Many people have often had difficulty understanding what Jesus meant when He gave counsel that one should sell his garment and buy a sword:
“Then He said to them, “But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one” (Luke 22:36).
Jesus was speaking figuratively, as is seen in the context of the passage and the story. This begins in Luke 22 as the story of the last supper in the upper room. Jesus was speaking with His disciples one last time together to prepare them for the fact that He was about to be crucified. Jesus makes a special warning to Peter in verses 31-34, that Satan wants to “sift him out” and admonishes him to pray. Peter boldly states that he is willing to go any length for his Master, but Jesus tells him that he will deny Him. Jesus then goes on to say something figurative to teach a spiritual lesson, as He had often done before:
“And He said unto them, When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye any thing? And they said, Nothing. Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one. For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me, And he was reckoned among the transgressors: for the things concerning me have an end. And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords. And he said unto them, It is enough” (Luke 22:35-38).
Jesus is comparing the times they are in. Prior, they were to go out in faith trusting God to provide and clothe them. Jesus is saying that now, they are about to enter a battle and need to get weapons to face the trial of faith that is before them. As it says in Ephesians 6: 12-13,17-18:
“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand… And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.”
Sadly, His disciples did not understand what Jesus meant and looked to literal swords. To this Jesus simply says to them, “It is enough” (Luke 22:38). Jesus, like so many other times, is speaking of something symbolic while His disciples don’t understand and take His words literally (John 11:13, John 4:31-34). Jesus longed for His disciples to fight with Him in the spiritual warfare that was about to take place before His crucifixion. He wanted them to partake in the battle through the power of prayer as He bid His disciples repeatedly, “Pray that ye enter not into temptation.” (Luke 22:40, 46). Yet while Jesus prayed to point of sweating great drops of blood, His disciples were found sleeping (Luke 22:44-45).
Jesus’ admonition to get swords is symbolic of the spiritual battle that they faced. He demonstrated what we are to do in preparation of a spiritual battle and have spiritual swords, which is to give ourselves to prayer and recalling of Scripture. Jesus prayed earnestly. He also quoted scripture, in Luke 22:37, He states, “For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me, And he was reckoned among the transgressors.” This is taken from Isaiah 53:12, which is part of a chapter telling of the manner of the death of the Messiah.
Immediately following this scene, when Jesus is about to be arrested, one of His disciples tries to defend Him using a literal sword and cuts off an ear of the servant of the high priest, to which Jesus rebukes him and heals the man (Luke 22:49-51), further showing that He was not speaking of literal swords.
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In His service,