When I heard the ‘Jesus v. Barabbas’ sermon early in January this year while on holidays, I was impressed, and wrote about it in the first of my two Jesus and Jihad posts. But I stopped at the door to talk with the pastor about one outstanding question I had.
Why, if Jesus disowned the way of the sword, did he in Luke 22:36 say to his disciples, shortly before his arrest:
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. (Luke 22:35-36 NIV)
Very un-Jesus-like, I thought, and asked the pastor what he thought. He sounded a little unsure, but thought it might have been for security reasons. I wasn’t convinced it was a really sound answer at the time, but happened across the passage in Luke this morning. And now I am. The other things Jesus says they now ought to acquire are travelling things, or that is my first impression. Moving to a different Bible version, here are verses 36-37:
36 Then He said to them, “But now, whoever has a money-bag should take it, and also a traveling bag. And whoever doesn’t have a sword should sell his robe and buy one.
37 For I tell you, what is written must be fulfilled in Me: And He was counted among the outlaws. Yes, what is written about Me is coming to its fulfillment.” (Luke 22:36-37 Holman Christian Standard)
In other words, “I’m an outlaw now, and you’re going to have to hit the road.” And the roads were not safe places – something like the roads here in Australia could be in the mid-nineteenth century, when a coach might be stopped by what we (and probably no other culture) call ‘bushrangers’. So on the road, they needed a (ahem) bum-bag, a backpack, and…a sword.
How can I show that this was the reason for the sword, and that it doesn’t ruin Jesus’ non-violent reputation?
First, when they say they can muster two swords (v. 38), he says that’s sufficient. Not enough for a revolution, but enough for security on the road.
Second, when one of the disciples (not identified here in Luke) just hours later in the Garden of Gethsemane, starts swinging his sword to resist Jesus’ arrest, Jesus will have no part of it. This eager disciple actually takes the shine off what Jesus says next, that it suits the religious leaders’ style to ambush him at night as if he was a brigand, a Ned Kelly.
But he wasn’t, so he didn’t go down firing in a metal suit, or swinging a sword. The eager disciple had gotten it wrong. That wasn’t the way to do it. Jesus wouldn’t inflict death for his cause. He would ingest it.