And He said to them, “But now, whoever 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 one. “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.” They said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” And He said to them, “It is enough.”Luke 22:36–38
I’ve heard well-meaning Christians take Jesus’ words here out of context to justify carrying weapons. When Jesus said, “it is enough,” they claim that He is saying that two swords will do. That’s the right amount. However, a closer look at the context reveals those were not Jesus’ intentions. In fact, He meant quite the opposite from how I’ve heard the passage interpreted.
Let’s begin with verse 36.
And He said to them, “But now, whoever 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 one.”Luke 22:36
Jesus is not telling them to buy an actual sword; He is preparing them for the dangerous situation to come. In just a few verses, Jesus rebukes Peter for using one of the two swords the disciples had. He takes time to undo the damage that Peter had done. Jesus then condemns the cohort (480 Roman soldiers) and the accompanying Jewish representatives for coming out to Him with swords (Luke 22:52-53; cf. John 18:12).
In Matthew’s account of Jesus’ arrest, He records Jesus’ warning, “All those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword” (Matthew 26:52). Instead of a cohort, Jesus explains that God could send twelve legions (4,500 infantryman and calvary x 12!!) of angels if He wanted. Both accounts contrast the Jewish leader’s dependency upon an earthly kingdom and Jesus’ insistence He came to establish a heavenly kingdom.
The apostle Paul had this to say about weapons:
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.2 Corinthians 10:3–4
Jesus’ words align with Paul: they both relied on spiritual weapons to wage war in the kingdom. Picking up the sword inevitably leads to dying by the sword. In the book of Revelation, which is an account of the Jewish-Roman war in AD 66 – AD 70, John warns, “If anyone is destined for captivity, to captivity he goes; if anyone kills with the sword, with the sword he must be killed. Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints” (Revelation 13:10).
Leon Morris explained Luke 22:36 this way:
The sword may have been meant literally (so Ellis, Lenski), but it is difficult to see this in view of Jesus’ general teaching and his refusal to let Peter use his sword (51). Such considerations lead others to think the words are ironical (so Tinsley), but it is more likely that they are figurative. It is Jesus’ graphic way of bringing it home that the disciples face a situation of grave peril. ‘Because He was not thinking of their weapons, the disciples require that courage which regards a sword as more necessary than an upper garment and surrenders even its last possession, but cannot give up the struggle’ (Schlatter, cited in Geldenhuys).Morris, Leon. Luke: An Introduction and Commentary. Vol. 3. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988. Print. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries.
Now, let’s read verse 38.
They said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” And He said to them, “It is enough.”Luke 22:38
If Jesus actually meant that two swords were plenty, then this passage doesn’t justify everyone carrying a weapon. A ratio of 2:12 would suffice! However, this is not the intended meaning of this statement.
As others have pointed out, Deuteronomy 3:26 uses the verb form of the word translated “enough.”
And the Lord disregarded me on your account, and he did listen not me. And the Lord spoke to me, ‘It is sufficient for you! Do not continue to speak of this issue any longer.’Deuteronomy 3:26
Jesus wasn’t saying that two swords were enough, He was telling them to stop such foolish talk as Robert Stein explains:
“That is enough,” he replied. Clearly two swords were not enough for any planned armed resistance. Jesus’ words are best understood as breaking off further conversation as in Deut 3:26, i.e., “Enough of this [foolish] conversation.” Compare also 1 Kgs 19:4; 1 Chr 21:15.Stein, Robert H. Duke. Vol. 24. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992. Print. The New American Commentary.
Jesus was not telling His disciples to carry swords; He was preparing them for action. Jesus spoke out against so-called just violence over and over. The last thing He would do is encourage His disciples to carry weapons. The kingdom of God is heavenly. There are no need for swords, guns, or any sort of weapon when defending and spreading God’s kingdom.
In these discussions, someone always jumps to some hypothetical situation where an imagined monster is hurting my wife or son. “Would you kill him then?” these bloodthirsty Christians ask. The answer is no. Why would I have to kill them? Why does it always have to be about death? Besides the fact that this situation is unlikely to happen, although it does, why does killing have to be the answer? It doesn’t. There are alternatives. There are other ways to stop someone besides killing a person for whom Christ died.
When we save our own life through violence, we lost it. Anything we gain ends up being our own undoing. Nations have come and gone because they relied on violence, but the kingdom of Christ is forever.
Several months ago, I called for peace among my friends who turned politics into idolatry. This past week is exactly what I was warning about. Violence is never the answer. If you believe that you will live even if you die, then don’t take the life of someone who doesn’t have that security.
I’ll leave you with one more passage:
My son, do not walk in the way with them. Keep your feet from their path, For their feet run to evil And they hasten to shed blood. Indeed, it is useless to spread the baited net In the sight of any bird; But they lie in wait for their own blood; They ambush their own lives. So are the ways of everyone who gains by violence; It takes away the life of its possessors.Proverbs 1:15–19