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Lowell Brueckner

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Seeking the Truth of the Kingdom, chapter seven


Jesus did not teach His disciples how to fish men; He was going to make them become fishers of men. The first supposition signifies an action; the second is a state of being. Fishing is something a person can take up and later leave, but a professional fisherman can never abandon his net. It is his life. The Lord gave all His disciples the same task and we still have it today. Christ came to seek and to save those that are lost and everyone, who follows Him, without exception, also enter this ministry.  


“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea, and gathering fish of every kind; and when it is filled, they drew it up on the beach; and they sat down and gathered the good fish into containers, but the bad they threw away. So it will be at the end of the age; the angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Matthew 13:47-50

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Several of the previous parables had something to do with the earth, but the one we just studied involved a product taken from the sea. This last of the parables of Matthew 13 also focuses on the sea.

Along with the parable, Jesus gives the interpretation, so we have three of the seven parables interpreted. With the first one, the Parable of the Sower, left by itself, we could group the other six into three pairs, according to the similar lessons that they teach: 1) The mustard seed could be paired with the leaven, 2) the hidden treasure with the pearl of great price, and 3) the net with that of the wheat and the tares.

A difference between the wheat and the tares and the parable that is before us now, is that one has to do with a land product and the other is found in the sea. Another difference is that the tares were sown purposely by an enemy, whereas the good and bad fish are all caught by the same net. However, it is within the realm of probability that the enemy guided the bad fish to the net. He wants to use his influence in everything that has to do with the work of God. If he can, he will take the seed of God’s word out of the heart of a listener, he will sow bad seed among the good, he will cause a tree to grow beyond God’s intentions, puff up bread to appear much larger than its real substance, and, as we now consider, possibly he will guide bad fish into a net. It would be very consistent with his character and intentions that he does so.

When we take into account the ambient, in which fish are found, it becomes even more probable that the enemy is in the middle of what takes place. The sea provides the perfect ingredients for his potions. In the Bible, it symbolizes the unstable multitudes of the nations. “The wicked are like the tossing sea, for it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up refuse and mud” (Is. 57:20). The crowds came to the streets, when Jesus passed by riding on a donkey and they shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!”. A few days later before Pilate, they demanded, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” The multitudes are inconstant and unfaithful, always changing the object of their loyalty.

Among many prophecies that Jesus gave in Luke 21, in verse 25 He warned, “There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the seas and the waves.” James wrote that the unstable individual is “like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind… a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways” (Jm. 1:6,8).

Daniel wrote that “four great beasts were coming up from the sea, different from one another” (7:3), and defined them in verse 17: “These great beasts, which are four in number, are four kings who will arise from the earth.” Similarly, in Revelation 13, “I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads.” The beast that John saw is the antichrist, who will arise from among the restless nations, as history nears its end.

We know that before the throne of God there is a crystal sea that probably was represented by the sea of bronze that Solomon built for the temple, where the priests washed before they entered the holy place (1 Kg. 7:23), but in the new heaven and earth, there will no longer be a sea, such as we know, with tides that come in and go out. “There is no longer any sea” (Rev. 21:1). In heaven there is nothing unstable and inconstant. There will be no atmosphere conducive to beasts, such as are mentioned in the book of Daniel, as well as in the book of Revelation, and no opportunity given for them to arise.

I think that there is something prophetic about the disciples’ experience on the Sea of Galilee (Mt. 14:23-33; Jn. 6:16-21). We know that they had rowed for at least nine hours against wind and wave, because they entered the boat at dusk and Jesus came walking on the water during the fourth watch of the night. In all that time, they had only been able to reach the middle of the sea (Note: The distance given in the account was about half the width of the sea). The fourth watch of the night was the last, between three and six in the morning. The word “spirit”, literally means “a current of air, a breeze or a blast of breath”.
The contrary winds represent spiritual forces and, as we have already stated, the waves point to the unstable multitudes of humanity and they are agitated by spirits. We also see the disciples upset and fearful, manifesting a similar demeanor to that which James described, concerning those who ask without faith. God’s people have always had to advance, battling against winds and waves, but never so much as against the fierce opposition of men and devils that will arise in the “last watch”, before Christ comes again. At that time, His question will be, “Will I find faith on the earth?”

