Luke 22:35-38 is one of the more curious passages in the gospel accounts. Here Jesus urged his disciples to prepare for battle. If they didn’t have a sword they should sell their coat to buy one. This seems to run counter to all that Jesus had taught them about his mission in the world. There are three things that help us correctly interpret this text.
- The first is context. At this point in Luke’s gospel, the focus is the cross. The very next verse tells us of Jesus going to the Mount of Olives where he would be arrested by the religious leaders. Jesus is clearly not calling for a military coup.
- The second clue is the corrective. Jesus tells them each to secure a sword. The disciples assume that he is talking about literal swords. They do a quick count and inform Jesus that they have two swords available among them. Jesus says, “It is enough!” This is a difficult phrase to interpret but I believe the NIV and the ESV bring this across well with the exclamation point. Jesus abruptly ends the conversation – an indication that the disciples had missed Jesus’ point (as usual).
- The third clue is the case study. Just a few verses later we read that Judas came with a crowd and they were carrying swords and clubs (Luke 22:49-50). When the disciples saw that what was happening they asked Jesus, “Lord, shall we strike with our sword?” Of course they didn’t wait for an answer and one of them proceeded to cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant. Jesus reprimanded them and said definitively, “No more of this!”
Jesus was calling them to action. He wanted them to be prepared for battle. But they would not be fighting with literal swords but with the weapons that have divine power for tearing down strongholds in the spiritual realm (2 Corinthians 10:4). We too need to hear the call to action and the reminder that the battle is not fought by military or political means.
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