From The Crucified Is My Love
I came to cast fire on the Earth, and would that it were already kindled! I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! (Luke 12:49-50)
What kind of fire does Christ want to kindle on Earth? It is the fire of the Holy Spirit, as John the Baptist already prophesied, “He who is coming after me will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire,” (Matthew 3:11). Accordingly, the Holy Spirit came on the Day of Pentecost in tongues of fire. This fire has a consuming power to begin with. It is a fire that causes dissension and struggle, and the Lord throws it into the sinner’s breast to awake him from sleep and death. As he said, “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword,” (Matthew 10:34). For it consumes darkness, sin, and destruction. That is why all who want to continue in the rotten state of this world hate it, and it gives rise to a fierce battle against the disciples of the Lord. But where its consuming power has stood the test, it also becomes a fire of joy and blessing. It enlightens the hearts of believers and leads them to know God. It purifies their souls from sin and guilt and raises them to a life of communion with God. Its holy flames mount to the Father of Light as worshiping love and burn in selfless dedication in serving others. Where this fire is burning, it is Heaven on Earth. The disciples on the road to Emmaus felt it when they said, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road?” (Luke 24:32)
Now, when the Lord called out on his last journey, “Would that it were already kindled!” he gave his disciples a deep insight into his heart and soul. He bears this fire within himself, and he knows that it must be kindled in others. He sees it burning in the breast of his disciples, spreading from heart to heart, nation to nation, a fiery sign flaming from century to century. Yes, he sees at last the new Heaven and the new Earth in this element of the eternal light. An intense longing for that time lays hold of him.
But now a deep sadness casts itself between his longing and its fulfillment. What a fight must still be fought, what a sacrifice must still be made, before his task is fulfilled! That is why he says, “I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished!” A terrible flood surges up against the holy fire – the flood of his suffering, of his death. This is his baptism, his baptism of blood. He knows what awaits him, but he goes straight into it in the strength of love. And he is not ashamed to admit his apprehension. “How great is my distress!” he says.
We are deeply moved when he speaks. We are filled with wonder when he heals the sick, awakens the dead, and calms the stormy waves. We will fall on our knees before him in worship when we see him one day as judge of the world. But when the Heavenly hero is afraid, when his soul trembles, when he pours out his anguish, seeking comfort in his disciples, even hard hearts must become soft. We must call out, “Yes, you are ours, and we are yours!” When this happens, his fire is already kindled.