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# 59: 5-7-19 1

Matthew 13:47-52
The Parable of the Dragnet and of the Scribe

Matthew has recorded eight parables that Jesus told, regarding the mysteries of the kingdom of God - how
He is obtaining His kingdom of sons. The first four emphasize the church - sons for the heavenly realm.
The last four emphasize different aspects of the earthly realm.

The first of these parables speaks of hidden treasure, which we have seen points to the dominion over the
earth. This dominion is being reserved for Jesus until His return, at His Second Coming.

At that time, a remnant of the nation of Israel will repent and receive Jesus as their Messiah, to become the
pearl of great price - the head nation over all the other nations, on the earth - the virtuous wife found and
redeemed by her Husband and King, Jesus - His radiant bride.

As we continue, Matthew records two final parables - the last of which is set apart as the conclusion, to the
series. This begins in verse 47. We’ll read just the parable of the dragnet first.

[Matthew 13:47-50]

Now, when we read verses 49-50, we should find that it is already familiar to us, from this series. Where
did we read something like it? In verses 40-43. And what parable was that in? The parable of the tares.

Jesus said that also represented the end of the age; this present age, during which God is obtaining the sons
for His heavenly realm - the church. In both cases we see that when that age is ended, the angels will
separate - and gather out - the wicked, and cast them into the furnace of fire - speaking of their final
destination, in hell.

In the parable of the tares, this was to bring out that during the church age, God would not send judgment
on all the earth to destroy the wicked - in order to preserve the sons that He would harvest, during that age.

But by this point in the parables, the church age is complete; and the emphasis now is on that judgment - in
fact, on a specific group being judged, and their destination. This emphasis makes it evident that the
gathering mentioned is for the purpose of that judgment.

And because of this, it is hard to understand how some commentators once again come to the conclusion
that the dragnet is the gospel, which is gathering men into the kingdom. Most likely, this idea has been
perpetuated because of Jesus calling his disciples to be fishers of men (Mt 4:19).

But the main problem with this being the meaning here is that the dragnet has some of every kind of fish -
good and bad. If the gospel is the net, it should only gather the good, into the kingdom.

And remember that condemnatory judgment is clearly indicated for some, by the interpretation of Jesus (v.
50). Surely, we would not say that the gospel gathers, for the purpose of such a judgment!

So in order to see what the dragnet and the gathering does represent, let’s think through the imagery that
Jesus is using - and what the Jews would have understood concerning it. Remember, these parables - and all
the explanations - were given to the disciples of Jesus alone; the multitude had been dismissed.
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First, let’s talk about the dragnet. This was a very particular kind of fishing net - a giant sweep-net, which
was supported along one part of its edge at the water’s surface by floats. Another edge of the dragnet had
weights on it, which caused that side to sink to the bottom of the lake.

The edges were secured to fishing boats by ropes. The boats operated in conjunction with one another to
lower the weighed end to the lake bottom, forming a vertical wall of netting.

Then they would maneuver so the net ballooned out in a semicircle, which was moved toward the shore,
dragging the weighted end along the lake bottom while maintaining the floating end directly above it.
Gradually the ends were brought together at the shoreline, trapping a large catch of fish within the net.

The dragnet required the efforts of experienced fishermen - working together in an elaborately
choreographed orchestration.

When the dragnet was drawn in, the fishermen then had to sort out the fish, one by one - keeping only the
good ones. These were put into vessels. Meanwhile, the bad fish - those that were diseased, or dead and
rotting - these were thrown away. So a dragnet communicates the ideas of vastness and all-inclusiveness.

So what would the Jewish disciples of Jesus have thought, about this parable? They would quickly have
known it to be speaking of judgment - even before Jesus explained it. Similar imagery for the dragnet is
found in the OT, recorded by the prophet Habakkuk. Turn to Habakkuk chapter 1.

Habakkuk prophesied concerning Judah, after Israel to the north had been taken into captivity by the
Assyrians. At that time, King Josiah had died, and his reforms in Judah had died with him. Judah was once
again filled with violence and wickedness.

The book is a record of a conversation between the prophet and the LORD. Habakkuk denounces the sin of
Judah, and the LORD concurs with his assessment, indicating that He will be sending Babylon, an empire
currently on the rise, to judge them.

At first, Habakkuk is stunned that the LORD would do this: use a heathen empire to judge His own people.
The LORD will help Habakkuk to come to a deeper understanding of His ways, by the end of the book. But
meanwhile, we are looking at that initial response of Habakkuk. We’re focusing on his description of
empires like Babylon that gobble up other nations.

