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Luke Verse 22:36-38 – The Swords

I. Luke 22:36-38 and the Sword:

Did Jesus advocate the use of a sword for self-defense purposes (Luke 22:36-38)?

Jesus is well known for His continued emphasis on love, forgiveness, and "turning
the other cheek." It is therefore surprising to find Jesus advising the disciples
to buy a sword in Luke 22:36: "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." Did Jesus in this
verse advocate the use of a sword for self-defense purposes?

One could draw a literal mandate of two swords for every 12 believers, although that does not seem to be Jesus’ meaning. Either way you look at it, though, Christ clearly desired that the disciples be armed for deterrence (not aggression) and, if necessary, self-defense. Having a couple of swords around was one of the most effective ways to deter criminal activity.

Literalists might insist that the scripture only authorizes the possession of swords. I maintain that the Biblical precepts relating to swords apply equally to any other weapons that can be used for personal defense–rocks, knives, sticks, hatchets, baseball bats, firearms, etc. Even an automobile can be used as a defensive weapon. The question is not, "What is a sword?" but rather, "Are you reasonably prepared to defend yourself and those around you from physical attack, and is your trust in the Spirit of God rather than in your own planning and power?"

The next section contains some quotes from To read the full article please visit his site.

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II. Buying and carrying a sword

Luke 22:35-39 And He said to them, "When I sent you without money bag, knapsack, and sandals, did you lack anything?" So they said, "Nothing." 36 Then He said to them, "But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one. 37 "For I say to you that this which is written must still be accomplished in Me: ‘And He was numbered with the transgressors.’ For the things concerning Me have an end." 38 So they said, "Lord, look, here are two swords." And He said to them, "It is enough." 39 Coming out, He went to the Mount of Olives, as He was accustomed, and His disciples also followed Him.

Here’s the context. Picture this. Jesus and his disciples have just had communion. They are about to go to a time of prayer in the garden. Jesus says these words to His disciples, and it’s as if they are saying, "Look what we have with us, Lord. Two guns!" Jesus responds, "It is enough."

If you read commentaries on this passage, there are a number of questions which are not clearly answered. There are questions about the applicability of this passage, of the intent of Jesus, of the meaning of His response.

Whatever your interpretation of this passage, there are a few broad-stroke observations we can make about this passage.

  1. Jesus expected them to have swords and anticipated a time when those without swords would need to acquire them.
  2. Among eleven disciples, they did have two swords–in almost a 1:5 ratio.
  3. Jesus expected them to carry the swords on their person as they traveled from the city to the garden prayer meeting.

It is difficult to make absolute claims beyond these observations, but the observations themselves have significance. Namely, among those closest to Jesus, some carried personal weapons in His presence with His consent to communion and to prayer meetings. We cannot make absolute claims as to the reasons, right or, wrong, for the carriage of these weapons. Perhaps it was in anticipation of trouble from the Jewish leadership. Perhaps it was protection against mere robbers. Paul in 2 Cor. 11:26 cites the "perils of robbers". Though there are questions we can’t answer, we do know they possessed these weapons, that they carried these weapons, and that Jesus knew and consented. Furthermore, Jesus spoke of some time, present or future, when disciples would need to acquire personal weapons, even more urgently than garments.

© 2010 – 2011, Matt. All rights reserved.

14 Responses

  1. ash says:

    your interpretation to the passage was very funny…. the sword God mentioned in His scripture is not about anything use for slf defense but rather something use for spiritual battle which is the Word of God…

    • admin says:

      your interpretation to the passage was very funny…. the sword God mentioned in His scripture is not about anything use for slf defense but rather something use for spiritual battle which is the Word of God…

      Thanks for your comment.

      I disagree Ash… there is nothing in the passage here in Luke to indicate the “Sword” is the Bible.

      As I am sure you are aware, words can mean different things in different contexts. In this passages… a moneybag means… a moneybag, a knapsack means a knapsack, a cloak means a cloak, and a sword means a sword. There is nothing in the passage to indicate this has anything to do with the Bible (which of course they didn’t have yet). Jesus’ followers at this point only had the Old testament. In the verses before and after Jesus is talking about things to take with them on their journey. They didn’t have the new testament of course (not written yet) to take with them. In your interpretation, Jesus was giving them some sort of spiritual meaning ‘behind’ the text indicating they were supposed to carry lots of big scrolls around with them. It is likely that most of Jesus’ disciples did not even have scrolls of the Old Testament (very expensive) and even if they did, it would have been a great risk to carry them around in the rain and poor weather.

      I believe the best way to interpret the text is to take it at its literal, normal meaning. Sometimes folks interpret Biblical Texts in ways that are not the literal, normal meaning of the text. Once you do this, you can make the text mean anything you want.

