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The Parable of the Dragnet

Tucked away at the end of Matthew 13 — right after a long list of Kingdom parables — is the parable of the Dragnet.

It’s remarkably small; in fact, I can quote the entire thing right here:

“Again, the kingdom of Heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea, and gathering fish of every kind; and when it was 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.”

(Matthew 13:47-48)

Like I said, not a lot to it. 

But obviously, just because something is brief doesn’t mean that it doesn’t carry huge significance to us. Let’s take a few minutes and think about what the parable of the Dragnet has to say, especially concerning how we handle our evangelism. 

What is a “Dragnet”?

I think one of the reasons we have such a hard time understanding the Parable of the Dragnet is because we don’t really know what a “dragnet” is.

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not what the Apostles used. That would’ve most likely been a “casting net” — a circular net that’s about 25 feet in diameter with weights at the end that allows it to capture fish as it sinks to the bottom.

A dragnet, on the other hand, is enormous. Most would’ve been roughly 1000 feet in length, with a height of close to 25 feet in the middle. Like a casting net, there were weights at the bottom to sink one side to the sea floor, but it would’ve also had cork bobbers on the other end to help the other side float.

The other major difference is in terms of manpower. One person could throw a casting net with little problem. If they didn’t capture anything, they could just gather it up and throw it again.

A dragnet would’ve required anywhere from 15-20 men to operate. A boat would take the middle part of the net out to the middle of the sea, drop it in the water, and the rest of the men on shore would slowly pull it in.

As the net was “drug” in, it would act as an enormous wall, catching literally every single thing in its path. Once it arrived on shore, the fishermen would keep all the good fish and dispose of anything they didn’t want.

Then, they would roll it up and try again.

As you might imagine, a dragnet was no something operated by a lowly, everyday fishermen of Galilee. It took a team to handle a dragnet, which usually meant the owner was wealthy. 

Jesus’ apostles — the fishermen at least — were not. Even though the dragnet was far more efficient at gathering large catches of fish, casting nets were still the choice for Jesus’ apostles for economical reasons, at least.

The Dragnet and My Evangelism

So what does an enormous net have to do with evangelism? If Jesus is talking about the kingdom and how sowers spread seed and the enemy sows tares, what does a huge net dragging in a ton of random fish n’ stuff have to do with their evangelistic work?

In a word: Everything.

As the Apostles were listening to Jesus talk about these parables, there are a few connections they would’ve made very quickly. Those same applications apply to us.

Go Into Your “Whole World”

When Jesus admonished the disciples to “go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature,” He meant it.

The Apostles took this literally. Rather than stay inside their local areas, many of them scattered to the winds, taking the Gospel to literally every corner of the known world

Paul exemplified this throughout the book of Acts. Every single chapter sees him visiting a new location (or in some cases, several locations), preaching and teaching the Word of God (Acts 13:42-49).

Unlike the Apostles, most of us can’t do that. We don’t have the time or the means or the freedom (due to jobs and family and such) to spend our entire life doing nothing but teaching the Gospel to others. So what do we do then?

First, think about “your world.” Who are the people that you interact with every single day that you can talk to about the Gospel?

Then, think about how you can expand that world. Who can you go to intentionally that you maybe don’t happen to pass by on an everyday basis? Thinking deeply about those two scenarios should give you plenty of possibilities.

In Matthew 9:23-31, Jesus performs a series of miracles. After each, it says that the Word spread throughout that land. 

From that, we can tell that personal testimonies — i.e. talking about what God has done for you — are like the epicenter of an earthquake. The shockwaves are felt for miles around the point of contact.

We also see that compassion drives evangelism. At the end of that section, it says that Jesus felt compassion for them, compelling Him to keep teaching and keep reaching.

Do we feel that for others too?

Let God Sort the Results

Imagine how slow of a process it would’ve been if every couple of feet, the fishermen stopped the dragnet to pick out pieces of rock, seaweed, and hamburger wrappers. It would’ve taken them days just to go through a single stretch of land. Efficiency would’ve plummeted.

We should follow their example. Instead of stopping with every single person to gauge their “interest” in the Gospel, just tell them and let the results speak for themselves. 

Truth be told, we’re all terrible at evaluating souls anyways. Be honest: Would you have thought Saul the Persecutor could become Paul the Apostle? Most likely not.

James calls this people who engage in this type of spiritual pre-selection process “judges with evil motives” (James 2:1-9). They’re those who base their qualifications on who they’ll tell about the Gospel on physical credentials, just as Samuel did with the future King David.

James goes on to talk about how faith is seen through works (James 2:14-17). No works, no faith.

The connection between those two points is that we should let actions decide for people, not us. If someone is going to respond to the Gospel, their actions will demonstrate it. Don’t sell someone short by assuming someone will never respond.

The results could be eternity-altering.

Use Your Dragnet To Reach the Lost!

You don’t have to be a first century fisherman to see the ultimate lesson here, but it’s one that most people have a hard time grasping:

Evangelism is a numbers game. The more people you tell, the more people that will respond. It’s that simple. 

How many people will you tell today?

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