I went fishing one time with my uncle out on the sound in North Carolina. He had a boat and he used to set nets in the morning and go back in the late afternoon to get his fish.
In this particular case, there had been a run of fish that he couldn’t stand, a type of shad. He wanted croakers and blue, but these other fish had filled the nets. Out of hundreds of fish, he only got a dozen or so good fish.
He was hauling the nets up and pulling fish out and throwing them over his shoulder as fast as he could move. Somebody, I think it was me, got slapped upside the head with a fish, because he wasn’t watching, he was just hauling fish.
He was doing what all discriminating fishermen do, keeping what was good and throwing the rest back.
In the picture Jesus paints, the net is the kingdom, a place where fish are gathered. The fishermen, like my uncle, are angels. It is their job to reach into the kingdom and find the fish that are good and the fish that are bad and separate them out.
So what are the fish?
The fish are the individuals in the kingdom.
This story is told a number of times by Jesus
• The wheat and the tares
• The sheep and the goats
• The branch that bears good fruit and the branch that bears bad fruit or no fruit at all
In every case the good are rewarded and the bad are tossed into the fire.