Exegesis Paper on Luke 12:49-53
“I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50 I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! 51 Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. 52 For now on five in one house there will be divided, three against two and two against three; 53 They will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” (Luke 12:49-53) “I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled (v49)!” As I read these words from this passage again, I can almost hear the urgency and emotion that was in Jesus’ voice when he spoke them. “I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled (v49)!” This is Jesus describing his mission, his purpose for entering into our world: to cast fire on the earth. Yet it had not happened yet, for with great longing in his voice, he tells his disciples, “how I wish it were already kindled (v49)!”
But whatever do these strange words mean? What is this fire about which Christ speaks of? How or when did he cast this fire to the earth, if he ever did?
There are occasions in the Bible when fire did fall from heaven. Fire and brimstone fell from heaven upon Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:24-25) and destroyed those towns and all its inhabitants. One of the ten plagues against Egypt was fire and hail from heaven (Exodus 9:3). The prophet Elijah called down fire from heaven that incinerated soldiers sent from wicked King Ahaziah (2 Kings 1:9-17). Lightning is sometimes described as fire from heaven in the Bible (Psalm 27:9; Psalm 144:5-6). All of these fires from God, however, were destructive fires. And it is the destructive and consuming force of fire that we usually think of when we think of fire. Does it sound like Jesus to be longing and wishing for destruction?
No, the fire that Jesus came to cast on the earth is none of those fires. It is not a destructive fire. It is the fire of the Holy Spirit. The Scriptures sometimes associates the Holy Spirit with fire. In the book of Revelation, the Holy Spirit is pictured as “seven lamp stands with burning flames” (Revelation 4:5). John the Baptist prophesied concerning Jesus, “I baptize you with water, but he who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Luke 3:16).
But do we have any Biblical evidence that Jesus ever sent the Holy Spirit from heaven in the form of fire? Yes we do and it happened on the Day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2. 1“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared to them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4 All of them filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit gave them ability (Acts 2:1-4).”
Later, when Peter stood up and preached a sermon before thousands of curious onlookers, he explained to them what the tongues of fire meant, 32 “This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses. 33Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you both see and hear (Acts 2:32-33). The resurrected Jesus, ascended to the right hand of God had poured forth the Holy Spirit from heaven; he had cast the fire of the Holy Spirit to the earth.
When the fire of the Spirit fell upon the apostles they were transformed; they were filled with boldness, they praised the mighty works of God in many languages, and they spoke the Word of God...
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