The Drag Net
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind: Which, when it was full, they drew to the shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast away the bad. So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and separate the wicked from among the righteous, And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there be wailing and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 13:47-50)
The Sea of Tiberias was abundant in fish, which naturally formed an important part of the diet of the large population that dwelt along the lake side. Several of the Apostles were fishermen, owners of their own craft, and probably fairly well-to-do, as are many successful small tradesmen to-day. When calling them to follow him Jesus had said he would make them fishers of men (Matt. 4:17-22). This saying was a very early use of parabolic language, and in fact contains the germ of the parable in Matthew 13.
The drag-net was "a large net which two or more boats arrange in a circle in the lake, in such a way as to enclose a vast space with a kind of vertical wall. It is kept stretched by means of weights and floats. Then the two extremities are brought together, and the whole with its contents is dragged ashore". This arrangement of the two boats is behind the allusion to "the partners who were in the other ship" (Luke 5:7), and this episode in Luke provides a picture of the scene described in the parable.
The interpretation and the story itself are given together - necessarily so, or the correct interpretation would never have been reached. We can think of the preaching of the gospel being like the casting of a net which encloses all kinds of fish. Different types of men and women, and for different reasons, obey the gospel. This has already been indicated in other parables. The essential lesson of the drag-net is that there will be a sorting of the gathered "fish" at the end of the age. The interpretation, however, supplies what would not be apparent in the parable itself, that the angels come forth and sever the wicked from the just. The parallel between the Tares and the Drag-net is obvious, yet there are differences. Belonging to the series spoken in the house, the application of this parable is more circumscribed than that of the Tares. The wide application of the latter we have noticed: the Drag-net concerns those who come within the operations of the gospel.
The fishing goes on throughout the ages; mortal men cast the net and work in the gathering; the angels enter the work visibly at the end. How naturally Jesus speaks of the work of the angels; his several references to them are strong confirmation of the general hints concerning them scattered throughout the Bible. Jesus was as conscious of their existence, and the part they played in his own life, as he is confident about the coming revelation in mighty power when they will again visibly operate in the affairs of men, in the crisis associated with the coming transition of human affairs to the strong hands of the Son of God.
From: Parables of the Messiah by John Carter