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Why Did Jesus Tell the Disciples to Buy Two Swords?

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The following text was originally published by someone on a site called Harmless as Doves. I thought it was so good that I copied it and saved it on my computer, but now I’ve seen that the original site has been removed. So here it is, re-entering the Internet:

Luke 22:35-38 is often cited to challenge the Christian pacifist perspective. In this passage, Jesus instructed his disciples to buy swords, amongst other items.

Luke 22:35-38: Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?” “Nothing,” they answered. 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. For it is written: ‘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.

First we must ask, why did Jesus want them to buy swords? It seems unlikely that Jesus’ instructions were intended to prepare his disciples for armed conflict and self defense, because two swords does not seem to be “enough,” as Jesus put it, to defend twelve men. In fact, in the passage itself Jesus explained the purpose for the swords. Jesus instructed his disciples to buy the swords, “for it is written: ‘he was numbered with the transgressors.’”

Here, Jesus referenced Isaiah 53:12, which contains one of the many Old Testament prophesies concerning the life of the Messiah. Jesus wanted the swords present when he was arrested, because the presence of the swords would indicate to those arresting him that he was one of the “transgressors,” that he was leading a violent rebellion. Jesus again referenced this while he was being arrested:

Matthew 26:55-56: At that time Jesus said to the crowd, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me. But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.”

In this passage, Jesus acknowledged that all this was taking place so “that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.”

The disciples did not understand this, and as Jesus was being arrested, Peter attempted to defend him by reaching for one of the swords, and striking the servant of the High Priest, cutting off his ear. Jesus miraculously healed the wound, and then rebuked Peter:

Matthew 26:52-53: “Put your sword back in its place… for all who take the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will provide me with more than twelve legions of angels?”

Peter’s actions could certainly be considered a just use of defensive violence. Jesus, an innocent man, was about to be given into the hands of an angry mob. Using one of the swords Jesus told him to buy, Peter attempted to rescue his friend. Jesus, however, rebuked Peter and rebuked this use of defensive violence. Later at his trial before Pilate, Jesus made a comment which explained his condemnation of Peter’s actions:

John 18:36: My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then my servants would fight…
If Jesus’ kingdom were of this world, his servants could use defensive violence when attacked. However, Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world.

Many argue that Jesus had to die on the cross, and this is why his disciples could not defend him. It must be noted, however, that the reason Jesus gave for not fighting was not that he had to die on the cross, but that his kingdom was not of this world. In contrast to the kingdoms of the world, Jesus’ servants do not fight; His kingdom is built around love and the love of enemies. Jesus specifically forbade Peter from using the sword, but his wording was universal:

Matthew 26:52: “Put your sword back in its place… for all who take the sword will die by the sword.”

This same denunciation of “the sword” is found in the book of Revelation, specifically applied to all followers of Christ:

Revelation 13:9-10: He who has an ear, let him hear… He who kills with the sword will be killed with the sword. This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints.

In this passage, the same comment Jesus made prohibiting the defense of himself is explicitly applied to all “who has an ear.” Indeed, refraining from using violent self-defense against an approaching enemy does require “patient endurance and faithfulness.”

Jesus’ followers appear to have gotten the message, because although Jesus told them to buy swords in Luke 22, we never again read of the disciples carrying swords or physically defending themselves. Acts 8:1 tells us that a “great persecution broke out against the church.” Throughout the rest of the book of Acts, and the rest of the New Testament in general, we read of Christians facing persecution from mobs, religious authorities, and governmental authorities. Most of the Apostles met a martyr’s death, but instead of using defensive violence, they showed love towards their enemies.

Acts 7:60: …“Lord, do not hold this sin against them!”…

Although faced with great persecution, the Apostles followed the lead of Jesus and Stephen, facing their enemies with love while rejecting the sword. Here are the Apostles in their own words:

Romans 12:14: Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

Romans 12:17-21: Do not repay anyone evil for evil… live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink…” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

1 Thessalonians 5:9: God did not appoint us to wrath…

1 Thessalonians 5:15: Make sure that no one back evil for evil, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all.

James 1:20: The wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

1 Peter 3:9-11: Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing …turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.

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51 Comments

  1. Jeff Fenske says:

    We’re supposed to be led by the Spirit: “those who are led by the Spirit are the sons of God.” The Bible doesn’t tell us specifically what to do in each situation. We’re supposed to try to live at peace with everyone, but Jesus didn’t say ‘go ahead and let them rape and kill your family — or let the barbarians (or the globalists) invade your country and do what they want with you and your family.

    Jesus wants people to live in peace. If everyone except the psychopaths were ‘pacifists’ the psychopaths would have their Satanic way with everyone. The Devil would have a hay day.

