What Does It Mean That Jesus Said to Sell a Cloak to Buy a Sword?
One of my readers, Nicole Soumokil Burleski, sent me this awesome question. Considering the Second Amendment arguments happening today, I feel her question is quite relevant. Here is her question and my answer.
Nicole: “I have a bible question for you if you don’t mind! What are your thoughts in Luke 22:36 when Jesus told his disciples to sell their cloak for a sword and they came back with two swords? Is there any significance there?”
SLR: “Hi Nicole, thanks for the question. It is one I have been wanting to think through myself. After reading the verses before and after (to get the ever critical context), Jesus was new instructions during the Passover to the disciples. Here is the whole text:
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.
This was at the Passover Supper. He was to be arrested that very night. He said that he was to be numbered among the transgressors. To me, that means ‘criminals’. In other words, he was about to become, in the eyes of the law, a criminal. And as his followers, they would naturally also be called criminals and would now be hunted down by the authorities. Before, when Jesus sent them out, it was at the height of his popularity. He was performing miracles and everyone loved him. Even the Roman centurion considered Jesus to be greater than he, himself. At this time in Jesus’ ministry, Jews held out great hope that Jesus was indeed the Messiah who would literally gather an army and miraculously throw off the Roman rule. Therefore, when Jesus sent them out into the cities, he knew they would be welcomed with open homes, food, drink and would be treated very well by the People. They didn’t need a purse (money) or a sword for protection.
The Jews felt this way up until the Passover time. But Jesus knew what would happen to all their glee when he was arrested and when he would ‘disappoint’ them by not fighting back. Even today, the Jews believe that the Messiah will return but he will be a literal KING with wealth and a powerful army. Jesus’ ‘weakness’ is what makes him false in their eyes. They would suddenly think he was nothing more than a deceiver who had gotten their hopes so high only to realize that he had duped them. They would think, based on their earlier visions of what a Messiah would look like and be like, that he was only a man. And a highly flawed man at that. A false, horribly blasphemous messiah that deserved death.
Therefore, Jesus knew they would no longer be welcomed into anyone’s home or city. No one would offer them a home, food, drink- nor would they be kind. In fact, Jesus knew that they would be violently attacked for continuing to spread his ‘blasphemous’ message. That he was the Son of God. Therefore, they would indeed need money, along with a bag for their blankets & supplies- and a sword for protection. But note that he said that only two swords were enough. While it is important to protect ourselves, I believe his point was that we are not to be militant. We are not to use them in OFFENSE. Rather, defense. And only under the most dire circumstances. Only two swords for twelve disciples! So, the message is this: the world is now hostile for Christians. We need to go out into the world prepared. Money, provision and self protection are all needed. But the focus should be on spreading God’s word without violence when possible. But if you must defend yourself, then do so. Jesus was very pragmatic about this, I think.”