Good Friday, 11h00: I came to cast fire on the earth

Easter, also known as the Passover, has a particular history and meaning. It was firstly instituted when the children of Israel were in Egypt and God said that He would send one more plague onto Egypt – the plague of the death of the first-born – through which God would deliver them out of the bondage of Egypt.

God commanded Moses to tell the Israelites that on the 14th of that month, which became the first month of the year for them, they had to slaughter a year-old lamb without defect. On the evening of that day, they had to gather in their houses and apply the blood of that lamb to the doorposts of the house. The lamb was fried over a fire and eaten without breaking a bone of the lamb. They also had to eat unleavened bread. God promised that when the Angel of Death would destroy the first-born of the Egyptians, he would pass over the houses that had blood on the doorposts. This is exactly what happened and it was after this that  Pharaoh said that they should leave his country and they were delivered from bondage.

Then Jesus came. According to John, the day of the preparation of the Passover feast was the day that Jesus appeared before Pilate and Herod. It was on the day of the Passover that Jesus Christ was crucified which is why Paul says Christ, our Passover Lamb, was sacrificed. (1 Corinthians 5:7) This is why Jews and Christians celebrate the Passover. The Jews remember the feast of the Old Testament and Christians celebrate it because Christ, our Passover Lamb was sacrificed.

In the Old Testament the Passover was celebrated in three especially mentioned periods – the Passover of King Solomon, King Hezekiah and King Josiah. It was instituted to be celebrated annually. Passover was a time of rededication and consecration. It is in this light that I would like us to consider this Passover/Easter 2020, that it would be a time of rededication and consecration for each of us.

I feel inadequate to speak about this topic but according to the word in Psalm 8:2 Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger. Bear with me if this message comes from the lips of a child.

49 “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! 50 I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! Luke 12:49 – 50

I would like us to look at two points: the fire that Jesus came to bring on the earth and the baptism that He had to undergo. The baptism was a pre-condition for the fire to be cast on the earth.

According to the text this is the purpose for which Jesus came to the earth. There are other passages that speak of the Lord’s purpose – I have come that they may have life and have it in abundance, (John 10:10) the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. (Luke 19:10) In this text He says, 49 “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! The Lord expresses His passion and strong desire. He longed for it with all His being. This fire is not something that warms people and puts love into their hearts – it is a fire that is cast into the midst of humanity. It is a mighty fire that He has come to kindle. What can this fire be and what can it mean to us? The Bible speaks of our God as a consuming fire. It also speaks of the Day of Judgement that will burn like a furnace; therefore, fire brings about destruction and judgement. When the Lord speaks of this fire here, I believe it is more than that. Fire can be a purifying agent. When you put ore or gold through fire it gets purified. In Malachi it states that when the messenger of the covenant comes, He will come as a refining fire. (Malachi 3:1-3)

 Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence— [a]as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil—to make your name known to your adversaries, and that the nations might tremble at your presence! Isaiah 64:1-2

The above prayer was prayed by a child in a service that Reverend Stegen held before the revival started in Mapumulo in 1966. This child interrupted the service and asked Reverend Stegen, “Can I please pray?” It was highly unusual. This child then prayed this prayer from Isaiah 64:1-2. After this incident Rev Stegen said to his brother that God would send revival soon. They later experienced God coming down as a fire which purified them, getting rid of the dross and sin in their midst. I was reminded of what Dr Willie Marais once said in a message. “If there are flies on porridge, how do you get rid of those flies?” He answered the question, “You boil that porridge because no fly will settle on boiling porridge, but they will sit on cold porridge and other things.”

When Jesus said, “I came to cast fire on the earth…” one of the things that He meant was that He would kindle a holy zeal in the hearts of those who love Him. John the Baptist said, “I baptise you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” Matthew 3:11 When the Holy Spirit came down at Pentecost, He came down as tongues of fire on the disciples. This is the fire that Jesus longed to be cast on the earth. This fire would bring about sanctification, holiness, a zeal for God and that God’s name would be made known to His enemies.

