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God’s Word for You

Luke 12:49-50 fire on the earth

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, August 21, 2018

49 “I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it was already burning!

What is this fire? The NIV study Bible notes indicate that this fire is associated with judgment (v. 49) and division (v. 51), but we must also see that it is directly associated with Christ himself, who is the embodiment of the gospel. Therefore it seems best to take this fire as everything that follows in the wake of the preaching of the gospel. The gospel brings with it a reaction in man: ignited spirits, burning enthusiasm, but also division, dissension, and trials. Some embrace the gift and are energized by it. They are filled with godly enthusiasm. Others reject it and become violently opposed to it. The gospel “never returns empty” (Isaiah 55:11), so either it makes us children of God and friends of God, or it makes others into enemies of God. It is never neutral.

When would he “throw” (βαλεῖν) this fire onto the earth? With the moment of his death, when the gospel promises would be accomplished. The cross sets the world on fire. For some it is an offense, for all the rest it is eternal life. Jesus uses a word in the next verse which will tie in even more clearly with the crucifixion.

50 But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am until it will be finished!

Baptism means a washing, a cleansing, but here it is connected with his suffering and not with an outpouring of water. It might be taken as an immersion under his agony, but equally it could be seen as his suffering poured out onto him. He says in Mark 10:38, “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” This is his suffering on our behalf and in the service of the gospel, which is why he did not object when his disciples answered, “We can” (Mark 10:39).

“Distressed” here is the Greek word synechomai (συνέχομαι), “to be pressed down, troubled, distressed.” The task weighed heavily on the Savior. It was an unimaginably severe trial, and as his ministry continued, it pressed down on him more and more. He wanted it to be over, but there was still so much left to do! But he uses the Greek word telesthē (τελεσθῇ), “that it was finished.” This is the very same word used by Jesus on the cross when he said, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). Only the form and the tense are different, since here that moment was still in the future, but Jesus uses the aorist tense to show that although it was in the future it was a reality; it was the truth. It was coming, and it would certainly take place. All of his desire was that he would accomplish what he came to do: to wash away the guilt of our sins with his sacrifice on the cross. It’s why he came, it’s what he did, and it was for you.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

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