Why Did Jesus Tell Them To Buy Swords?

A friend recently asked me the following question:

My reading this morning is in the latter chapters of Luke. The Last Supper is finished, they’re heading for the garden and what Jesus knows is His arrest and murder. He tells the disciples to bring swords. They say they have two, and He says “It’ll do.” Off they go.

Yet, in John, when stuff starts to go down and Peter actually uses one of those swords, Jesus tells him to put it away, because answering violence with violence is not the answer. Then He fixes the damage that Peter did.

So here’s the conundrum:

Why did Jesus tell them to bring swords in the first place?

If He didn’t want anybody using them, why did He make such a big deal about having them? I really don’t get it, and I’m open to answers.

Here is my answer:

Context is king – and reveals the answer to the question…

Only at one point did Jesus instruct his disciples to get a sword. They responded, “We have two among us.” Jesus said, “That is enough.” Enough for what?

And when the time came for use of the sword(s), what did Jesus say? He rebuked Peter and told him to put down the sword, “Those who live by the sword will die by the sword.”

 It seems that the instruction to get a sword had more to do with the fulfillment of prophecy than it did with Jesus’ desire for his disciples to conquer or even defend themselves with weapons.

So… back to context. The answer is found in Luke 22 when Jesus tells them to sell coats to buy swords:

36 “But now,” he said, “take your money and a traveler’s bag. And if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one! 37 For the time has come for this prophecy about me to be fulfilled: ‘He was counted among the rebels.’ Yes, everything written about me by the prophets will come true.” 38 “Look, Lord,” they replied, “we have two swords among us.” “That’s enough,” he said.

So that prophecy would be fulfilled “He was counted among the rebels.”

It comes from Isaiah 53.12 “He was counted among the rebels. He bore the sins of many and interceded for rebels.” 

Two swords were enough for what?

They were enough to fulfill the prophecy and justify the Jewish authorities accusing him of being a rebel leader.

*     *     *     *

In the Kingdom of Jesus, we gain our lives by losing them.

Jesus won by losing – by dying. Never did he defend himself. Never does he call for us to defend him, or ourselves.

We follow in the ways of Christ…

the loving, serving, giving, forgiving, laying- down-of-self ways of Christ.



I am a husband, father, pastor, leader & reader. I love God, love people & love life.

4 Comments to Why Did Jesus Tell Them To Buy Swords?

  1. Interesting dilemma here PB, especially in light of current events. I think it’s pretty clear that Jesus was not remotely interested in establishing an earthly kingdom (a confession which, I must admit, took no small amount of reprogramming). His rebuke to the disciples when they wanted to call down fire from heaven should be getting more air time from pulpits around the country, as far as I’m concerned. And though I’m not opposed to gun ownership, even for the purposes of self defense, I choose not to live in fear. I believe I can trust God to take care of my family and I, and get us through any circumstances He chooses to allow us to face.
    There is another aspect of this issue that I think must be included, however. Jesus was not without being angry – even violent. When He “expelled” the money-changers from the temple, He made a whip, and drove them out. This is a stark contrast the gentle, mild-mannered, milk-toast shepard I have heard some describe him to be.
    I have heard this story used as justification for everything from not allowing any fund-raising on church property (except, of course, for offerings), to not taking offerings.
    I don’t believe His anger had anything to do with money though – at least not the idea of exchanging money in the temple. His words were pointed, “…you have made it a den of THIEVES.”
    In the context of the day, the “money-changers” were in the Temple selling elements for sacrifice (grains, animals, birds) to travelers who had come long distances to follow the command of the Law to make their yearly sacrifices. It would be impractical for them to bring the necessary grains, doves, lambs, bulls, etc. on such a long trip.
    The opportunists were apparently taking advantage of these weary travelers by charging substantially more than was fair for the elements for sacrifice (thieves).
    I believe this story is intended to bring to light something else that is important to God – Justice. God is concerned about what is just and right. The book of Proverbs states over and over that He hates an unjust scale. Jesus, who would never defend himself – or even, as you pointed out, tell us to defend ourselves – jumped to defend those being victimized by others, even to the point of violence.
    I guess that is why I am not opposed to a justified war (I recognize that may be an elusive term given the misinformation in our media). I believe it is incumbent upon someone, or an organization, or a nation, to do what is necessary to come to the aid of an individual or group of individuals who are being unfairly victimized, even to the point of violent intervention. As long as that is truly the motive, I believe it is God honoring.
    Just my thoughts…

    • Ah, man… you had to bring the cracking of the whip up! Now in one day we’re covering the two New Testament proof-texts for violence and weaponry. ;) I’m just joking with ya, of course.

      I do agree with you about Jesus’ zeal, passion, and even anger about injustice.

      My view of the temple story is that no animals or humans were harmed in the making of that movie. Jesus cracked a whip, turned over tables, and people ran. I don’t read in the text that he whipped people or that blood was shed.

      I see it as an act of dramatic theater, of protest, and the point of it all was to make a statement – not punish or wound or harm individuals, even the perpetrators of injustice. It was to set his house right.

      That being said, I certainly hear you about protecting your home, and government protecting it’s citizens. I am deeply torn on the issue of “just war” and honestly don’t know what to do with it. Perhaps it is one of those many “until He comes…” issues that we must bear, the reality of a fallen and broken world.

      More and more I am fascinated with non-violent resistance. We would not esteem MLK the way we do if he had taken up arms. His creative, non-violent resistance eventually shamed those who oppressed. It’s what Jesus intended when he said “turn the other cheek” – once the oppressor hits, to have the victim offer up the other cheek is putting up a mirror and confronting the violent with who they have become. It is dramatic theater. A protest. Non-violent resistance.

      I have read that an overwhelming majority of Hitler’s army was baptized (Lutheran). If only they had refused to take up arms. If only they had creatively resisted. Maybe that wouldn’t have been enough. I’m willing to concede that. But I do think the church today lacks imagination. We tend to gravitate to the same old methods of empire, and we eat its fruit.

      Thank you for challenging me, for pushing back. I need it.

  2. This is interesting – and related to this topic (about what was going on in the temple with the whip)… Isaiah prophesies that non-violence would be a characteristic of the Messiah:

    “He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.” – Isaiah 53:9

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