    Jesus did tell his disciples to buy swords, and later said to not “live by the sword.” And Jesus’ time had come, so it wasn’t a place for Peter to defend Jesus. Our time of martyrdom may be coming too, now that most American ‘Christians’ have decided to live by the sword in supporting Bush’s reverse-Christian wars and torture, instead of abiding in Christ and being peacemakers. Investigating 9/11 would have been a good start.

    The sword is the last resort, not to be a way of life. We’ll know in our heart what to do in a given situation if we’re abiding in Christ: forgiving, not being vengeful, not repaying…, not having hate or wrath in our hearts towards anyone, submitted to what the Holy Spirit will put on our hearts what to do.

    Most of the scriptures quoted here are about heart attitude, not about self-defense or defending others. Self-defense or defending others is not about being vengeful. It’s about loving others and doing the right thing after all else fails.

    Francis Schaeffer put it this way:

    “The Bible is clear here: I am to love my neighbor as myself, in the manner needed, in a practical way, in the midst of the fallen world, at my particular point of history. This is why I am not a pacifist. Pacifism in this poor world in which we live – this lost world – means that we desert the people who need our greatest help. I come upon a big, burly man beating a tiny tot to death. I plead with him to stop. Suppose he refuses? What does love mean now? Love means that I stop him in any way I can, including hitting him. To me this is not only necessary for showing love to our fellow man: it is loyalty to Christ’s commands concerning love in a fallen world. What about the little girl? If I desert her to the bully, I have deserted the true meaning of God’s love – responsibility to my neighbor.”

    • Hi Jeff! Thanks for your comment. I definitely agree with that we should protect our loved ones, and anyone else too for that matter, and I appreciate your will to do this. However, I think it is way too simplistic to say that if everyone became pacifists except the “psychopaths” they would take over the world. Being pacifist doesn’t mean that we sit still and do nothing, on the contrary, it means that we participate in non-violent resistance against oppression.

      A few years ago a big study clearly showed that non-violent resistance is way more effective than violent resistance. You can download it yourself at http://www.google.com/search?hl=sv&gl=SE&ie=UTF-8&source=android-browser&q=chenoweth+and+stephan+why+civil+resistance+works Non-violent methods such as strikes, blockades, protests and so on are not only much cheaper and much less bloody, they almost always achieve their goals partly or fully while violent militias or armies only achieve their 50% of the time. So non-violence is a more effective method against the “psychopaths”.

      Furthermore, I recommend you to read John H Yoder’s book What would you do? He discusses a similar scenario that Francis Schaffer brings up and finds that while most people advocating for violence only see two options, use violence and save the girl or don’t use violence and watch her suffer, there are actually seven. I don’t have time to go through them all, but I recommend you to read the book. As a charismatic I find one of them especially interesting, the involvement of God. While both Schaeffer and you seem to forget it, God can intervene and save the day. Personally I think exorcism is an interesting form of charismatic non-violent resistance.

      God bless you!

      • Jeff Fenske says:

        I already wrote about the possibility of God intervening in a previous [Facebook] comment, so I didn’t think I would have to say it again. And I said here that the sword is the “last resort,” and that we should have our hearts write, to be “submitted to what the Holy Spirit will put on our hearts what to do.”

        “The sword is the last resort, not to be a way of life. We’ll know in our heart what to do in a given situation if we’re abiding in Christ: forgiving, not being vengeful, not repaying…, not having hate or wrath in our hearts towards anyone, submitted to what the Holy Spirit will put on our hearts what to do.

        I’ve personally never even hit anyone in my entire life. And I have two WordPress blogs in which I’ve loudly supported Ron Paul, and have called for ‘Christians’ to no longer support pro-war-and-torture Republicans. But there are ‘just’ wars and ‘just’ personal defense.

        What I said about psychopaths only having guns is absolutely true, as the Old Testament and history shows. Many things aren’t clearly spelled out in the New Testament. We’re supposed to be led by the Holy Spirit to know what to do — which I’ve said to you many times too. Maybe you’re not carefully reading what I’m writing, assuming I’m like others whom you know.

        If you want to be a pacifist no matter what, that’s one thing. But when you proclaim to others that they must always be, and they’re wrong to even consider defending someone….

        You’re living in a fantasy world if you think that non-violence will aways work, and is always the right option for everyone in every situation.

      • I think that this whole thing is bunk, and you are trying to mislead folks. And by the way, I do not believe that Jesus was a pacifist at all. In the old testament, which you do not mention, God tells us to defend the defenseless. Will you next be trying to lead folks to believe that Jesus would tell us not to vote and to stay home on election day?

