“I have come to set the earth on fire,and how I wish it were already ablaze!” (Luke 12:49)

We know the Jesus of the Gospels to be compassionate and merciful, kind and loving to all who approach Him, regardless of their past. We know that in the encounter with Him, they will be renewed and transformed. But these words – these do not sound like that kind and gentle Jesus. What can the words mean?

The context within which we find these words is a warning from the Lord to always be prepared, awaiting His return. He then goes on to tell the Disciples that He will be a cause of division, even amongst families; and He berates the crowds for their inability to read the signs of the times.

When a forest is ravaged by intense fire, not every plant will die; in fact, some plants rely on fire. The Eucalyptus and the Banksia, for example, need fire in order for their seeds to sprout and produce new life. Their seeds are sealed with heavy resin, and only the intense heat of fire can melt the resin and let the seeds germinate. And so in this sense, fire does not signify death, but life.

Perhaps there is a similar meaning in the words of Jesus – maybe the fire of which He speaks is designed not so much to destroy life, as to restore it. It may be that our hearts are like the Eucalyptus seeds – hardened and incapable of truly living; we need the fire of His Holy Spirit to melt away the obstacles that keep us from responding to Him; only then can we move towards Him.

In our prayers today, let us ask the Lord for this holy Fire, that by it He might remove from us all that holds us back from Him. Let us then be life the world of which the Lord speaks – ablaze with love of Him.