Fishing was never my forte. I did some of it when a child, but it was generally too passive for my tastes. What would have made it more interesting is if there was a way that the fish could fight back — I mean, beyond the passive-aggressive posture of ignoring a worm on a hook or a hunk of stinky squid. For example, if there was a way that the fish could also throw a hook back at me baited with a Philly Cheese Steak … well, that would be more sporting.
It just seemed to me that most of the time fishing was sitting around waiting for something to happen that never really happened frequently enough.
But I think I would likely have found the dragnet style of fishing in the Sea of Galilee to be more interesting. A net measuring about six feet high and up to even 100 yards long would be buoyed by floating devices at the top, with rocks at the bottom to keep it vertical. One end was anchored on shore while the other was stretched out from the land by a boat to the net’s full extent. Then the boat dragged the net, fully extended, in a semi-circular fashion back to the shore down the beach. The fisherman then drew the net in, and everything in its path would have been snared within it.
There are about 25 native species of fish in Galilee, some of them being good for sale and profit, while others were worthless. The fish were in the water together, but the good ones were sorted out and kept, while the worthless fish were thrown away. Here again is the parable …
Matthew 13:47-50 — The Parable of the Net
47 “Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. 48 When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. 49 This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous 50 and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
What can we take away from these three parables of the past three days? Here are five points …
1 — There is a definite judgment day that involves life and death, inheritance and destruction. There is no denying this — not only because of these three Scriptures, but many others that teach the same. So the answer to the title of the sermon is “Yes, there is final justice.”
The idea of a God of judgment does not fit well with so many peoples’ viewpoint as to what God is really like. They see Him as just an old grandfather in his dotage who can’t help himself from loving everyone everywhere in his worldwide family.
For there to be the reality of justice and a reason for right living within a moral construct that is respectful of others, there have to be standards of right and wrong and a law-giver who will bring everything into account at some point. What would the world be like without laws and law enforcement that brought law-breakers into consequence and accountability for wrong behavior?
2 — This teaching should lead us to a sober introspection of our standing before God about the energies and fruitfulness of our lives. (Not as earning a positive standing, but rather of demonstrating the reality and outworking of such.)
I hated final exams… even just the thought of them. It was always this looming Sword of Damocles hanging over one’s head. But I learned over time that the final was nothing to fear if I was regular in reading occasionally through my cumulative notes over the semester. And so is the final judgment nothing to fear for those who honor God — who know him through Christ and make that a defining and regular part of life.
Let me be fully clear that our salvation and standing with God is not dependent upon what we do or do not do. But the fruit of our lives cannot help but picture what is the reality about where we are planted. If there is no interest in eternal things or of serving others in the body of Christ, it is odd indeed.
What would you think of a person who was on a team, but after picking up their uniform seldom came to team practices or games? What would you think of a spouse who claimed to love the other person, but seldom spent time with that person or any of the family, often not coming home for stretches of time? Would that not raise questions about the genuine nature of the love that was claimed to be meaningful and real?
3 — There is a long period of time until the events of final judgment occur. Just because we do not see the end does not mean it will not ultimately come.
We might tend to look at the world around us and wonder, where is justice?
I have a couple of friends right now that are going through times of life where they are being unjustly treated by more powerful people, and there does not seem to be a remedy. We see in varied people groups around the world some of the worst characters the world has ever seen — some who even rival the evil of the Axis powers of WW2. And they seem to be growing and getting away with their atrocities.
The Scriptures speak of God as all-powerful with a promise of his beneficial intervention in the world and a return to this earth to provide justice, yet it has not happened. (More on this theme tomorrow)
4 — Some measure of confusion and lack of clarity, along with the frustration of a lack of resolution are a natural part of waiting for a final day.
We cannot know for sure who is exactly on the Lord’s side. We may have a broad sense of it as we serve together in the family of faith, but we swim in waters with all sorts of fish. Over time, it clarifies often in peoples’ lives — progressive sanctification either bears fruit, or people wander away from the hard work of faithfulness and from something that was not real in their lives.
5 — Our duty until the final day is to work faithfully, all in the context of a final hope that truth and righteousness prevails.
Ultimately, we control very little beyond ourselves and our immediate spheres of influence, but we can be faithful there. We can be sure that we ourselves are living for God, growing in his Word, trusting him in the midst of a confusing world, and serving others around us with the same values. We can be sure that our own families are centered around the truth and the big picture hope of eternal perspective and life in the gospel of Jesus Christ. (More on this tomorrow as well)