  2. CAROL says:

    Well said Matt:

    Christians are at times so passive the enemy just walks all over them.
    I agree with self defence. One’s aim is not to go out and kill someone but rather to defend yourself.
    Wake up, you live in a fallen world, Jesus said I send you out as lambs amongst wolves yes?
    What do you do if a wolf attacs you? turn the other cheeck? What purpose does that surve.
    Jesus said I give you spiritual, mental and phisical power over all the power of the enemy…. if physical was not important why would He bother mentioning it, We fight a spiritual war which consists of SPIRIT SOULD BODY YES? we are three in one We do not walk in the clouds we need to be spiritualy aware of every thing but also phisicaly aware Be watchful and alert for that enemy of your goes around seeking whom he may devour… When you have your sword and God on your side what can man do to you? Proverbs says that if you are beaten up by a wicked person and you allow him to do so without resisting him you are as he is. Resist him spiritualy and phisicaly


    • Oscar says:

      Amen to that you are right on the money, this passage cannot be interpreted any other way. Although i kind of knew it, i still looked over the net for some wise discernment. The other passage about turning the other cheek is still not clear to me nor makes sense, do you know the true interpretation? thanks & blessings

  3. Chip says:

    Another thing to look at is Natural Law which is the law of nature which God has implanted in all of us. It is natural law that will cause us to blink when something is throwen in our face. It is natural law which will cause us to put out our hands when we fall, even at the risk of breaking our arm. I believe Jesus implied natural law when He said to get a sword. It is expected that if we have a means of defence we will naturally use it to defend ourselves, and especially our children. I have seen many times how a parent will risk their own life in the defence of their children. I have said many times that the only thing that would stop me from attacking someone who was attacking my children would be if my wife got there first.

  4. BrotherRoy says:

    Late again, but to play the antagonist since I completely agree with the article…Christian pacifists will quote Matthew 26: 51-54 to you with an emphasis on verses 52 & 53, conviently ignoring verse 54.

  5. Chip says:

    Many people also forget Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. They stop short of verse 8
    A time to love,
    And a time to hate;
    A time of war,
    And a time of peace.

  6. George Mason says:

    I am a member of a Quaker church in Ohio. Quakers are historically pacifists. When I approached my pastor to consider the allowance of concealed carry to protect him from the growing tide of church shootings, he took it under consideration NOT for himself, but to protect the congregation. The jury is still out–stay tuned…

  7. chris says:

    That passage just recently jumped out at me and I’m studying it. Good comments here, and so far I agree-a sword is a sword. And wouldn’t the Lord want us to protect those weaker and dependent on us, like children and the elderly?

  8. JeffR says:

    I believe you have rightly divided the word of God. I too was very shocked at first when I read that passage. I actually have read and studied the bible many times over the past 12 years and I never seemed to recall that till recently. It’s the LIVING word, I believe it has spoken to me now in this time for these times. I had no need before, I had the provisions Jesus provided and for those times. NOW, it is a different time and I MUST BE THE COVERING for my wife and children. I believe you turn the other cheek when persecuted for your faith, but I believe God will frown very much on a man who had the ability to protect his family or neighbor and didn’t because he thought he should look the other way. My Pastor is very grateful that there are a few Swords in the House!! :o)

    PS: I have since become an instructor and train people who were once timid and afraid of guns. It has proven to be a great tool to reach out to others and share the Gospel. God is so Awesome!!!

    God Richly Bless you all

    Jeff Rutherford
    GunsUp Tactical Solutions
    Next Generation in Personal Security

  9. MHRichardson says:

    Interesting comparison between Luke 22:35-39 and Matthew 26:51-54. Jesus is acknowledging the right of us to defend ourselves (like the deciples at the garden)but when they came for Jesus only, and the deciples were alone (perhaps because they were armed), Jesus then repaired the ear of the wounded servant and directed the swords be put away. His reason was they must take Him for the scriptures to be fulfilled. As we all know, no one else was harmed or arrested in the garden.

  10. wink1026 says:

    We as God’s people have not stood the test of time. The pastors,preacher’s,Priest,you name it have let us and all the God fearing people down. Worried about the numbers in church for income, and what the Government thinks. They are owned by the Gov. We have been let down by our Clergy and now see what is happening to us. We need a back bone stand up for Christ or fall for anything. God help us.
    I carry and have all my life.Retired Law-enforcement

  11. Darc says:

    I was glad to see this. In looking at commentaries, I searched for a meaning that wouldn’t white-wash with a later church mentality and was shocked to see that everyone of them (ie Matthew Henry, amoung others) either skipped the scripture (didn’t address it at all) or promoted the spiritual idea vs the literal. It was nice to see someone who actually put forth a logical reason to why Christ might say something that flies in the face of complete passivity. Thank you.

  12. Z says:

    Another passage often connected is Mat26:51-56. Jesus tells Peter to put his sword away. It has been claimed that this is a rejection of swords writ large, but Jesus cites a specific reason that holds his instruction within context, in verses 54 and 56. Also, he tells Peter to sheath the sword, not throw it away or break it. Not to mention, why would Jesus have been hanging out with Peter all night before that and said nothing about the sword?

    Another focus in this passage is verse 52, which is sometimes translated as “those who draw a sword,” but scripture has to align to itself, and also a literal interpretation would not make sense since obviously not everyone who touches a sword dies from one. The Greek word lambano has a potential to have a very profound implication, see Mat8:17, Mat10:38, Rom1:5, Rom5:11, same word.

    Humble opinion: I think the ratio suggested by Jesus in Luke 22:38 is 2/11 since he foreknew he would be betrayed, and Judas would not be needing to be advised to defend himself. So I would by carrying, consider myself an 18%er :)

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