      • wolfgangamoz says:

        Why not have faith Jeff? If you would die for your nation, die for your family or anyone else, would you die for your belief in Christ’s teachings?
        Did Christ follow his teachings and die as a result of being true to what he taught? You believe in Christ why? Because he blew away his crucifiers with a 9mm? Because he called in floods, pestilence, lightning strikes on his crucifiers?

        We can all come up for reasons to not follow the parts of the Bible that might mean we would lay down our lives for something we claim to believe in.

        • Ryan says:

          If everyone was called to martyrdom then no Christian would be alive today! In fact everyone being called to martyrdom is a Muslim teaching not a biblical Christian teaching. Standing by while your family or neighbor gets murdered is abdicating your position of spiritual leadership and it IS A SIN. You cannot compare Christ’s crucifixion to defending yourself or others. Christ was destined for crucifixion and nothing would have changed that. Like I said below, the Holy Ghost may call you to martyrdom just as quickly as you may be called to violently defend others. Be prepared for both!

    • Harold Bodden says:

      I have been strugling with and praying about this passage for some time. Please leave it up. At last, God has provided the answer. Thank you and God bless and walk with you in your ministry. H.Bodden.

    • wolfgangamoz says:

      Why not have faith Jeff. If you would die for your nation, die for your family or anyone else, would you die for your belief in Christ’s teachings?
      Did Christ follow his teachings and die as a result of being true to what he taught? You believe in Christ why? Because he blew away his crucifiers with a 9mm? Because he called in floods, pestilence, lightning strikes on his crucifiers?

    • Bong Lee says:

      your opinion is reasonable.

    • curtis says:

      And jesus said, ” aim for the knees”

  2. jhopping says:

    Ryan Healy just published a similar article on the “Make Peace With Jesus” blog (a friend posted a link to this site on FB about the same time you posted this article…makes one wonder if I’m suppose to be learning anything…) =P

    http://makepeacewithjesus.org/why-did-jesus-tell-his-disciples-to-buy-swords

  3. Michael Snow says:

    Excellent. There are only two possibilities that explain why Jesus told his disciples that they should buy a sword, and this clearly presents the case for one of those. The case for the other is spelled out here [and I think the two overlap]: http://textsincontext.wordpress.com/2012/06/17/two-swords-enough/

    ” Jesus’ followers appear to have gotten the message, because although Jesus told them to buy swords in Luke 22, we never again read of the disciples carrying swords or physically defending themselves.” key point of both views.

    And you might be interested in this on “Romans ’13’ in context” [just click the button at the bottom left of the Two Swords post] This is one of the key pacifist passages of the NT.

    [And whenever the topic of Christians and warfare comes up, the psychopath attacking someones family pops out of the cuckoo clock just in time to avoid the subject at hand.]

  4. Luc says:

    Dear brother,

    Thank you for your post. I have no qualification at all in theology, and my command of English is poor, so my comment may not deserve your time and attention.

    As you know the “sword” is frequently taken as an image of the of word of God (e.g. Ephesian 6;17 “take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God”). But taken as such, this idea doesn’t really help us to understand the role of the sword in Luke’s Gospel.

    One possible interpretation of “the two swords” is introduced by Catherine of Siena (XIVth century Italian mystic who had supernatural experiences on a daily basis) in “the dialogs” (reports of Catherine conversation with God while in ecstasy).

    1. In her conversation with God, the two swords that every soul must acquire are the love of virtues (among which Patience, Obedience, and Fortitude take the first place) and the hatred of vices. It is referred to as either the “two swords” or the “double sword”, as one can not truly love a virtue without hating the opposite vice, and no one cane truly hate a vice without loving the opposite virtue.

    At the light of God’s comment to Catherine, the Gospel of Luke takes a new bright meaning:

    Luke 22, 36 And He said to them, “But now, whoever has a money belt is to take it along, likewise also a bag, and whoever has no sword is to sell his coat and buy one. 37″For I tell you that this which is written must be fulfilled in Me, ‘AND HE WAS NUMBERED WITH TRANSGRESSORS’; for that which refers to Me has its fulfilment” 38They said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” And He said to them, “It is enough.”.

    Hence, at a time of intense war between Good and Evil, Jesus advices us to get the sword of the love of virtue. The two swords of love of virtue and hatred of vice are “enough”.

    2. Elsewhere in the Dialog, God says that the enemy cannot take the swords out of our hands if we don’t allow him to take, if we don’t surrender to him (this power is given to us through Baptism, He says). God explains that we surrender the swords to the enemy every time we name a virtue “a vice”, and a vice “a virtue”, every time we call Good “Evil” and Evil “Good”.
    In this very paragraph of the Gospel, the swords are being surrendered to the enemy before our very eyes. All virtues are called “vices”, all Good are called “Evil”: the Son of God is called transgressor! That is the work of the enemy, fulfilling what is written ‘and He was numbered with transgressors’.

