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… The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.” “That’s enough!” he replied. (Luke 22:36-38)
On the night he was betrayed, Jesus commanded his disciples to buy swords. Do you know why? According to some discussion threads I’ve read, it was to show his support for gun ownership and relaxed gun controls in America!
I do not wish to wade into the quagmire of the US gun debate (and I won’t publish comments that do), but I do want to talk about the scripture above. It’s a good question: Why did Jesus, the Prince of Peace, ask for swords? And why were two enough?
Israel was a dangerous place for travelers. (Remember what happened to the traveler in the story of the Good Samaritan?) Yet on several occasions Jesus sent out his disciples without the usual travel essentials. They didn’t take money, extra clothes, or even a staff (see Matt 10:9-10). They certainly took no swords, yet God took care of them.
Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?” “Nothing,” they answered. (Luke 22:35)
The disciples had traveled the length and breadth of Israel without harm or lack because the Lord was with them.
So why, on this final Passover night, did Jesus change his tune and tell them to get a purse, a bag, and a sword? Had God suddenly become unfaithful? Did the Lord decide he would no longer protect them? Of course not. Does Jesus want us to buy swords when we travel? I don’t think so.
So what was the deal with the two swords?
The answer is found in the verse I deliberately omitted:
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. (Luke 22:37)
Jesus wanted swords – and two was enough – so that the prophecy of Isaiah would be fulfilled, and that he might be numbered with the transgressors. When the temple guard came for him a few hours later, Jesus wasn’t holding a quiet Bible study. From their perspective he was conspiring with armed and dangerous men. Recall the dangerous moment on the Mt of Olives:
When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” (Luke 22:49)
The disciples wanted to fight! They wanted to use their two swords to maim and kill. One of them actually took a swing at poor Malchus and hacked off his ear. Of course, Jesus wanted no violence and he stopped them straight away.
But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him. (Luke 22:51)
What do we take from this? Did Jesus go to the garden looking for a rumble? I think not. The men who came to arrest him were armed with swords and clubs (Luke 22:52). If Jesus had wanted to cross swords with them, two would not have been enough.
Jesus wasn’t looking for a fight, but an arrest. It was all part of the plan. For the joy set before him he would go to the cross scorning its shame (Heb 12:2). But before that could happen he needed some transgressors or lawbreakers to help get him arrested. And the hot-headed disciples, with their pathetic pair of swords, were only too happy to help.
Because they had a pair of swords, Jesus was arrested. Because he was arrested, he was tried and crucified. Because he died and rose again, you can enjoy new life.
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