Luke 22:35-38 (He Who Has Not…Let Him Buy a Sword)

As Jesus was on His way to the Garden of Gethsemane after His last Passover with the disciples, Luke records an exchange Jesus had with them about the changes that were about to take place in their future ministry experience.  Although they were more favorably received when He sent them out before, now as He was about to be put to death as a malefactor He warns that they too would be branded as such and could not count on the good will of others to always meet their needs.  Besides a purse or money belt to carry a store of money to supply their daily needs, and a travelers bag that we would think of as a suitcase to carry their personal supplies, as well as presumably the sandals He also mentioned in Luk 22:35, what else does Jesus mention?  See Luk 22:36.

What do Jesus’ words seem to indicate about how important it will be for His disciples to obtain a sword that they should even sell their coat to buy one?  Cf. 2Ti 4:13,21.  Although a sword might be used for personal defense against robbers and bandits (cf. 2Co 11:26), what is so surprising and seemingly contradictory about these words?  See Mat 5:38-45, Luk 6:27-30; cf. Ezr 8:21-23,31.  In fact, with whom does Jesus clearly associate the sword in the very next verse?  See Luk 22:37.  And when Peter began to use one of the two swords they had among them and that were mentioned in this conversation, what did Jesus say?  See Mat 26:51-53, Luk 22:50-51, Joh 18:10-11.  From these verses, does the purpose of obtaining a sword seem to be as an offensive, or even a defensive weapon for their future ministry needs?  Or does it seem to be related more to the immediate needs of that very night in order to fulfill the Scripture regarding Jesus?  In what way does the exchange between Jesus and the disciples in Luk 22:38 especially seem to indicate that in regard to our initial understanding of His previous words directing them to buy a sword we may be missing something?

Notice also that the actual wording of the Greek may communicate a different sense: “But now, the one who has a money belt, let him take it; likewise also a bag (and we assume likewise also the sandals mentioned in the previous verse).  And the one who does not have, let him sell his coat and let him buy a sword” (literal; cf. Young’s Literal Translation).  Hence, it isn’t necessarily the case that Jesus is saying that if His disciples don’t have a sword they should buy one.  Rather, it is possible He is saying that if they don’t have a money belt or bag or sandals, then let them sell the only thing they would have, i.e., a coat, and buy a sword.  But why would He say that?  “For I say to you that it is necessary that this which has been written be fulfilled in me; namely, ‘And with the lawless he was reckoned’ (Isa 53:12); for this also concerning me has a fulfillment” (literal).  In this case, the meaning is still not a directive for his disciples to obtain a sword for the purposes of either offensively or defensively propagating the gospel, but that He be reckoned by others who reject the gospel as being accepted by those whom they regard as transgressors.  Hence, rather than encouraging the use of the sword, which would be completely contrary to everything He taught, His words seem more to be an acknowledgement that as His own ministry attracted “sinners” from the lower castes, so would their own gospel ministries continue to attract those who were so poor as to have no money belt or bag or sandals.  And as these would have little opportunity or ability to carry forth the gospel in the changing times that would require resources they didn’t have, the best they could do to help spread the gospel is become the transformed and repentant sinners with whom Christ is reckoned to associate.  And which sword in particular is it that one must obtain at all costs that is able to effect that change?  See Isa 49:2, Eph 6:17, Rev 1:16, 2:16, 19:15; cf. 1Co 1:25-29, Jam 2:5.  In what way is this akin to the way traditional, conservative Christians in our own nation, especially those who have less means and might be considered “rednecks” by others, in addition to clinging to their Bibles, have also often clung to their guns (in the words of a former President), even when they have no intention or desire to have to use them against others?

Would this have been the first time the disciples misunderstood something spiritual that Jesus was trying to teach them using simple, natural things with which they were familiar?  See Mat 16:6-12; cf. Rom 3:8.  Rather than arm oneself with a physical sword, what did Peter, having learned the hard way from his misunderstanding, write that Christ’s followers should arm themselves instead?  See 1Pe 4:1.  Rather than establish a kingdom after the pattern of the world by worldly means, even one that reflects more godly values, what do Peter’s words there and in 1Pe 4:2 remind us is the goal of Christ’s salvation and the means by which His kingdom comes?  Does the deliverance from sin that Christ came to give ever come from killing others?  Or rather, does it come from mortifying our own flesh?

From the events that followed just hours later it is clear that Jesus’ disciples misunderstood whatever it was that He was saying about the sword.  Consider too that Jesus knew “all things that were coming upon Him” (Joh 18:4), and that a crowd including soldiers from the Roman cohort (Joh 18:3) would soon arrive with Judas in Gethsemane having swords and clubs (Mat 26:47); what do His words then that two swords would be enough against so great a force seem to also imply about any notions we might have of using this passage to justify even using the sword defensively?  In fact, in what way might His words be understood as ironic, or even as an abrupt conclusion late in the evening at the end of their conversation to a topic to which they were spiritually dull and completely missing His point?  See Luk 22:38, and cf. the NIV’s translation as, “That’s enough!”