    This is confirmed later on in the Gospel: the work of the enemy is to spread confusion into the heart of men, and it goes on. As the enemy has the swords in his hands, he keeps naming Good “Evil” : 52 Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders who had come against Him, “Have you come out with swords and clubs as you would against a robber?

    3. Finally, the fact that Peter cuts off the ear of the high priest with a sword has a special meaning :
    49When those who were around Him saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” 50And one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear.
    This is where the sword as “Love of virtue” cannot be distinguished from the commonly accepted symbol of “the word”: by the sword, Peter cuts off the right ear of the servant who did not believe in Jesus despite hearing the Good News for 3 years – by his word and lack of compassion, Peter, the stone of the church that has not received the Holy Spirit yet, destroys the ear of the heart (the right ear) of the unbelievers… Still happens today when a church does not follow the Spirit!

    As a conclusion, this story of swords arrives in the Gospel of Luke after Jesus predicts Peter’s triple denial and the rooster’s crow.
    We know that Peter denied knowing Jesus 3 times by his words, but at the light of God’s comments to Catherine, Peter also denied knowing Jesus 3 times by his weak love of virtue and miserable hatred for vice – that is to say by the sword:
    – Obedience: he choose to sleep instead of praying as ordered by Jesus (Luke 22,45);
    – Patience: he showed no patience, as he struck the slave without waiting for Jesus answer to the question “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?”
    – Fortitude: Peter demonstrated no fortitude when he was afraid to say he did know Jesus.
    Peter’s denial was total, by the word and by the sword.

    Then, the rooster crowed.

    thank you Jesus for loving your Bride! Lord, bless Your Church!!!

  5. Rob Thomas says:

    Jesus instruction on acquiring a sword was symbolic.

    When Adam and Eve were removed from the Garden of Eden, the LORD God stationed mighty cherubim to the east of the Garden of Eden. And he placed a flaming sword that flashed back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

    Man’s relationship with the LORD was changed at that moment. From that point forward, man had to reconcile with GOD through the Priests and temple offerings.

    When Jesus told his disciples to ‘drop their swords’, he was indicating his sacrifice would restore man’s ability to have a direct relationship with GOD, through Jesus.

    So the sword in the garden was dropped.

    • Jeff Fenske says:

      Rob, so the sword that Peter used to cut off Machus’ ear was “symbolic?” Jesus, then, didn’t really heal Malchus’ ear?

      Peter clearly had one of the swords the disciples carried:

      [[[They said, “Lord, behold, here are two swords.” He said to them, “That is enough.” (Luke 22:38)]]]

      We need to live in reality and balance.

      Most of the evangelical right in America are warmongers and proponents of torture, which is disgusting, and is clearly reverse-Christianity. If we don’t live according to the second greatest commandment and love our enemies we aren’t real Christians, following Christ. And those the US murdered overseas didn’t even attack America. They weren’t even our ‘enemies.’

      But Jesus didn’t teach pacifism either.

      If a husband lets someone rape and kill his wife because he’s a pacifist, that’s sin, and is also reverse-Christian.

      • Jesse Bernal says:

        If Jesus were a pacifist he would denounce the sword and make his disciples carry water weenies instead. Oh wait, Jesus didn’t have a problem with them carrying swords. NUFF SAID.

  6. Andy says:

    America-bashing? Evangelical-bashing? You are wielding a sword yourself against supposed enemies of whom you are surely ignorant and against whom you are surely biassed.

  7. Tara says:

    I do think we are to use nonviolence restisance through peaceful means. Many new agers are getting this and advocating through this route what is taught above. Personally. Scripture only showed instance when Jesus used violence: using a whip of cords to drive out the money changers in the temple. Many times he used the Holy Spirit to resist the angry crowds or teleport to other areas. I actually believe God would rescue us from our enemies if we ask him.

  8. Keith says:

    Don’t know how old this post is, so forgive me for being late to the party.
    Looking up thoughts for a sermon and thought I’d put my 2 cents in.

    I fear that Christianity has succumb to a selective exegetical (eisegetical) living in order to justify our positions – regardless of what side of the theo-political isle we rest.

    There are some biblical realities that seem absent in this article. And there are some logical/rational issues absent here as well.

    taking the logic/rational issues first:
    The biggest one is that the Christian position against being a pacifist is not even remotely related to this particular passage. So the article argues from the select to the broad, using a text that doesn’t prove the broader argument.

    Some thoughts countering the position that people of faith should be pacifists:
    Moses outright killed an Egyptian and buried him. Scour as you may, you won’t find a passage where Moses was even held to account for that murder in the entire Bible.

