Question: Why, in Luke 22:36-38, does Jesus tells His disciples to buy swords if they don’t have one, then later in the Garden of Gethsemane rebuke one of them for using it against the arresting party (Lk. 22:50-51)?
Here is the reference in question:
Luke 22:36 He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.”
The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.”
“That is enough,” he replied.
Unfortunately, we don’t get to hear Jesus’ tone of voice or see the expression on His face. Imagine Jesus’ statement about the swords if we added different emoticons to it:
“…if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one” (serious face)
“…if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one” (terrified face)
“…if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one” (winking face)
So, was Jesus serious about buying a sword…or scared…or just kidding…or what?
Jesus reminded His disciples at the last Supper of how, earlier in their ministry, He had sent them out into cities and villages to proclaim the gospel of the coming Kingdom of God. At that time they were to take no money or traveling clothes, but to expect people to show them hospitality:
Luke 10:4-6 Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road. “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.
“But now,” Jesus said (Lk. 22:36), things have changed. With His impending death as a criminal, the disciples also would be looked upon as criminals. They could no longer expect the warm, friendly reception they had experienced at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Instead, the disciples would be viewed as “transgressors” (i.e., law breakers), even as Isaiah had prophesied (Is. 53:12), with Jesus as their ringleader.
The disciples produced two swords, and Jesus said in response, “It is sufficient” (v. 38). Sufficient for what? Certainly not sufficient as a defense against trained, armed guards. Two swords would, however, convince the arresting officers that Jesus’ followers were “transgressors,” —violent, law-breaking rebels.
Did Jesus want the disciples to use the swords to protect Him? Absolutely not! The disciples did not understand that the swords were basically for show, to fulfill prophecy, and in their misunderstanding they acted in violence (v. 51). Then, not only did Jesus heal the injured man and rebuke His disciples, but He made it clear that the use of violence had never been His tactic:
Luke 22:52 Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had come for him, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs?
This passage reveals that the presence of swords among Jesus’ disciples was only intended as a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy that the messiah would be “numbered with the transgressors.”