Jesus and the Kingdom of Heaven

The kingdom of heaven looms large when Jesus says: “I have come to set the world on fire.” Fire is associated with the baptism that Jesus has yet to receive. John the Baptist had prophesied regarding one who was coming who “would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire.” This prediction looks forward to the tongues of fire sent by Jesus at Pentecost when the disciples were baptized with the Holy Spirit. This is the fire that Jesus longs to see blazing. But before the Spirit can be given in this way, Jesus must suffer the “baptism” of his passion and death. (Luke 12:49-50).

Luke combines two different visions or aspects, the giving of the spirit and judgment, which isn’t surprising, since Jesus has come as a sign of contradiction. He brings peace to those who accept it, but to those who reject it, he brings division. Division will affect household relationships: father v son, mother v daughter, etc. Micah the prophet foretold this, but he said Israel would be restored. And look at Israel now, a free state. (Luke 12:51-53).

Jesus notes that people are able to interpret weather related phenomena, like a heat wave from the desert in the south, but not the inner meaning of the Present Time. This is an opportune time for repenting and recognizing the Messiah. Because of this difference between the outside and the inside, Jesus calls them hypocrites. (Luke 12:54-56).

Jesus urges the crowd to repent and judge for themselves what is right. He uses a courtroom image to advise them to settle their differences before they get to court, otherwise they may end up in debtor’s prison. “Debts represent sins and Jesus’ mission is precisely to proclaim the jubilee year of remission of such debts. But these debts will not be forgiven without repentance–the sooner the better.” Inspired by Jesus’ words about his mission, St. Ignatius of Loyola told departing missionaries like St. Francis Xavier: “Go and set the world on fire!” Zeal for the mission of spreading the gospel is a hallmark of saints.” (Luke 12:57-59).

Pilate had killed a group of people who were sacrificing and otherwise were minding their own business. When Jesus heard this story he merely used it to further his own message. He said that people who suffer misfortunes are not greater sinners than others. In fact, he told me, the writer, that it’s all random, which I should have known anyway. Jesus told the crowd to fear God, not Pilate. (Luke 13:1-9).

Jesus doubles the message by telling them about 18 people who were killed when a tower fell on them near Siloam. Again they were no more sinful than others.


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