    “Saul has slain his thousands, but David his tens of thousands” – (1 Samuel 18). David, considered a man after God’s own heart, went into battle – On God’s behalf- over and over again, and he personally killed quite a few individuals. David and Saul weren’t the only ones- check out Samson.

    Check out Jeremiah 48:10.

    And of course, the ultimate taker of human life, God, smote humans quite a few times. Egyptian first born, Sodom, the world through flooding, (oh and the holy spirit taking the two cheater’s lives in Acts 2) etc, etc.

    But that’s the Old Testament God, you say? Please then, see my comments later here about the biblical problems with this article.

    Of course, that’s just killing, it doesn’t even address any other violence enacted by believers. Yes we should love those who persecute us, but we should also be wise as serpents (and innocent as doves). There is no text that says “do not defend yourself or your loved one ever” by me keeping my family from rape or murder – I’m not repaying evil with evil, I’m stopping evil in it’s tracks.

    The second logical/rational argument is how “persecution” is treated as a catch all phrase describing all violence towards believers. And that simply isn’t the case. Persecution happens to the faithful because of their faith, otherwise it is simply violence and not “persecution”. Not all violence enacted upon humans is because of their professed faith.

    Hypothetical: if a “gang of thugs” were to break into my house and assault my family, the odds are that their assault had nothing to do with my being a religious man (at least from their intent). The scriptures don’t say – don’t defend yourselves against thieves, rapists, and robbers. I can still pray for them while I have them in a headlock so they won’t be raping my daughter.

    The first biblical problem is that this article seems to rest on the subtle implication that the God of the NT isn’t the same God of the OT. The truth is that our Creator is the same. One only look at the craziness that is the “end times” of Revelation to see that there will be violence to come.

    Second, although Christ fulfilled the law, told us to pray for those who persecute us, and even told Peter to put down his sword, there are some strangely absent things that, if pacifism were the goal, Christ didn’t say.

    When the Roman centurion approached Jesus (Matt. 8), Jesus didn’t tell him to quit his career of militarism and start passing out flowers. In fact, it would appear that although he was part of the occupying army of the day (and historically, one of the most violent) Jesus said nothing about the Roman’s career path. I could site more, but I’ve taken up too much space as it is.
    Just food for thought. Thanks.

  9. Ryan says:

    Well stated Keith. Hands down the most biblical definitions of persecution and violence. I couldn’t have said it better myself! Many Christians fail to define and understand defense and vengeance. Violent defense originates from love and is biblical, violent vengeance originates from hatred and is a sin. The Bible clearly differentiates between the two.

    • Hello brother! I don’t find that distinction in Scripture. Violence in the Old Testament is motivated by both vengeance and defense. In the New Testament, Jesus says that we should turn the other cheek and not use swords even in defense. In fact, how did the early Christians become sacrificial martyrs if they used violence to defend themselves?

      • Ryan says:

        You are correct. There are examples of violence motivated by both defense and vengeance in the Bible. In every example that I can think of when violence was motivated by man’s vengeance they were punished by God. The same does not hold true with those who committed acts of violence defending the weak or following God’s orders. Also let’s look at the phrase living by the sword. If that just meant all acts of violence then why didn’t David die by the sword? Why didn’t Gideon die by the sword? Why didn’t Moses die by the sword? Living by the sword is a lifestyle of a hardened heart. Basically it is seeking out violence fueled by hatred, anger, or greed. It is not just simply engaging in all acts of violence. God does call certain people to violence for his will and he also commands us to defend the weak. Look at the conclusion that Dietrich Bonhoeffer came to during WWII. He felt that standing by while the Nazis sent millions of souls to hell was a cowardly and grievous sin committed by many German “christians”. He felt so strongly that he even engaged in a plot to assassinate Hitler. So Bonhoeffer felt that engaging in 1st degree murder and relying on the grace of God was a better option than cowardly standing by while the Nazis sent millions of souls to hell. Look at the book of Nehemiah. When the walls were being rebuilt Nehemiah prayed AND POSTED ARMED GUARDS to defend the laborers. Dr. Charles Stanley said it best, “Waiting for God is not an excuse for Christians to do nothing.”. There is also a huge difference between defending yourself and others from violence and turning the other cheek during persecution. Persecution is an attack specifically because of your faith. Which is what Jesus is talking about with turn the other cheek. That is totally different from acting in violence to stop a kidnapping, rape, or murder. One of the biggest sources of confusion for Christians is that many people don’t biblically define self defense, war mongering, protecting the defenseless, persecution, love, hatred, vengeance, and martyrdom. The lack of understanding these terms is what leads to biblical misinterpretation and the extremism of war mongering and total pacifism. Remember there is a time for everything according to the Bible which includes defending the weak and if necessary killing. Don’t be surprised if God calls you to martyrdom and also don’t be surprised if God calls you to violently defend others. Both are necessary to fulfill His will at times. God Bless!

