Holes: Luke 22:36

For anyone new to this, Holes posts are going to be in regard to ongoing questions/rejections that people have in regard to nonviolence, whether biblical or nonbiblical.  I treat all questions as legitimate, and answer them as such.

For this Holes post, I’m going to focus in on the above mentioned passage.  Coming from a Jesus that talked about turning the other cheek, loving ones enemies, etc., this comes as a bit of an enigmatic statement, but with a little bit of unpacking we can provide a little bit of insight to explain it.  Again, I don’t pretend to know everything, but let’s just see if we can’t figure it out.

35And he said to them,  “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” 36He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. 37For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” 38And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.”

I won’t lie to you, even this passage threw me for a loop.  Is Jesus, the one who said “Resist not!” actually telling his followers to buy swords?  It does seem this way, but to say so would be very inconsistent with what Jesus teaches both before and after this scripture portion.

With the teachings on the Sermon on the Mount (or, in the case of Luke, Sermon on the Plain), we see Jesus calling us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.  We see him calling his apostles to leave behind swords when he sends out the seventy-two in Luke 10. Following this talk, we see Peter cutting off a soldier’s ear, then Jesus telling him to put it away and healing the guard.  We see Jesus talking to Pilate in John, telling him that His kingdom is not of this world, because, if it were, his followers would rise up. So what’s with this talk of selling cloaks for swords?

Well, let’s have a look at the text.  The first thing we see Jesus referring to is the time back in chapter 10, when he told them only to go about with a partner and the clothes on their back.  Despite living with almost nothing, they had no need.  Now, Jesus says, things are about to change.  Those who had nothing should be gearing up for rough times.  However, as is rather normal for him, he expresses this truth in a way that goes right over his disciple’s head (even after three years with him).  They go and gather two swords, and Jesus exclaims, “It is enough!”  This is not a way of saying, “OK, two swords is enough to work with,” but is instead a way of saying, “No!  You guys don’t get it!” He’s not approving, he’s admonishing.  Times are about to get hard for them, but that doesn’t mean abandon what Christ taught them, especially since Christ’s time is drawing near (that very night, in fact) and scripture must be fulfilled in Him.

This is one key point to look at: if Christ’s followers rose up and fought, it would destroy Christ’s mission and the kingdom of God.  If his followers had attacked the mob that arrest Him, his goals would never have been met.  If Jesus or his followers (those who were left) had attempted to help him escape the crucifixion, we would be nothing more than lost and hopeless slaves the Law.  If the church had lashed out violently against the Roman Empire that oppressed them, they would have been crushed, and the Way would only then be seen as a political rebellion.  Fighting back, in the case of Jesus and the Church, would have ruined everything.

What do you guys think?  Am I missing anything?  Do you think that Jesus still means for us to carry arms for defense?


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