[Habakkuk 1:12-17]

v. 12 Habakkuk is questioning the LORD here, but in a reverential manner. He just doesn’t understand the
LORD’s instrument of judgment here - the Babylonians, who could potentially annihilate Judah. Habakkuk
believes that Judah’s judgment should be correction, not destruction - and he is clearly envisioning that the
whole nation will perish.

v. 13 Habakkuk viewed Judah as more righteous than the heathen empire of Babylon - but were they
really? Later the LORD will say, “Behold the proud, His soul is not upright in him; but the just shall live by
his faith” (2:4).

v. 14 What Habakkuk was really asking was why the LORD gives men freedom of choice. Habakkuk sees
that given that freedom, men act in their lawlessness and sin, which brings judgment. The LORD should just
make them do the right thing! But the reality is that without freedom of choice, men cannot choose to
respond to the LORD, by faith, to be made righteous.
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Habakkuk continues with the imagery of men like fish - and those who then catch them.

v. 15 The “they” here are empire-building nations, like the Babylonians. Habakkuk visualizes them
catching up Judah in their dragnet, and taking them in.

v. 16 Habakkuk brings out the idolatrous character of an empire like Babylon - their dragnet becomes their
god, because it provides for them!

v. 17 The idea is Babylon consuming nation after nation. Habakkuk recognizes the evil of this; and the
LORD will go on to concur with Habakkuk, indicating that Babylon’s wickedness will bring them into
judgment - in time.

So we see that the dragnet here represents judgment - the gathering in of Judah, to be devoured by the
Babylonians - as a judgment on Judah, from the LORD.

But what Habakkuk couldn’t know at the time is that this was indeed purposed by the LORD to be for
Judah’s correction.

All of Judah would be gathered in the judgment; but not all of Judah would be gobbled up by Babylon - a
believing remnant of the nation would return to the land. We see that even in judgment, God always
extends His mercy, to those who are ready to receive it.

[Return to Matthew 13]

Now in the parable, who casts the dragnet into the sea? Jesus doesn’t say, does He? It is as if the net was
cast into the sea by an invisible hand. This is the hand of the Lord, directly intervening in the affairs of
men on earth, to bring about His divine purposes. And His purpose at this time is to judge the earth.

The dragnet was cast into the sea. In the OT, what do we remember that the sea represents, figuratively?
The Gentiles - the sea of humanity.

And some of every kind was gathered in the dragnet. “Kind” here would refer to species of fish,
representing nations; people groups.

Now, Jesus did not mean “some”, as less than all; He meant that every kind was part of what was taken in
the net. Remember, a dragnet pictures all-inclusiveness. The idea is that every Gentile nation will be
taken, in this judgment.

And what would be the time frame, of it? Well, where did they draw in the catch? To the shore. This is a
judgment that takes place on the earth. And it takes place when the net is full; when the earth is ripe, for
this judgment. It will be Great Tribulation, that will bring about this ripening (Rev 14:13-20). So the
judgment follows that time.

The explanation that Jesus gives brings out who is in the boats, doing the gathering; who would that be?
The angels; they are like the fishermen taking in the catch, and sorting it out; the good from the bad.

What would good fish be? Those which were alive, having health and vitality; these would be of value; in
the case of fish, valuable for food. Jesus indicated these represent the just (v. 49) - the righteous; the sons
of God.
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And the bad - the diseased, dead, rotten fish? They’re not good for anything, are they? They have no value,
so they’re thrown away. Jesus said these represent the wicked - the rebels, who rejected the Lord. Without
the possibility of redemption, these sons of Adam cannot fulfill the purpose of their Creator.

Apart from receiving the Life of Jesus, they have chosen to remain in their mortal bodies of corruption -
and therefore must be destroyed. In the explanation, they are separated out from among the just; the angels
remove them, through death - for they have categorically refused to become a part of Christ’s kingdom.

So this parable reflects the judgment of the Gentile nations, which will come from the hand of the Son of
Man (13:41), pronounced when He returns to the earth in His Second Coming. Although we will be
studying this in Matthew’s gospel at a future time, I do want to take a quick look at it now, in Matthew
chapter 25.

[Matthew 25:31-32]

v. 31 The King returns, and takes the scepter of His rule - dominion over the whole earth. The believing
remnant of Israel is gathered to Him, and raised to her position, as the head nation - the virtuous wife of the

The King has returned with His holy angels, who will now execute His judgment on the Gentiles. This
judgment will be made on an individual basis - we’ll explore the criteria for the judgment when we study it

The King is seated on the throne - the position of a Judge, rendering His verdict - and the judgment

v. 32 Notice that it is the King who makes the judgment; the angels simply execute His ruling. The word
translated “nations” is the Greek word for Gentiles; the idea is that each Gentile is judged individually, by

They are either permitted to enter His kingdom - the sheep of the Shepherd-King, the subjects whom the
King will serve - or they are taken out by the angels, in death - reserved for the final judgment of the Lake
of Fire (v. 46).