        • PC says:

          Couldnt agree more! Far too many Christians are telling others that pacifism is the only ‘true’ Christian way. It ignores all that you have said, not to mention Jesus’ own use of violence in clearing the temple of money-changers etc. Using the pacifists’ argument, He shouldnt have lifted the whip. But pacifists always have an explanation for that! ie oh he didnt actually hit anyone with his whip etc etc. Ignores what Paul says about the role of the state – to punish the evil doer, amongst other things. Unfortunately this sort of teaching has led some to believe you cant be a Christian and a policeman, soldier etc. I would have thought if there were more Christian policemen and women, society would be a better place.

      • Durwyn Mason says:

        This will always be an internal struggle,Some would say,would you watch and beg 3 men not to rape your wife but yet do nothing to stop it?Would you allow mass murder,even when you could stop it but chose not to use violence?…Point being ,the world we live in today is not the same as when Christ was on the earth.A point to make here.Jesus said “If you Live by the Sword ,You die by the Sword.To me as a US Navy Veteran,that means,do not go picking a fight with other’s,because that’s probably how you will die. Defense of one’s nation or family i believe is completely different.Your not living by your weapon but using it to protect those who cannot protect themselves.Here’s a hypothetical question-If you saw 12 children in a park,you have a gun,you see a group of men with knives about till those children….Would God condemn you for defending those children or would God condemn you for Not defending them and letting them die?Jesus also said “Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s,give unto God what is God’s.In that way i give my allegiance to my country and my soul unto God.

  10. Rand says:

    This article goes entirely against scripture. Christ was referring to actual, literal swords, not any thing like a “spiritual sword”. To say that is ridiculous. If Christ were referring to spiritual swords then we must also say He was referring to spiritual moneybags or spiritual sandals or spiritual knapsacks.
    Christians are meant to protect themselves from aggressors. To say anything other than that is literally taking the Bible out of context..

    • Hello Rand!

      Maybe you read the article a little to quickly, because it does not argue that the swords weren’t literal. It says that their purpose was to fulfill Scripture, not to kill people (which is why Jesus protests when Peter uses one of them to cut off a guy’s ear).

      Also, how are we going to become martyrs and turn the other cheek if we use violence against aggressors? That seems to go against Scripture…

      Blessings!

  11. Damon says:

    When taken in its correct context, the saying “but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also,” has nothing to do with someone hitting you. Christ was talking about backhanded comments. let them say or persecute you as they will. Never did he say don’t defend yourself or loved ones from those who are coming to kill you. In fact ,in the OT if you were attacked and the attacker died trying to kill you, you were not held responsible for, or made to repay, his death.

  12. […] Why Did Jesus Tell the Disciples to Buy Two Swords? […]

  13. Agent X says:

    I am digging the blog, man!

    Love the conversation. Very stimulating and engaging. Dealing with the stuff I wrestle with deep in the night – some nights.

    I really appreciate the post. Thanks for sharing. I appreciate the thoughtful engagement both for and against it. (I did not read all the replies, but a few…)

    I am thinking Jesus addressed this stuff in some other ways not mentioned – at least not as far as I read. For students of I Maccabees (cant recall the citation just now) but early in the book, there is a scene where the Jews who are out slaughtering the enemies of God’s people (Imperial bullies btw) find their Sabbath observance to be their Achilles heel. And the discussion that develops in Israel at that point becomes an on-going debate in that culture, not unlike the Roe v Wade debate in my culture. (Sure, the courts have ruled, but the culture still argues it intensely.)

    I don’t know if I ever read a scholar or preacher make the connection before, but I suspect this on-going debate forms part of the larger backdrop to Jesus’ confrontation with the synagogue in Mark 3 where he heals the man with the withered hand. Jesus, reading their minds (not actually a supernatural thing in that instance – like watching a child in front a cookie jar or a right-wing republican at a gun show – you pretty much know what they are thinking…) Anyway, he raises some tough questions that almost seem to be from out of the blue:

    Is it right to save a life? Yes. The Jews had long made Sabbath exceptions for saving a life. But how about killing?

    Hey, the man with a withered hand is not in need of someone getting killed so he can be healed. Where does that question come from?

    Well, I submit, it taps into that on-going debate that started with the Maccabees. Those Maccabean Jews had set a president when they opted to make a killing exception on Sabbath. The people Jesus is now confronting with the healing of a man on the Sabbath are likely from the political party/ies that endorse that kind of Sabbath exception.

    And sure enough when the confrontation is concluded, they seek to destroy him – which culminates in his death by crucifixion.

