Chapter 13:47-52 (ESV) - Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
“Have you understood all these things?” They said to him, “Yes.” And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”
Question to consider: Do you think the disciples really understood “all these things?”
At the beginning of this chapter, I mentioned that Matthew’s list of parables Jesus told to obscure the secrets of the kingdom appear to have been given toward the beginning of His ministry after the crowds had gotten so great by the house at which He was preaching that He went down by the shore and got into Peter’s boat. I have also argued that the house at which He was preaching toward the beginning of His ministry was Peter’s house, for Jesus had cast a demon out of a man in the Capernaum synagogue and then went to Peter’s house to heal his mother-in-law. He preached from there until He made enemies with the Pharisees in Capernaum. Jesus then called Matthew as a disciple and began preaching from his house at the other end of town.
Speaking from the boat off of the shore of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus gave this parable about the kingdom of heaven being like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. The particular mention of fish of “every kind” I would guess is another obscure reference to the fact that the kingdom of heaven would be opened to people from all nations and fulfill the promise God made to Abraham that he would be a blessing to all nations. The net would also capture "bad" fish much like the weeds that were sown among the wheat in His previous parable.
The separation of the fish on the shore by the men was a picture of the angels separating the evil from the righteous, and the evil being cast into hell at the judgment. If you’ve followed my studies for any length of time, I have made the argument over and over that since Genesis 3:15, the Bible has divided up the world into two types of people: the offspring of the serpent and the offspring of the woman. The difference between these two categories is not easy to guess by appearances, for it is rooted in a person’s faith. Either people have faith in God, and it is credited to them as righteousness, or they don’t have faith and are dead in their trespasses and sins.
I think Jesus was being facetious when He asked whether the disciples understood all of these things. The disciples seemed to have said “Yes” in the same way students in my religion class say “Yes” when I ask this question because they don’t want to admit that they have no idea what I meant, and they definitely don’t want to sit through me repeating it. The disciples would get it though when the Holy Spirit would come upon them at Pentecost just as I’m sure some of the students will get it when they get a bit more mature in their faith. The disciples would become scribes of the New Testament able to connect the things of the Old and New Covenants as they preached the gospel and wrote their accounts.
Why do I think they lied and said “Yes” when they didn’t understand? For one thing, they continued to think that the kingdom Jesus described was going to be a military kingdom like David. Another is purely speculation on my part. I believe that after Jesus told the parable about the miraculous catch of fish, He told a weary Peter to cast his net on the other side of the boat…
Dear heavenly father, please forgive us for all of the times we have received Your word without ears to hear or eyes to see the glory of Christ in it. Help us to cast a wide net and faithfully proclaim that Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords. Amen.