LUKE 9:52-56: "On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. When his disciples James and John saw it, they said ’Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?’ But he turned and rebuked them. Then they went to another village."
LUKE 12:49: "I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed!"
QUESTION: I am fascinated with the concept of fire from heaven and what it means. I am sensing that it is not about our destruction, but for our renewal, but I would like your take on this. I am a bible study teacher as well, so your insight will be very much appreciated.
COMMENT: There is, indeed, a strong image of fire throughout the Gospels, in Jesus’ teachings and in his parables. Certainly it’s an image which suggests chaos and painful destruction. But, as you are sensing, there is a deeper meaning at work. In the realm of spiritual truth we know that nothing can truly be destroyed, because everything is of God. Fire is a great purifier, burning away the dross and impurities that cannot be sustained in the new consciousness that Jesus describes as “the kingdom of heaven.” In bringing this new consciousness into expression, Jesus is indeed bringing fire to the earth, to convert this imperfect human experience into the pure expression of infinite Love that is the kingdom of heaven.
As for Luke 9:52-56, this is certainly not the only instance of Jesus’ disciples misunderstanding his message by taking it too literally. The Samaritans through whose village they are passing are not allowed to travel to the Temple in Jerusalem. They are resentful of, and uninterested in, any group of people who are proceeding to a place where they are not welcome. John and James have clearly come to believe in the power Jesus has been teaching and demonstrating; but they still seriously misunderstand its nature and purpose.