Gospel of Thomas, #10 / C

(10) Jesus said: I have cast fire upon the world, and behold I guard it until it is ablaze.

I chose just one of the sayings. I can’t say that I understand what it means but the image of fire is arresting … it can be positive (gives light, warmth, cleanses) or it can be negative (the destruction of “hell fire”). Below are some thoughts …

There is a similar passage in Luke (12:49), though the tense is different …. “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” …. the NAB interprets the line this way – Jesus’ proclamation of the kingdom is a refining and purifying fire. His message that meets with acceptance or rejection will be a source of conflict and dissension even within families.

A not quite as positive image that also comes to mind is that of the fires of GehennaThe Valley of Hinnom had a very horrendous history in ancient times. It was used as a place where the pagan worshipers did all sorts of vile and wicked things – including burning children alive as sacrifices to the idols Moloch and Baal … the Jews turned the Hinnom Valley into the city dump where garbage and anything deemed unclean (including the bodies of executed criminals) was incinerated.

Hearts On Fire … I prefer to think Jesus’ reference was a positive one rather than one of destruction. Maybe it could be best described by a couple of guys on the road to Emmaus … Then they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he (Jesus) spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?” – Luke 24:32


7 responses

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Crystal, your references to God’s fire are apt. Actually there are many throughout the Bible. I think the most apt one is what happened at the day of Pentecost, when tongues of fire rested on the disciples, empowering them with the Holy Spirit.I think this is the evidence of what Jesus was saying in Thomas and Luke: he put fire into the hearts of his disciples and at Pentecost (Acts 2) it became evident to the whole world.Remember the burning bush– evidence of God’s power. Remember what Elijah did with the four hundred prophets of Baal: God set his sacrifice on fire and the drought ended. (Look at 1 Kings 18:25-39.)

  3. There’s one Thomas passage I read years ago and it stayed with me:He who is close to me is close to the fire;he who is far from me is far from the kingdom.

  4. I think of John the Baptist,who prophecied that Christ was coming to baptize us in the Holy Spirit and fire. The Spirit I’ve heard much of, the fire not so much.When I consider a baptism of fire, I shrink from all that I know I should allow Christ to burn away, but that I hold on to stubbornly. I do so want a heart ablaze with love, but the burning away…guess what I’m saying is that I see both the aspect of passion and cleansing.

  5. The day will come when,after harnessing space,the winds,the tides,and gravitation,we shall harness for God the energies of love.And on that day, for the second time in the history of the world,we shall have discovered fire.TEILHARD DE CHARDIN

  6. Meredith, that’s fantastic! Write more about Teilhard.

  7. I like that poem very much, Meredith – thanks.

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