[Return to Matthew 13]

You may have noticed that the good were gathered into vessels; the word as used here communicates some
kind of a container, like a pail. The word is plural. This is a large catch, so certainly there would be more
than one vessel needed.

But isn’t it likely that since there were “some of every kind” that the fishermen would gather like kinds of
fish into each vessel? The certainly would do that, for market.

This may suggest the idea that the individual Gentiles who are permitted to enter the Kingdom of Christ are
also permitted to retain their national identity.

In the book of Revelation, where the New Jerusalem is described, which is the home of the true church, it is
said that the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth shall bring
their glory and honor into it (Rev 21:24).
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It would seem that there will still be nations and rulers under Jesus, in the Kingdom Age. Here is the idea
then of the fish being gathered into vessels; they are gathered by nation.

Similar to what we saw in Habakkuk, all have been gathered together for the judgment; but in judgment,
the Lord remembers mercy; for those who are willing to bow the knee to Him as King, and submit to His
rule over them, in the Kingdom Age.

As we continue in the account, Jesus then pauses to question His disciples.

13:51 Now, we may wonder how the disciples could understand all the parables that Jesus told. But we
remember that they would have been guided by the imagery we have explored in the OT.

And above all, we recall Mark’s comment that Jesus explained all the parables to His disciples (Mk 4:34);
Matthew just didn’t record all the explanations. Clearly he wanted us to do some thinking, and we have!

Which leads to the last parable of the series, told by Jesus. Notice that this one is set apart from the others,
by the questioning of the disciples - and also it begins differently, than the others.

13:52 Because this is verse is set apart from the other parables, some do not consider it to be a parable, at
all. But there is an unmistakable element of the other parables, found here - do you see it? “The kingdom
of heaven is like” - the comparative phrase used throughout this series, marking out each parable - although
the first one, the sower, did not contain it.

Jesus begins with the word, “Therefore”, which means for this reason, on account of this - referring to what
has been said before - the parables Jesus has related. These parables revealed the mysteries of the kingdom
of heaven - how God is obtaining His kingdom of sons - in heaven, and on earth.

Jesus then spoke of every scribe instructed concerning these mysteries of the kingdom. Who would these
instructed scribes be? Who did Jesus just check with, to ensure that they understand what He has been
teaching? The disciples. In the most immediate sense, they are being likened to scribes with understanding
of the kingdom of heaven.

Now, based on the scribes we have come across in Matthew’s gospel so far, we might be a little concerned
that Jesus was likening His disciples, to them. But Jesus wasn’t speaking of the scribes who had formed
the opposition against Him. He was speaking of scribes in general - and what their purpose was supposed
to be, within the nation of Israel - a good purpose.

Scribes were originally those trained in the art of writing; a scribe was a recorder. But scribes in Israel
came to have several administrative functions - such as composing legal documents, and furnishing written
copies of the Law.

The scribes were often Levites, whom the LORD had appointed as teachers of the people (Deut 33:10). By
the time of the return of the Jews from Babylon, Ezra the scribe is seen in this capacity.

Ezra is described as a skilled scribe in the Law of Moses, which the LORD God of Israel had given (Ez 7:6);
expert in the words of the commandments of the LORD, and of His statutes to Israel. The idea is that the
scribe was a scholar; he did not just know the Law; he understood it, and could communicate its meaning,
to the people.
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In speaking of His disciples as instructed scribes, Jesus is saying that understanding has been revealed to
them, so that they can teach others. The church will be built up on the foundational teaching of the apostles
and prophets (Eph 2:19-21) - and all those who minister the Word of God (Eph 4:11-16).

In this sense, they are like householders. A householder here refers to a steward who runs the household,
like providing the food for it. The disciples are stewards of household of Christ, administering the Word by
which the church is being built up - living stone by living stone - sons, for the kingdom of God in heaven.
Paul called himself and his fellow ministers “stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Cor 4:1).

There were seven parables which preceded this one, making this the eighth. What does the number eight
represent, in Scripture? A new beginning. This new beginning is Jesus entrusting this understanding of the
truth into the hands of His disciples, to now bring it out to all the world - throughout the church age.

But the last parable is not just the conclusion of the parables that concerned the church age, is it? It also
concludes those concerning the Kingdom Age. And as we consider it, we’ll see that there will be a new
beginning at that time, as well.

The instructed scribe represents a very specific entity, during the Kingdom Age - who will be entrusted with
the instruction of the nations for that thousand-year period - both Jew and Gentile alike. Who is this
instructed scribe? It’s Zion - Jerusalem, the capital city of the earth, through which Christ will reign over
the earth. Let’s look at a few OT passages that reveal this.

