Sunday – January 6, 2019
Word On Worship – Sunday – January 6, 2019
I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished! Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division.
The word “fire” can arouse a wide variety of responses. If someone were to yell, “Fire!” at the top of their lungs, it would probably produce a great commotion. One the other hand, on a cold winter night, the suggestion to “build a fire in the fireplace” arouses all kinds of warm emotions. And who can forget singing “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” at Christmas time? Now, that give us a warm, sentimental feeling. But when Jesus said/says that He had come to “kindle a fire,” He was/is saying that He has come to bring about the outpouring of God’s wrath on sinful Israel. That certainly is neither warm nor sentimental!
There are a number of seeming contradictions in our Lord’s words, here and elsewhere in the gospels. He is the Prince of Peace, but He will bring division. He promises men life, but He calls on them to give up life. He tells men to lay up treasure in heaven, but they are to give up the pursuit of riches in this life, and to give to the poor. The difference is between the “ends” and the “means” by which they are achieved. “Peace” is the end, but a sword and division are the means. “Life” is the end, but death—our Lord’s death, and the/each disciple’s “taking up his cross” is the means. “Blessing and riches” are the end, but giving up the pursuit of them is the means. Since the means appear to contradict the ends, we must go about these means by faith, and not by sight.
But how can Jesus be so zealous for this “fire” to be kindled? If He is going to bring about the judgment of God upon sinners, and if this is not a work in which He takes pleasure, why is He eager for the “fire” to be kindled? I think the answer is simple—this painful and unpleasant (for both God and men, I believe) outpouring of wrath is a prerequisite of and preliminary to the establishment of the kingdom of God. In order for the kingdom of God to be established, sinners must be punished and sin eliminated.
The means by which God has determined to bring about His kingdom is not just painful to sinful men, it is exceedingly painful to God. Not only because men will suffer for their sins, but because Jesus Christ, God’s Son, will suffer His wrath as a payment for man’s sins. Jesus said that before He casts fire on the earth, He had a baptism with which to be baptized. This baptism is the death which He would die on the cross of Calvary. His death on the cross would set in motion a series of events, which will conclude in the pouring out of God’s divine wrath on sinners. The sad reality is that it is not really necessary, because Jesus experienced the full extent of God’s wrath on the cross. For those who trust in Him, that is the full payment for their sins, but for those who reject Him, there is yet to come the outpouring of God’s wrath in the day of judgment.