Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. 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. This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
"Have you understood all these things?" Jesus asked. "Yes," they replied."
The (noncanonical) Gospel of Thomas has a parellel of this parable (Patterson-Meyer Translation):
8. And he said, "The person is like a wise fisherman who cast his net into the sea and drew it up from the sea full of little fish. Among them the wise fisherman discovered a fine large fish. He threw all the little fish back into the sea, and easily chose the large fish. Anyone here with two good ears had better listen!" 
The Use of Parables. A parable is often described as a story that uses earthly (or temporal) elements to teach a heavenly (or eternal) lesson. In Matthew 13, Jesus had been using several parables to tell the people about different aspects of the Kingdom of Heaven. According to the gospels, Jesus' audience, as well as his disciples, often misunderstood these parables. In fact, in the same chapter as this parable, Jesus' disciples had just come to him and asked,
"Why do you speak to the people in parables?"
He replied, "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. This is why I speak to them in parables:
'Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.'
In this particular instance, Jesus was stating that his primary purpose for parables was to explain various things about the Kingdom of Heaven. The Kingdom is a central concept in all of Jesus' teachings, and much of his teaching utilized parables.
Insight on the various elements of this parable and their meanings can be drawn directly from the second half of the parable itself (Matthew 13:49-50), and also from Jesus' own explanation of the Parable of the Weeds (Matthew 13:36-43).
Net. The initial likening of the Kingdom of Heaven to a net being let down into the lake is very similar to the beginning of the Parable of the Weeds (Matthew 13:31-35). In that parable, the one who sowed the good seed is the "Son of Man", a term Jesus often used to refer to himself. In this parable, Jesus can be thought of as the one who lays the net down into the water.
Lake. The lake in this parable is the world. This connection can be made by taking from Jesus' interpretation of his parable of the Weeds, where he states that the field in which the seed is sown is analogous to the world (Matthew 13:38). The specific lake to which this parable refers is most likely the Sea of Galilee, located in northeast Palestine, near modern day Golan Heights.
Fish. The fish represent people of the world - some whom are elect and chosen by God, and some of whom are not. In this way, there are many kinds of people, just as there were many types of fish in the Sea of Galilee. In ancient Israel, there were 54 different kinds of fish in the Sea of Galilee. The good fish and the bad fish had to be separated upon drawing them from the sea. The bad fish were tossed back, leaving the ones that were of value.
Fishermen. Jesus indicates at the end of his parable that the fishermen represent the angels who will come "at the end of the age" and "separate the wicked from the righteous" (Matthew 13:49).
Collection of the good fish/Discarding of the bad fish. The act of separating the fish represents the angels carrying out the judgment of God upon the people of the earth. The wicked will be thrown "into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 13:50).
Taking from Jesus' Parable of the Weeds, which precedes this parable in Matthew 13, Jesus is speaking of things that will happen at "the end of the age" (Matthew 13:40). The end of the age is a term often used in the New Testament to refer to the end of the world, or the time with Jesus will come again (Jesus' prophesied Second Coming) to earth.
Jesus worked as one who plants seeds. He was the farmer, who sowed the "seeds" of the good news about the Kingdom of Heaven (commonly referred to as the "gospel"). Jesus speaks of God's judgment on the world, which will weed out those who have not accepted the gospel from among those who have. Then, as described in Matthew 13:34, those who accept the gospel "will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father."
Following this description of future judgment, Jesus continues his role as the sower of the gospel, asking those present if they had understood all that he had said (Matthew 13:51).
Parable of Drawing in the Net
Parable of the Pearl
Parables of Jesus
| Succeeded by|
Healing the Gerasene Demonic
Miracles of Jesus