unelect or unsaved, but to leave that judgement to Christ. We do not remove ourselves from the world or try to remove ourselves from the presence of so called “wicked” people. In fact, the inverse is needed; we should be amongst them to reconcile them to Christ (1 Corinthians 9:22-23).

The nets were pulled ashore and the fishermen sat down

Where in previous parables there was only one sole protagonist, it seems that there are many here. The common interpretation of fishermen in the New Testament are believers or “fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19), but this parable offers a distinctly different view that the fishermen are symbolic of angels. Sitting down is a picture of rest and judgement – kings sat down when they judged over matters in their kingdom. Christ and his fishermen will complete the fishing in entirety, with the nets pulled ashore, and sit down to judge the quality of the fish (Romans 14:10-12; 2 Corinthians 5:10).

The fiery furnace of weeping and gnashing of teeth

The words here mirror Matthew 13:42 exactly. While the Parable of the weeds was delivered to the public, the Parable of the Nets is delivered only to the disciples. The disciples were very familiar with the symbolism since at least four of them were fishermen (Matthew 4:18-22). They easily understood the gravity of the parable (Matthew 13:43, “He who has ears, let him hear”). If they didn’t get any of the other parables, at least get this: that the end will not be sweet for the wicked.

This is a sobering message to believers and non-believers alike. For believers, bring the gospel to those family and friends who are not yet saved with urgency for we know their final destiny. For non-believers, I plead with you to be found in Christ, to be placed in the container marked “safe” (Genesis 7:1-10; 2 Peter 3:2-7).

Philip’s Test

The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.”

Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
John 1:43-45

When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.

Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wagesto buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”

Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”
John 6:5-7 (See also Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:31-44 and Luke 9:10-17)

Jesus was ready to feed the 5,000 by the Lake of Galilee. He knew exactly what was going to happen and how it was going to happen. But before His grand plan is executed, He does a quick pop quiz with Philip. The quiz has only one question: “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?”

The question was not a “how” question, it was a “where” question. Jesus had said that He wanted to buy bread for all 5,000 men (including women and children, that might have been more like 12,000) so that settles the “how” bit. The question was about location. But why did Jesus ask Philip? We are told that Philip was from Bethsaida in Galilee, the same town that Peter and Andrew were from. Philip was familiar with the area since it was where He was called. Jesus was tapping on what had already been deposited in Philip. He was a local kid, he knew where the shops were. In fact, he knew that the area they were in was remote and there weren’t any shops nearby (Matthew 14:15; Mark 6:35; Luke 9:12). It would have been better to send them away to find their own food (Matthew 14:15; Mark 6:35-36; Luke 9:12).

The answer revealed a practical person. He said that 200 denarii is simply not enough to feed all of them. It was obvious that the disciples might not have enough money to feed the 5,000. Even if they did have the money, they were unwilling to spend it, that was a large amount of money to spend in one sitting (Mark 6:37). It would have wiped their savings out! But wait a minute, Philip didn’t answer the “where”, instead he halted at the “how”. He got stuck at the enormity of the numbers – 200 denarii for 5,000 men, it simply didn’t add up. It didn’t matter that Jesus had already given him the plan, Philip simply couldn’t see beyond the limited resources. He didn’t believe that Jesus could make it happen. His finite mind could not conceive that Jesus was not limited by the resources they had.

It was a test. Philip failed.

But wait a minute, didn’t Philip say to Nathanael and confess that Jesus is the Christ? What happened there? How did Philip fail the test when he so firmly believed that Jesus is the Christ?

Things happen when we are faced with a situation bigger than ourselves and the numbers don’t add up. Our finite minds start focusing on the enormity of the problem and we scramble to find the solution in our meager resources. We magnify our limited resources until Jesus’ infinite nature is blocked out. It is in this moment that our confession of Christ is disconnected from the reality of life.

That is the test. Does our confession of Christ connect to our reality?

Contrast Philip’s actions to Andrew’s. While Philip simply thought that it was impossible and did nothing, Andrew gave to Jesus the little resources he had come up with. It wasn’t that Andrew had more faith, in fact he had exactly the same doubts. Andrew was no better; he looked at the 5 loaves and 2 fish and thought “that’s not going to go very far, is it?” One might look at Andrew and think that he was stupid, if he already knew it wasn’t possible to feed so many with so little, why offer it in the first place? Yet it was his offer that was multiplied (1 Corinthians 1:27-28). His actions betrayed his belief and his words. While his mind could not conceive the possibilities, his hands could not hold back the offer.

It makes you wonder if Philip had at least offered whatever little money he had and told Jesus the location of the nearest bread shop, would He have multiplied Philip’s money rather than Andrew’s 5 loaves and 2 fish? It could have been, yet it wasn’t to be. Philip in the face of this enormous problem gave up on any possibility of a miracle. His hands stayed firmly in his pocket where it was safe, where he couldn’t embarrass himself and look stupid. In Andrew, the lack of faith was a weakness. In Philip, it was refusal.

There will be times when our faith dwindles in the face of enormous situations. In those times, Christ becomes disassociated from our reality (as if He is far away and unable to do anything). The word of caution is: don’t hold back, don’t refuse to offer the little. Time and time again, God has shown that He is able to multiply and use the little that we offer to Him (1 Kings 7:7-16). When our minds cannot conceive the solution and our words betray our confession, let our hands remain faithful.

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”
Mark 10:27