But before Jesus could kindle this fire there was a baptism He had to undergo. He said of it, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished. This is not merely a water baptism. Many people think that when the Bible speaks about baptism, it means water baptism. Jesus said, “Baptise them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19) It does not just mean water baptism because when you baptise something, you place it into something else. Therefore, if people are to be baptised in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, it means they must be placed into the Father, into the Son and into the name of the Holy Spirit. In this case, baptism can even mean to be drowned in something. Jesus said, “I have a baptism to be baptised with…” He was going to be drowned into death and He said, “…and how great is my distress until it is accomplished.” When Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, He said to the disciples, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death…” Matthew 26:38 It was as if He could die from that distress He was experiencing. Jesus never exaggerated. He never over-used words. If Jesus spoke these words then this is what He was experiencing in the Garden of Gethsemane.

It was not the nails, it was not the crown of thorns, it was not the lashes of the cat-o-nine-tails that caused distress to the Lord Jesus. No, it was the crushing weight of our sin which He had to carry. It was that bitter cup that He had to drink that was filled with the filth of our sin.

But he was pierced for our transgressions;   he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace and with his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:5

 This is what caused distress – the weight of our sin. This baptism had to take place before the Lord could cast fire on the earth. The baptism of His passion on the cross had to take place before He could kindle that fire on the earth. The cross had to come before Pentecost.

Dear brother and sister, it is the same with you and me. We need to experience the cross before we can experience Pentecost. On the cross the Lord Jesus brought that sacrifice. He was that Lamb of God slain for our purification. This sacrifice sanctifies you and me. Our sins have to be atoned for before we can experience the fire that Jesus came to cast on the earth. We must experience forgiveness and deliverance from our sin.

Does this fire burn within you and me? We should look at this question during this Easter weekend. Ask yourself whether the fire that Jesus said He longed to cast on the earth is burning within you? Is there holy zeal for the name of God and for His honour? Is there that fire that purifies the sin and dross in our lives? Because of the increase of wickedness in the end times, the love of many will grow cold. People will get distracted and involved in other things. They will take their eyes off the Lord Jesus and chase after money, fame and pleasure. A young person who was on fire of God can cool off when their studies and a degree become more important. When people get married that fire of God can cool down. A person who goes into business can lose their fire for God when they are successful and make money.

Have you experienced the working of the Cross in your life? Remember what happened at that first Passover in Egypt. The blood of the lamb had to be smeared on the door, lintels and doorposts so that when the Angel of Death came, he would pass over that house. That is why it is called the Passover. Is the blood of the Lamb on your heart? Is it visible? Is it working in your heart so that when God’s judgement comes, He will pass over you and His judgement will not consume you? At that time no one was allowed to leave the house until the morning. Everyone had to partake of that Passover Lamb. Remember that the Lord Jesus said …unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. John 6:53 The Passover lamb has been slain but have you eaten of the flesh of the Lord Jesus? Have you drunk of His blood? The Israelites had to eat unleavened bread and get rid of all the old yeast. They went through their houses sweeping every corner to make sure there was no yeast. Have you partaken of the Passover lamb? Are you eating unleavened bread? Have we got rid of all the old yeast? Is that fire burning in us?

19 Do not quench the Spirit. 1 Thessalonians 5:19

30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Ephesians 4:30

There are things that can put out the fire of God. There are things that grieve the Holy Spirit and then that fire of God which Jesus came to cast on the earth is quenched in our lives.

At this Easter let us examine our lives and see what our lives are like before God and whether this fire is truly burning. Is there perhaps some sin, habit or slothfulness that quenches the Spirit of God. We may fall into certain habits that quench the fire of God. Is there perhaps something that you keep yourself occupied with that pours water onto the fire of God? Is there sin that you indulge in that has become like an idol and is taking your time and energy that you should be using to serve God? Let us examine our lives and see whether there is any of this yeast.

The Bible says that the Spirit desires that which is contrary to the flesh and the flesh desires that which is contrary to the Spirit. The lusts of the flesh wage war against your soul and will quench the fire of God. Lusts of the flesh do not only mean sexual lust but also the lust of the eye – looking at things which satisfy the desires of your heart, carnal pleasure. Listening to music which is blasphemous and goes against the word of God – you enjoy it, the beat and the video.

May the Lord kindle that fire in my heart and in that of every listener. May there be nothing in our lives that will quench the fire of the Holy Spirit so that God may glorify His name.

German translation

French translation