Turn first to Isaiah chapter 33. Isaiah speaks of the time when Israel is delivered from her enemies at the
end of the Tribulation, with the return of Jesus to the earth.

[Isaiah 33:5-6]

v. 5 The LORD is exalted on the earth, as the King. Zion is a poetic name for Jerusalem. All the Jews that
remain on the earth have repented and received Jesus as their Messiah. The LORD has poured out His Spirit
on them, and the entire nation is now regenerate. Zion is filled with these born-again Jews, and so filled
with justice and righteousness.

v. 6 Like the current parable, the treasure has more the meaning of a treasury; a place of safekeeping. A
reverential awe of God is now treasured up in the hearts of the Jews. His Word is precious to them, and
they guard over it carefully, in their hearts, taking God at His Word.

This will give the Jews wisdom and knowledge that they can then teach to others. And as people learn the
truth of God’s Word, righteousness will prevail on the earth, and through that, peace - the stability of those

The center for that learning will be Jerusalem, in the Kingdom Age. We see this prophesied by Isaiah. Turn
to Isaiah chapter 2.

[Isaiah 2:1-3]

v. 1-2 “Mountain” represents a kingdom. The LORD’s house is the house of Israel. This is speaking of
Israel being made the head nation, over all the other nations of the earth.

v. 3 Jerusalem will be the place where the Gentiles go to learn about the LORD, during the Kingdom Age.
Zion is the instructed scribe now - with true knowledge of the LORD, and a right understanding of His Word.
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And Jerusalem will be the seat of the King’s rule, over the earth. Turn to Jeremiah chapter 3.

[Jeremiah 3:14-17]

v. 14 This term “backsliding” is sometimes wrongly applied to Christians who have lapsed into sin. But
the word is used only for Israel. It means to be completely without faith, referring to a people who were
always turning away from the LORD; who had never put their faith in Him.

But the LORD had entered into a covenant with His nation - for eternal life, through faith in their Messiah -
and the LORD knew that one day, they would turn to Him, believing. This speaks of that day - and when
they turn, the LORD will re-gather His people.

v. 15 Here are the instructed scribes, who will teach both Jew and Gentile about the LORD.

v. 16-17 The ark of the covenant was part of the Tabernacle, and signified the throne of God; the place of
His judgment. It was overlaid by the mercy seat, to show that God’s judgment is always covered by His
mercy, through Christ.

But when the Kingdom is set up on earth, the LORD says that the people can then forget about the ark of the
covenant; for it was just a shadow, and now the reality has come.

Jerusalem is now the throne of the LORD - and who will be on that throne? The King; Jesus. The mercy
seat is Jesus Himself, covering God’s judgment, for the nations. And as they gather to Jerusalem to learn
the Law of the Kingdom, they will no longer follow the evil dictates of their own hearts. This world-wide
kingdom will be a place of righteousness, and peace.

Turn now to Psalm 87. This psalm speaks of births that will take place, during the Kingdom Age.

[Psalm 87]

v. 1 The holy mountains is a reference to Jerusalem, which is in the hill country of Judea. This is the
foundation of the Lord’s throne, on the earth.

v. 2-3 The gates signify entrance into Zion - where the pure Word of the LORD is taught. The LORD loves
the gates, because it’s where people can come in to meet Him; to find out who He is, and what He has done,
on their behalf. Jerusalem will be a beacon of glorious light, to the world.

v. 4-6 What are all these births? Men will continue to be born during the Kingdom Age; men in bodies of
flesh. But this is speaking of a registry of births, that the LORD is recording.

Do you think this is just a record of natural births? No; this is a record of those who are born again, born
of the Spirit, during the Kingdom Age; those who hear the Word of God, and believe it.

Former enemy nations of Israel are mentioned; and also there will new births, among the Jews. These are
the children that Jerusalem will bear through her teaching, to the King - sons of God, for the earthly realm.

[Return to Matthew]
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In the parable, the householder brings new and old things out of his storehouse, his place of safekeeping.
What would these new and old things represent, with which the householder is providing for the
household? The new is the good news that the Savior has come, and will deliver men from sin and death -
just for believing in Him. That is food for Life - eternal life.

And the old things? All of the OT prophecies and pictures of the Savior’s coming. In fact, all of the Word
of God will be the instructed scribe’s treasure trove - which he will bring out, and bring out, to the children
of men - until the earth is filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as waters cover the sea (Hab

That concludes this set of parables, taught by Jesus. Hopefully, we are all now instructed scribes - for we
surely have some good food to share with those in need!

Reading: Matthew 13:53-58, 14:1-12; Mark 6:1-6, 14-29; Lk 9:7-9