I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish that it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed.
In Acts, Luke distinguishes between baptism with water and baptism with fire, which may have meant the Holy Spirit, especially as a distinction between John’s baptism and Jesus’s baptism. In this passage from Luke’s Gospel Jesus is clearly referring to the ordeal of his forthcoming death, to which he frequently refers during his ministry, though never quite so strikingly as here. But it makes sense of the Church’s later references to being baptized into Christ, or into Christ’s death. Only occasionally does Jesus reveal anything like emotion at the thought of his forthcoming death: this is one such place. It encourages us to take very seriously the implications of our own baptism, whether we remember it or not.
Lord Jesus Christ, as we think about your passion and death, we cannot but be amazed by your courage and the faith in God that sustained you. Give us the same courage when we face challenges and difficulties in our own lives, and finally at the end when we face death alone. Fill us with your grace that we may remember that you have been through all of this before for our sake. In your name, we pray. Amen.
The Rev’d Professor David Thompson is a retired minister and a member of Downing Place URC in Cambridge.