The parable of the net was the last parable of Matthew 13 and, when it ended and Jesus spoke of the end of the age, He “departed from there”. I cannot say it conclusively, but I think that there could be something symbolic in that act, while leaving this parable ringing in the disciples’ ears. In similar fashion, when He went into heaven, he left them with His Great Commission, “Preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed… shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned” (Mk. 16:15-16).


Jesus commanded His disciples to fish the great sea of humanity. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations” (Mt. 28:19) and He gave them authority to undertake the mission with these words, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (vs. 18). To be able to stand against wind and waves, against currents of spirits and men, they would need the support of a government with a superior authority than the most potent forces on earth. The authority could be exercised over principalities, powers, rulers of darkness of this age, and evil, spiritual wickedness in high places. They received it personally from the One who calmed the winds and the sea with a word. The authority was sufficient to be able to enter any nation, whether its rulers welcomed them or not. In any case, nothing and no one could hold them back from their task.

Christ’s purpose, when He called His disciples, was to make them fishers of men. He performed a miracle at that time that inspired them to commit their lives to leave all and follow Jesus with that end in mind. After teaching from Peter’s boat, he commanded, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch” (Lk. 5:4). We must understand here that a carpenter is dealing with a professional fisherman. The fisherman responds, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets” (vs. 5).

In this practical way, Jesus gave Peter and the other disciples a lesson that they would never forget. The wisdom of the expert on the subject of fishing had to suffer a defeat. At this point, he must decide, if he would continue to trust the things that he had learned by experience throughout his life or, if he was going to rely on the word of this carpenter, who now was proving to be his Master. We all must pass the same test, because if we continue to believe the experts, we cannot advance in the Christian life. Of course, everyone, in his opinion, considers himself to be the greatest expert in running the affairs of his life.

Probably, Peter had learned to fish from his father since childhood and he lived in a village dedicated to the fishing profession. His life had been submerged in this occupation. Peter knew very well that the best time to fish was at night, when the waters near the shore cooled and the fish gathered there. Then it was easier to net them. In the daytime, net fishing was much more difficult and to catch a great quantity of fish in deep water was practically impossible.

Peter made a crucial decision. He decided to put aside all his fishing knowledge, in order to believe and obey the Master. In the Parable of the Sower, the ground by the wayside was hard, because many feet had passed. Jesus was softening the soil in Peter’s heart for the reception of His word. There would be no spiritual future for him, if he did not submit to the plow. Peter responded correctly, “I will let down the nets.” The word penetrated, it had success, and Peter began to understand that all power in heaven and earth had been given to this Nazarene.

At the same time, Jesus displaced the rock of egotism and tore out the weeds of the cares and pleasures of this life, covetousness and the deceit of riches. He did not call His disciples according to their convenience, when they were unoccupied, but just when they were engrossed in their work. They left their nets, their father and the servants, in order to follow Him.

In his case, overcome by godly fear, “Peter… fell down at Jesus’ feet, saying, ‘Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!’” (vs. 8). All the fishermen were convinced that they had come face-to-face with divinity and felt unworthy to be in His presence. The plain truth was powerfully presented to them, leaving them deeply convicted. It was a good entrance into the Christian life.

I am enchanted by fishing and I do it, whenever I have opportunity, which is not often. At times, I dream that I am fishing and I awake feeling content. To me, fishing is a pleasure, but to many people, native to the town where we live, it is not so. The owner of the house we rent spends entire months on the sea, far from his wife and little girl. The other day, I heard that he had gone to the coast of Africa. He is not on a pleasure trip; fishing is his life.
Jesus said, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men” (Mk. 1:17). He was not only going to teach them, but He was going to change their entire being to the point that, by the end of their discipleship training, they could not do another thing, but dedicate themselves to fish for men. The work of Jesus took place in the center of their hearts and converted them into fishers of men. The Master, who discipled them, was no less a fisher of men. Paul said, “It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15). If that was the purpose of the Master, what else could His followers do in the world? The work of God and His gospel is to fish for men. Christ has left us with a net.

