Welcome the fishes


Matthew 13:47-52

Parables: The King’s secrets – Parable 7 and conclusion

40 Blogs of Lent: Day 33

47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. 48 When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad. 49 So it will be at the close of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

51 “Have you understood all these things?” They said to him, “Yes.” 52 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.”
Matthew 13:47-52 ESVUK

Fishermen preparing the nets for dragnet fishing.

The fish

Welcome to my blog, whether it is for the first time or you are a regular reader.

This welcome is important because the parable of the net is about being welcoming, which is not easy to spot in English translations of the Bible, but in the Greek the word translated gathered in the phrase a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind, συνάγω, also means welcome. Strongs concordance says:

συνάγω synágō, soon-ag’-o; to lead together, i.e. collect or convene; specially, to entertain (hospitably):

The kingdom of heaven is not about fishing in the sense of bringing people in without their consent, as far as I am aware fish do not consent to be caught, but a welcome to God’s hospitality. God is not a hater, as some Hell-fire preachers think, but God is welcoming to everybody.

This is the last of seven parables in this section. Matthew is using apocalyptic numbering to make a point. This parable and the parable of the weeds are about the close of the age, so the apocalyptic imagery is in the content, not just the numbering. Seven is the number of completeness, it correlates to the seven days of creation.

Throughout scripture, the end of the age and return of Christ will come when the gathering is complete. All the people from every nation and every ethnicity will come in and then the end will come, and that means judgement. God wishes to make us all holy, spotless; but how can God be holy if there is no judgement. The Hellfire in the passage is symbolic, apocalyptic writing is symbolic, and not to be taken as literal. Whatever apocalyptic is, its symbols have things in common with allegory but it does not as far as my limited theology can see fully map out as an allegory would. However it was interpreted when Matthew wrote two millennia ago is no longer known.

Why would there be rotten fish in the net? This is not like the parable or the tares, where weeds were sown by the enemy, rotten fish is fish that has gone bad. There is no need for the fish, people of God to go bad. God has sent the Holy Spirit to live inside us, leading us and renewing us from within. We ignore the Holy Spirit at our peril, going spiritually rotten if we do.

We need to live by the Holy Spirit’s power, constantly turning to her again.

New and old treasures

The conclusion of not just this parable, but also of this section on parables. There are two problems in the church if arguments in online fora is anything to go by — some people prefer old treasures, tradition, whilst others new contemporary things. This is especially apparent when it comes to church music, people love to say the other person’s music is bad for whatever reason.

Jesus taught from the Old Testament Law, Prophets and writings, but also some new things or interpret scripture in a new way. Old is not best, new is not best. We need both.

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