Buy a Sword?

Q. Luke 22:35-38 why is Jesus telling the disciples to sell their robes and buy swords? But when they found 2, why did He say, “that is enough” (in the kid’s Bible it says, “enough of that”.)

A. This question is raised by our two grandkids who studied the same passage in their daily devotions. I want to talk a bit about interpreting the Bible, besides answering their query.

When you study any Bible passage, the first thing to know is the context. Ask the W6 questions (Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How) to understand the basic facts. The next thing to know is the language. Besides the grammar, we need to know whether it is literal, or figurative. This is where this passage causes problems for some readers, besides the disciples. With that in mind, let us examine the passage:

  • Lk 22:35-38 35 And He said to them, “When I sent you out without money belt and bag and sandals, you did not lack anything, did you?” They said, “No, nothing.” 36 And He said to them, “But nowwhoever 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 one37 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 fulfillment.” 38 They said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” And He said to them, “It is enough.”

The occasion was the Last Supper. Jesus was giving His disciples some last instructions before they went to the Garden of Gethsemane where He was betrayed and arrested.

  • The “when” in v 35 refers to the first time He sent them out, in Lk 9:2-3 And He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to perform healing. And He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, neither a staff, nor a bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not even have two tunics apiece. They did not lack anything, because the Lord provided for them through the hospitality of those who are worthy (Mt 10:11).
  • The “now” in v 36 refers to the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry, when the Jewish leaders had rejected His Messiahship, and were about to have Him crucified. In other words, times have changed for the worse. Things are going to get very tough for the disciples after the Lord is taken from them. They will not be well received like the last time. That is why Jesus warned them to prepare for the perilous times ahead, carrying their own provisions.
  • The “whoever” in v 36 refers to any and all of His disciples. A slave is not greater than his master. If they persecuted Him, they would also persecute the disciples (Jn 15:20). This is inevitable, so expect it, and prepare for it.
  • That which was “written and must be fulfilled in Me” in v 37 refers to the prophecy about the Suffering Servant in Is 53:12 Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, And He will divide the booty with the strong; Because He poured out Himself to death, And was numbered with the transgressors; Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, And interceded for the transgressors. V 53:11 says, “the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities.” This is exactly what Jesus did – He justified many by pouring out Himself to death, bearing the sin and iniquities of many.
  • Now with this groundwork, was Jesus speaking literally or figuratively? Note the following:
    • Jesus talked about 3 things: a money belt, a bag, and a sword. His disciples focused only on the sword.
    • The disciples found two swords, but there were 11 of them (the twelve less Judas). How can 2 swords be shared by 11 people and be enough? If Jesus had been literal, He should have said, “they are enough”, not “it is enough”.
    • Shortly after this, Peter cut off the high priest’s servant’s ear in the Garden of Gethsemane. Mt 26:52 Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.” If Jesus had intended that from now on His disciples take up arms to defend themselves, why would He chastise Peter when he did exactly that?
  • Based on the above I believe that while the money belt, bag, and sword are literal, Jesus was referring to them collectively. He meant His disciples should expect hardship and provide for themselves financially, materially, as well as their physical security. The disciples, however, took His words too literally and focused on the sword alone. They did not catch His meaning.
  • What about “it is enough”? This phrase, or “that is enough”, or “that’s enough” is an accurate literal translation of the Greek text, but given the context, other versions have translated it differently e.g.
  • CEB, CEV, HCSB, ISV: Enough of that!
    • EXB: That’s enough talk like that!
    • MSG: Enough of that; no more sword talk!
    • TPT: You still don’t understand.

My opinion is that these dynamic-equivalent (as opposed to literal) translations or paraphrases catch Jesus’ meaning more precisely. So their children’s Bible is acceptable here.

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