The Kingdom Underground: Nets and Fish

A response to the "small group questions" for the 7 April 2019 message at First Pres, Boulder. [1]

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.

exerpt from the English Standard Version of the gospel of Matthew [2]

Which of the parables from MAtthew 13 has been the most significant for you (Sower, Weeds, Mustard Seed & Yeast, Treasure & Pearl, or Net)? Why?

I don't know that I could count one most significant; but I do struggle to receive the parables of Weeds and the Net more than the others. The others of these parables focus more on the power and effectiveness of the kingdom of heaven; but the parables of Weeds and the Net more specifically describe the discarding of "the evil" or "the sons of the evil one"; and more than discarding, they describe "weeping and gnashing of teeth."

Part of my tentative personal theology has been, given that I am not judge; and that God is "allowed to do what he chooses with what belongs to him." [3] I don't "begrudge his generosity." On the contrary, I have praised him for it; but implicit in that has been the hope that God would save all people in reconciling creation to himself. But I don't see room for that theology in the image of "weeping and gnashing of teeth."

But I suppose, before I rest in an interpretation of this passage, I should call into question my understanding of "the kingdom of heaven." Is it the ultimate end of such people? Or is there something more going on? Here Christ specifies that he is talking about events to take place "at the end of the age"; and I have also been operating recently under the tentative escatology that the age referred to here is the end of the Jewish age, succceeded by the Christian age; but I would be reticent to equate the work of Nero with that of "the angels of the Son of Man who will come out and separate the evil from the righteous."

My escatology and theology clearly need some work. [4]

How does the setting (A fishing boat) and Jesus' tone (loving warning) impact the way you hear this passage?

It gives me a sense of place; like poetry, it conveys a mood. But I don't know that I can draw any specific meaning from it.

It does set the stage for the two-forum presentation, where he preaches to the crowd on the beach, but then relates more personal information to his disciples, ostensibly in the boat with him.

If you were an original hearer of the Parable of the Net, how do you think you would have responded that day? How do you think Jesus wants his hearers to respond to this warning?

I don't know that I _do_ consider it a warning. No-where in the parable is there room for weeds to become wheat; or for bad fish to become good. They are judged by what they are, and there is no call to righteousness here.

I cannot be proud. I expect that, were I an original hearer, I would "hear but never understand; see but never perceive." [5]

As for how Jesus might have hoped his disciples would respond: I expect it begins and ends with that they should "see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn."

Jesus' invitation to discipleship in Matthew 4:19 has also been considered a definition of discipleship: "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men."

Which aspect of discipleship is most evident in your life? Which is most lacking? Spend some time considering how you might be more intentiaonl in pursuing a life of Christian discipleship. Talk to God about and and tell someone else about it as well.

I follow Christ. I want to be transformed by following him, and I see the work of that transformation in my life. I expect that I most lack in my willingness to be in fellowship with God in his spirit, and so in vulnerable fellowship with others. I tend to intelectualize discussions about my faith; but it shouldn't end there.

I've felt a desire--and I think it it from the spirit--to start reading scripture in a public forum (e.g., in my neighborhood) and to invite others to join me. I've talked about this with a friend, but I haven't actually discussed it with God, yet. I just keep feeling like he's mentioning it to me.

[1] The Kingdom Underground: Nets & Fish
[2] Matthew 13:47-50
[3] Matthew 20:1-16
[4] Matthew 16:1-3
[5] Matthew 13:10-17