    Believe me when I say that I hate to say this, but Jesus seems to indict the Maccabees along with his present opponents. But of course their original deviation was not merely a Sabbath issue, but one of survival as God’s people. God was empowering them as a holy fighting force of unparalleled ferocity. But they did not give him his Sabbath due because as they noted, the enemy has found out soft spot and will wipe us out! It is the same argument as we find with you post. And believe me… I feel it!

    But Jesus pays no heed to the Maccabean concern when he faces a cross. Instead, he trusts God and finds in his own spilt blood the victory of all victories. And those of us who claim him must by virtue of that claim embrace his victory there too.

    Heaven help us!

    (But of course that would seem to be the point.)

  14. Ryan says:

    My whole life I’ve heard people use the instructions of Jesus about buying swords as a justification for retaliatory justice. What those people fail to observe is His rebuke only a few verses later: “‘Lord, shall we strike with the sword?’ And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, ‘No more of this!’” (Lk 22:49-51)

    Rather than justify our own worldly use of force, maybe we should interpret this spiritually, selling all we have to acquire eternal possessions – the sword=His Word, Hebrews 4:12.

    Thanks for taking on these difficult subjects. It is time His disciples abandon earthly reasoning and accept His Kingdom its paradox!

    • Thank you once again for your encouragement,brother! Blessings!

    • Jesse Bernal says:

      A sword is a tool, Jesus is saying you will need to these tools to survive because persecution is on it’s way. If an enemy of righteousness was to try and kill a disciple who’s mission was to spread the gospel, the sword would have been a last resort to defend oneself from murder. This is common sense. Peter had no justification for striking the ear for a simple arrest. That’s like saying shooting a cop that wants to arrest you, whether justly or unjustly is permissible. OF COURSE IT’S NOT. Those who have discernment know when to use deadly force. Christian pacifism is unbiblical and can be outright deadly. You can’t defend anybody when your dead, you can’t make disciples of nations if your dead. Currently Islam is actively fighting and killing Christians in parts of the Middle East and Christian soldiers are fighting them back with machine guns and anything else they can get their hands on. Holding hands and waiting on the Lord will wipe all their families off the face of the earth and yet Christian pacifists are over here in cozy confines of America preaching non violence in all cases, yet you’ve never had to fight to survive.

      • Ryan says:

        But Jesse, how does this explain the 10 martyred apostles who were the recipients of Jesus’ words? Peter says, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed” (1 Pt 4:12-13). what were the sufferings of Christ? Ultimately death on the cross. We should not think it strange if this is eventually our purpose too. We may admire Christian martyrs, but at what point would we be willing to be one of them ourselves? How much better to follow Jesus faithfully in all things.

  15. […] the question is- what is with the swords? There are different interpretations (as there are with many scriptural passages) but a few things […]

  16. Troy Jantz says:

    A great article and full of scripture to support the view.
    However, for the blind that only read words on a page and cannot decipher spiritual instruction, from these only do we find the argument for self defense and defense of others…no rock solid scripture like was given for the non resistance view………
    .Precious is the blood of the slain that lay under the altar and await God, not man to avenge them……..Who is the clay to question the Potter?….Human reasoning will never dictate spiritual wisdom and truth. Jesus spoke in parables, not to teach the simple of mind, to hide truth from those not seeking the entirety of it…Most supposedly called Christians today cannot explain in their own words, what the lost coin is, the mustard seed, the 5 wise and 5 foolish virgins, the Prodigal Son…….because though they may associate with Christianity, though they may attend church, have been baptized and eat the Lords Supper weekly, they are still dead and without life, Eyes that cannot see and ears that refuse to hear.

  17. Kerry Keefe says:

    This is the true interpretation of these scriptures

  18. Gary says:

    How are the group appearances of Jesus to the first Christians any different from the group appearances of the angel Moroni to the first Mormons?

    https://lutherwasnotbornagaincom.wordpress.com/2017/03/21/shocking-parallels-between-mormonism-and-early-christianity/

  19. Margie says:

    This is such a good post. I’m glad you saved it on your computer and have republished it now that the original has disappeared from the web. It has explained an old niggle of mine (things which I don’t understand and put on the shelf, waiting for an explanation.

  20. Alfred Antwi says:

    Thought provoking!

  21. reelbgjimmy says:

    Thanks for sharing! It’s interesting how people will pick and choose obscure passages of Scripture to defend a cultural value even when it is in conflict to the majority of Scripture on the subject. I’m sure we all do it to some degree, but if Jesus is our model, surely self giving sacrifice, love, and forgiveness is our model for how to break the cycle of violence…

  22. TheTruthBeTold says:

    Thank you Micael for your post……I stand in agreement with the context of this passage Jesus was teaching that a prophecy was going to be soon fulfilled.. I’ve learned from my own studies and from my own errors, when studying the bible that we need the bible to translate the bible..We cant use our human instincts, or the natural man to try to under things of God in the bible..