In this passage, the Greek word for net is different from the word of common usage and it is used only in this parable. Different from other nets, which are thrown and gathered, this large net is left in the sea for a time. The net that Christ has left us comes with a permanent commission, still in force, and will continue so until the end of the age. The great net of the gospel has now been in the sea of weary and heavy-laden humanity for 2,000 years. They are restless and unstable and, for this reason, many are attracted to it. The good fish that have been gathered around the world give testimony that they have been saved from a turbulent sea.

However, not all that respond to the gospel are genuine converts. The Good News is very compelling. Many want to participate and come near to identify with it, because they find it convenient to use in developing their own schemes. Some political candidates call themselves Christians, because it is helpful in winning elections. There are musicians, who sing hymns and Christian tunes to console and stimulate their audiences and thereby their concerts and recordings rake in more money. Hollywood has made great productions, using biblical themes. But, be careful! “Many believed in His name, observing His signs which He was doing. But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man” (Jn. 2:23-25).

I often advise people to be careful in depositing confidence in people. Some Christians think that trust is a virtue, but I do not believe that to be Bible teaching. Trust is something that must be won, not something a person should receive automatically. How many have been, not only disillusioned, but even trapped by people, in whom they have trusted; people who have manipulated them to gain their own ends? There are many tragic stories to be told of psychological, financial and sexual abuse. I do not believe that Christ wants us to trust blindly and stupidly. “Be wary of men,” said Jesus. There are bad fish in the net.

Filling a gospel net is quite common these days and large buildings and even stadiums can reach their capacity, if a suitable message and personality are offered. Stories of evangelical success are many. Churches and organizations grow up overnight and many are astonished at how rapidly they flourish. I have learned by hard experience, not to get excited easily, nor to believe that everything done in the name of Jesus is a work of God. The net is there, to be sure, but the manner of attracting the fish many times is corrupted by carnal thinking and planning. I have to admit with shame that at times I have been deceived, greatly surprised by the close similarity of a hypocritical profession of Christianity to that which is true. At least it has served to help me warn others of the danger. It is impossible to stop bad fish from entering the net, but we ought to be careful not to use bait which stimulates egotistical ambitions.

In a not-too-distant future, there will be a separation between the good and the bad. Many of those that are on the member list of a church or form part of a Christian organization do not have their names written in the Book of Life. Before the White Throne Judgment, the Book of Life will be opened, to confirm that the names of the damned are not written therein: “I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life” (Rev. 20:12). The evidence will be undeniable and no one will open his mouth in protest. “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (vs. 15). The wretched people, who must be judged according to their works, will never escape condemnation; without exception they will be condemned: “The dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds” (vs. 13). These are resurrected only to be judged and condemned.

Not only will the good be separated from the bad, but the resurrection of one from the other will be separated by a thousand years. A little before, in the same chapter 20 of Revelation, it tells of those that will be resurrected and reign with Christ for a thousand years: “Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power” (vs. 6), because “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Ro. 8:1). They are the ones who “do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit… For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (vs. 4,14). Paul teaches clearly in the letter to the Romans of the grace of God and without grace, there is no hope. “David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, and whose sins have been covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account” (4:6-8).

Much of that which enters the gospel net is not useful; that is the sad but sure truth. Nevertheless, the net itself is genuine and we need not fabricate another message or method. There exists no other net for salvation and we can submit ourselves to it with all assurance, since God has placed it before us. He invites a free entrance to everyone that would leave the ambience of this world of confusion, empowered by spiritual evil. He will rescue us from this place and transport us to the river of living water, in order to drink from it eternally.


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