Jesus and the Sword
Updated: Apr 26
From Luke Chapter 22:
35 Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?”
“Nothing,” they answered.
36 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. 37 It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’[b]; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.”
38 The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.”
“That’s enough!” he replied.
A good friend, mentor, fellow author, and martial arts instructor just published an entire book on the subject of Christ and self-defense. I'd be glad to point anyone to the work if you're interested. But I came across this section of scripture in chapter 22 of the book of Luke, and I thought I would share my thoughts. These are not fact or God-inspired truth on the matter, but my interpretation based on real world experience and circumstances, and mostly - my opinion.
However, I also think someone could glean personal theological and spiritual curiosity from such a subject matter, and maybe even something I have to say.
So let's talk about swords.
The 'sword' itself brings to mind so many ideas and principles inspired by history. Believers in God's Word, of course, might remember a time when Sunday school teachers took kids through 'Sword drills.' Kids would memorize scripture and be quizzed on it in drill fashion, and that is how they learned God's 'Truth' - God's SWORD of the spirit.
(From Ephesians 6: 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.)
This, of course, is talking about swords in a metaphorical sense. Nothing cuts through the lies and deceptions of this world like God's Word.
But the scripture from Luke that inspired this post? It is obviously talking about actual swords. Go back and read the excerpt. Note how Jesus originally told His followers, when they first went out, they were to take nothing but the sandals on their feet and the clothes they already wore. But I don't think a lot of people realize, that was while their teacher was here on Earth, and it was before His "time had come." In the words from chapter 22 of Luke, he is reminding them of that time, but speaking about the times to come. He is talking about how the gospel message will have to travel much farther. He is talking about what His followers may need for the mission they are about to take on, once He ascends to Heaven. And if you are familiar with the character of Jesus at all from the scriptures, you know he never said anything 'just because.'
So why would he mention trading in a cloak for a sword? Just why in the world would His followers need a sword 'or two?'
Could it possibly be because Jesus knew that His disciples would face the evil that already existed in this world - and not just because they served in Jesus' name?
People like to throw the whole saying, 'turn the other cheek,' around like it is some end-all be-all to all scenarios of potential violence. They don't stop to realize, for just one second, that Jesus certainly meant to never return violence for an insult or a challenge. One could even take it farther and say violence should not be the first thing to resort to resolve conflict or problems with other people, either. But let's think about the other situations traveling disciples for Jesus would encounter on the road, back in their day.
Perhaps, a wise holy man like the Son of God knew that evil men existed, and knew that robbers, thieves, and ruffians may try to harm His disciples on the road. There are several places in scripture where it is obvious God doesn't just expect people to sit by and let their home and property and loved ones get taken. There is almost an expectation for someone (the 'man of the house' or the leader of the home for starters) to do something about such threats. People who intend random violence on passersby such as the disciples were a real threat back then, just as they are now. The sword was the same answer for such threats back then that we might use a gun for now.
Perhaps a wise holy man like the Son of God knew that animals of a predatory nature could encounter any one of the disciples individually on their mission. After the fall in the Garden of Eden, wild animals and beasts of various kinds are mentioned, and chapter 26 of the Old Testament book of Leviticus even goes so far as to say this, in reference to what could happen to someone who disobeys God's Word:
"22 I will send wild animals against you, and they will rob you of your children, destroy your cattle and make you so few in number that your roads will be deserted."
This is not to say that God would smite the disciples with wild animal attacks, but perhaps conditions after the fall, and especially after the great flood in the time of Noah, set such possible dangerous conditions in place. Ask anyone who lives in the wilds of Africa, or Alaska, or the Rockies, if they just roam the territory of predators without any form of self-defense; I'll wait.
Perhaps a wise holy man like the Son of God knew that men of opposing religions and faith would encounter the disciples, or descendants of disciples, and attempt to use coercion and violence, to force their religion on them. Perhaps the Son of God who was there with God 'in the beginning' understands that some men, in the very nature that God gave them, are inclined to act out in defense of themselves or someone else, and something like a sword might be necessary for such action.
Now here is where I really speculate:
Perhaps mankind has taken something, such as the very means of self-defense, and even 'righteous violence' - and corrupted it and ruined it to the point that it is hard to see how anything about the violence caused by 'the sword' could ever be found by believers of today as wholesome and right.
We all have to answer for our sins at some point. It can either be in the End Times and final judgment, or it can be when one chooses to repent of their sinful life here on Earth and accept the free gift of God's grace through the blood of Jesus Christ. Because I work in law enforcement, should I ever have to use violence to protect a potential victim of violence (I've been fortunate to never have to use more than an intermediate weapon), I will still ask for forgiveness, because I know it is still wrong to murder - and the family of a violent offender could very well think I 'murdered' their loved one. Although many would say it was a righteous 'kill' - I would still see it as something ugly in the eyes of God; whether it's against his actual commandments or not.
I am like my friend/author I mentioned earlier; I get frustrated with the mixed message set by a phrase like 'turn the other cheek' and blatant passivity or pacifism. Perhaps if you just read this post, it can give you a different set of eyes, and help you realize...in a fallen, dark world, for people who are out in it - sometimes 'sword drills' just don't seem like they're enough.