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 Biblicalselfdefense.com. 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.
- Jesus expected them to have swords and anticipated a time when those without swords would need to acquire them.
- Among eleven disciples, they did have two swords–in almost a 1:5 ratio.
- 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.
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