Buy A Sword
By Jonathan Mitchell

This title comes from an enigmatic saying of Jesus, as recorded in Lu. 22:35-38. What did He mean by this statement? What was the context of this instruction to His disciples? Was He speaking literally, or metaphorically? Let us first read this passage:

35. Next he said to them, "When I sent you men away on a mission - not having a purse or pack (or: food pouch or beggar's sack) or sandals - you did not lack anything, did you?" So they answered, "Nothing!"

36. So then He rejoined to them, "But in contrast now, the one normally having a purse - let him take [it] up; likewise also a food pouch (or: pack; beggar's sack). And the person not now having a sword - let him at once sell his cloak (or: outer garment) and buy [one]. [comment: the situation has now changed and different conditions were imminent]

37. "You see, I continue telling you folks that it continues necessary and binding for the thing having been written to be brought to its goal and finished (or: completed and accomplished) in Me, "And He was logically counted (or: classed; considered; reckoned) with the lawless folks (or: criminals),' [Isa. 53:12] For also, that which concerns (or: = what [is written] about) Me is presently having an end (or: continues possessing a [or: the] final act; progressively holds a destiny)."

38. So they said, "Look, Lord, here [are] two swords!" And so He replied to them, "It is enough (or: That is sufficient)."

First of all, the larger context of His words to His disciples begins in chapter 21, where He foretold the destruction of the temple (vss. 5-6), the coming of deceivers who would come in His Name (vs. 8), a conflict of one nation against another nation (vs. 10), how they (His disciples) would be treated (vss. 12-19), that Jerusalem would be surrounded by armies (vs. 20), and that His followers should escape out of the city (vs. 21), followed by apocalyptic descriptions that would attend the end of that age, as we read in 21:27-28,

27. "And at that point (or: time), they will keep on seeing (or: perceiving) 'the Son of the Man (= Adam's son; the Human Being; = the eschatological messianic figure) progressively coming within the midst of a cloud,' [Dan. 7:13-14] with power and much glory (or: with ability and a profound reputation; or: along with power and a manifestation which calls forth praise).

28. "Now as these things are beginning to be progressively happening, at once bend back up (or: stand tall and erect), and then lift up your heads (= hold your heads high), because your setting-free (the loosing-away and release of you folks from prison; your redemption from slavery) is progressively drawing near!" In vs. 33 He uses apocalyptic language to speak of the Jewish world falling apart and coming to an end, and in vs. 34 He admonishes them to "make it a habit to hold your attention to yourselves, and hold to each other" because these things were about to come upon "the entire Land" of Judea (vs. 35).

Chapter 22 informs us about the "Last Supper" and gives us Jesus' words to the disciples from vs. 15-30, then He speaks specifically to Simon (Peter) in vss. 31-34, which leads us up to our consideration of vss. 35-38. Following this passage is the Gethsemane episode, ending with the arrival of Judah (Judas) and those who came to arrest Him.

So the immediate context was the discourse about the destruction of Jerusalem, then "Last Supper," which ended in the garden incident, His trial and execution. He had spoken of wars and the siege of Jerusalem. They were going to be times of trouble (the "great tribulation" of traditional eschatology). While their prior time with Him had been peaceful, supplied for them, and all went as planned for them during their going out in ministry (vs. 35), now things were about to change (vss. 36-38). Now they needed to provide funds and necessities for themselves, even to the point buying a sword (vs. 36b).

Now as to whether or not He was speaking literally, when in vs. 38 the group told Him that they had two swords, among them, He replied, "It is enough (or: That is sufficient)." Would two swords be enough, if He were speaking literally? In 21:12 He had just told them,

"Yet before all these things, people will continue laying their hands on you folks, and they will be repeatedly chasing and persecuting [you], handing over one after another unto the synagogues (places of worship and fellowship) and [into] jails and prisons, while you are repeatedly being led off, up before kings and governors."

It does not sound like two swords would help them in those situations. That two were enough (especially since they would be scattered - Jn. 16:32; Mk. 14:27) seems like what today we would describe as being "tongue-in-cheek." I suggest that He was speaking with irony when He said "buy a sword." He was indicating that it was going to be a period of violence, and the use of a sword, but He was not reversing His teachings about non-violence. Verses 49-51 indicate that He did not intend for them to use a sword. In the Mat. 26 version of the incident, vs. 52 informs us that He said,

"Turn away (= Return) your knife (or: sword) into its place. You see, all those taking [up] a knife (or: sword) will proceed in destroying themselves in union with a knife (or: sword)."

So although Luke records Jesus as saying to His disciple, "the person not now having a sword - let him at once sell his cloak (or: outer garment) and buy [one]," We need to consider Luke's rhetoric, and even, perhaps, the dry or ironic humor with which Jesus may have been speaking as He was laying out the rather dismal immediate future for Himself, and for His disciples. We should also consider that Jesus may have spoken of a sword metaphorically, as did the author of Hebrews, ever calling His followers to a higher path:

"You see, the Word of God (or: God's thought, idea and message; or: the expressed Logos from God; or: the Word which is God) [is] living (or: alive), and active (working; operative; energetic; at work; productive) and more cutting above every two-mouthed sword, even passing through (penetrating) as far as a dividing (or: parting; partitioning) of soul and spirit (or: of inner self-life and breath-effect), both of joints and marrows, even able to discern (separate; judge; decide) concerning thoughts (ponderings; reflections; in-rushings; passions) and intentions (notions; purposes) of a heart (= core of the being).

And no creature (thing formed, framed or created) is (or: exists being) out of sight (not manifest; concealed) in His (or: in Its - i.e., the Word's) presence, but all things [are] naked and have been gripped and bent back at the neck [thus, exposing the face and throat] to (or: in; by) His (or: Its) eyes, face to face with Whom (or: Which) in us (or: to us; for us; with us) [is] this Word (or: with a view to Whom by us [is] the message and the account; or: toward whom, for us and among us, [comes] the Idea and the Reason)" (Heb. 4:12-13).

In Rev. 3:18, He again advised His followers to buy things,

"I continue advising you [singular] to buy from Me gold having been refined (set ablaze) forth from out of fire, to the end that you may become rich; and white garments, to the end that you may clothe yourself and the shame (disgrace) of your nakedness may not be manifested (brought to light; caused to appear); and eye-salve to anoint (rub in) your eyes, to the end that you may be continuously observing (or: progressively seeing)."

So we should not take Jesus' words in Lu. 22 out of their original context, nor should we apply them to our day with a literal meaning.


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