    Not just on this subject but many others I have seen people taking one verse from the bible and making it mean something that has nothing to do with what Jesus was teaching…..

    Adding to what you have already stated in your post I hope people realize that there is a spiritual war going on…It goes beyond the natural realm… It goes beyond the natural mans understanding…Its not a war fought with natural weapons, nor can it be understood with human understanding….We can see this war going on after Jesus Death…

    The war isn’t against flesh and blood we are fighting against the Devil and all his wiles…

    Ephesians 6: 10-20 10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.

    11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

    12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

    13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

    14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;

    15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

    16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.

    17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:

    18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;

    19 And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel,

    20 For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.

    Contrary to what most people say the warfare we fight and the weapons we use are not of this world… Its a supernatural battle and can only be understood through revelation of the Holy Spirit…

    2 Corinthians 10:3-6

    3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:

    4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)

    5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

    6 And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.

    Jesus left us a example to live by and we can see it after his death in the lives of His followers….Why didn’t Paul fight back???? And all the others?? I think the opposition here comes from more of a self defense stand point, a lot of us were taught we have the right to defend our selves, but was this teaching from Jesus or man?

    We cant confuse what man teaches with what Jesus taught… We can’t put our constitutional rights above THE WORD OF GOD and honestly I believe that is what is going on here…..

    Can anyone show any scriptures in the new testament supporting this view of Christians fighting with weapons?? Where Jesus teaches that as followers we should take matters into our own hands??? I challenge anyone with these view points to show new testament scripture that supports new testament scripture ” In the case of Luke 22:35-38 where buying swords where mentioned” in the view of fighting back with weapons or self defense or even helping someone innocent, SHOW NEW TESTAMENT SCRIPTURE PLEASE….

    May God bless you all!!!! .And might I add let not this cause divisions among all of us…We all need to be humble and have a learning attitude…In love we can learn and teach….This post doesn’t need to turn into people insulting one another… lets be real followers of Jesus and be gentile, peaceful, loving, kind, patient, long suffering etc…. I myself am not asserting that I am 100% correct in everything I have shared I would be prideful to make that kind of assertion for I am learning and growing myself….I will say that I stand in agreement with Micael!!! God bless you brother and ty for a great post!!!!

  23. Aamon says:

    Good post. However, it doesn’t address one thing: The two swords that the disciples had were not bought after Jesus gave the instruction. They already had them on their person, in the room. Jesus knew that already. And that means they had been with them all the time, as was the custom of the time.

    You noted, “Using one of the swords Jesus told him to buy, Peter attempted to rescue his friend.” And, that doesn’t fit the narrative. The text doesn’t say that they went to buy any more than the two that were in their possession. The instruction was for a future time after Jesus would no longer be with them.

  24. WayToTheDawn says:

    Another problem with the “it was merely to fulfill Scripture” reasoning to support a pacifist-only reading is that there is no other place where God commanded anyone to sin. The moral law is not arbitrary. Jesus would not have instructed his disciples to do anything sinful even to fulfill prophecy. The whole of Jesus’ life and death fulfilled tons of prophecies, many of which were fulfilled by people sinning and none of which God commanded. Otherwise we are forced to conclude that Judas was a saint, since his betrayal was the lighting of the fuse that got the crucifixion (and later Jesus’ resurrection and salvation of humanity) off the ground. His sin fulfilled prophecy and enabled Christ to die for our sins.

    Were it inherently sinful for the disciples to buy and carry swords, the prophecy would have been fulfilled by someone (probably Judas) convincing a few of the others to sinfully buy swords. Scripture is quite clear that God never tempts us to sin. If you believe Jesus is sinless, you cannot believe that He would have ordered his disciples to sin even to fulfill prophecy. Therefore, the bearing of arms is not inherently sinful.

    And is it at all likely that it would be permissible to bear arms but never to actually use them? The same Christ who told us to turn the other cheek and did not raise a hand against his accusers or executioners also made a whip out of rope and drove out the moneychangers and merchants from the Temple. Are we to believe the whip stayed in his pocket while He used his words to convince the moneychangers to upend their own tables?

  25. Jeff Strain says:

    Thanks for posting this. I shared it myself today.

  26. Jeff Strain says:

    and shared your website.

  27. David says:

    Do you think there was some Roman law requiring at least 2 swords before they could arrest Jesus? and ‘count them as criminals’?

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The author

Micael Grenholm - a Swedish charismactivist residing with the Jesus Army in the UK.

Micael Grenholm - a Swedish charismactivist residing with the Jesus Army in the UK.

Check out my YouTube channel!

A Living Alternative

God vs Inequality

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