Why did Jesus tell his disciples to buy a sword? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.
Recently, a friend of Deeper Waters sent me a statement to comment on concerning the Zimmerman trial. What it was was the person saying that a man has a right to defend himself he used Luke 22:35-38 to make that point.
“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.”
There are some times when a preacher is said to have a good message but to have the wrong text. This is the same case here. I do hold to a person having the right to defend themselves. In the past, that was a sword. Today, a gun would be more appropriate. Therefore, my contention is not against self-defense.
However, to say I support self-defense does not mean that I support every Scriptural argument given for self-defense. I don’t think this passage is talking about that at all. After all, let’s consider that Jesus would have eleven men by his side since Judas betrayed him. These eleven men would have two swords between them to fight off a crowd? (And why would Jesus want the crowd to be fought off? In the text, we see him surrendering to them and condemning Peter for getting a sword out in the first place!)
What Jesus is talking about is the future coming time when the disciples will face great peril and they need to be men of courage, men that would be the kind who would normally use a sword. If Jesus had literally meant for them to buy a sword, then it is a wonder we do not see the disciples engaging in hand-to-hand combat anywhere throughout the book of Acts!
When Jesus says “It is enough”, do we really take him to mean that the two swords the disciples have will be enough for them to be prepared when the Roman army comes? Of course not! Instead, it is a matter of exasperation. Jesus regularly has a problem with the disciples taking him in a wooden literal sense. (Please keep that in mind many of you today who think that the best way to take Jesus is always the wooden literal sense unless there are other reasons not to. Jesus himself has several problems with that approach.)
The best lesson to get from all this is that the right message does not mean the right passage. I am not saying the Bible condemns self-defense. I am just saying that this is not the right passage to go to and when we go to the wrong passage, we end up causing harm to our position as we make it look foolish and have it so that some think when they dispute our false interpretation, they’ve shown the Bible does not teach this at all. Not only that, the worst part is whenever we have a false interpretation, we miss the true interpretation we are to get out of Scripture.