Posted by: sean | February 14, 2009

Why did Jesus tell his disciples to carry swords? (2)

The following was excerpted from Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw’s book, Jesus for President–from their online “Appendix 3: Subordination and Revolution: What about Romans 13?” which can be downloaded in its entirety from the JesusForPresident website or by clicking here.

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Luke 22:35-38,
Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?”
“Nothing,” they answered.
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 our cloak and buy one. It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.”
The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.”
“That is enough,” he replied.

This is part of a larger conversation about power at the last supper. Jesus’ disciples had apparently been unable to understand the meaning of his discussions on suffering and nonviolence. Over the course of this dinner conversation, Jesus had been trying to tell them that the kingdoms of this world wield power and demand service, but his kingdom was about serving others and self-sacrifice. As in many cases where Jesus would draw out props to make a point (e.g. the coin in the fish’s mouth), Jesus here needs to draw out a dangerous prop: the sword.

To prove his point, Jesus helps his disciples remember that they don’t need anything—which they acknowledge. With that in mind, he will help them understand that they also do not need a sword.

Very explicitly, Jesus equates the carrying of a sword with being a “transgressor.” This phrase references the beautiful passage of Isaiah 53 on how God’s glory is best known through humiliation and suffering and not apparent strength or majesty. To teach one of his most radical lessons on nonviolence, Jesus will incur the embarrassing reputation of going down with terrorists and insurgents, and not the potentially meaningful status of a blameless martyr. “He will be numbered with the transgressors.” Jesus even stripped his self of the ennobling innocent appearance of nonviolence. While he could go down with his unblemished personal character intact, to teach a lesson he will risk the misguided and violent wills of his disciples marring his reputation. (His final healing miracle will then be to clean up after the mess of his disciples’ violence by healing an arrestor’s ear.) This makes radical, counter-intuitive claims about the very nature of God and even what we mean by the word “God.” Is not humiliation and suffering the very opposite of God? Now he will appear before court as being one of the insurgent terrorists who cut people’s ears off*.

If calling the sword the transgressor’s tool is not obvious enough, the outcome of the lesson is unequivocally clear. The very next scene is in Gethsemane where the disciple will use those swords. His disciples ask, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” As one disciple strikes an arrestor, Jesus yells, “No more of this!” and heals the wound. This is the commonly known time when Jesus also states, (in other gospels) “put your sword away,” and “those who live by the sword die by the sword.” After healing his arrestor, Luke’s gospel shows Jesus punctuating this lesson of nonviolence with a question, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs? Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour—when darkness reigns” (Luke 22:53).

Nowhere in all of the New Testament is a disciple of Jesus found carrying a sword again.

*When the disciples find the swords that will mark their very sinfulness, Jesus says “enough.” John Yoder comments: “ ‘Enough,’ cannot mean that two swords would be enough for the legitimate self-defense against bandits of twelve missionaries traveling two by two. He is (in direct parallel to Deut. 3:26, where YHWH tells Moses to change the subject, LXX hikanon estin) breaking off the conversation because they don’t understand anyway” (The Politics of Jesus, p. 45).

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Responses

  1. So, I see an article about Shane Claiborne. What do you think of his unorthodox views? Or, for that matter, those of his mentor Tony Campolo?

  2. I’m not aware of his unorthodox views. Could you be more specific?

  3. The main thing I gather from him is the Richar T. Ely, progressive social gospel. Now, please don’t mistake me, I think he does wonderful things for the poor. I take issue with the doctrinal stances that he holds, we’ll take universalism. Here is a transcript of a discussion he and Tony Campolo held. Please read.

    http://www.crosscurrents.org/CompoloSpring2005.htm

  4. Zach,

    Since this website is designed to collect quality resources on Christian pacifism, and not to promote any specific “orthodoxy,” I’m sure there are quite a few of the contributors with whom you would take issue. But, that is exactly the advantage of an issue-specific website. For example, we have satirical prayer by Mark Twain, a strong atheist, but we keep it because the point it makes is helpful. Furthermore, we have a quote by a German Nazi, who demonstrates what not to do. Obviously, inclusion of someone’s work on pacifism does not endorse everything else she or he believes.

  5. [...] Just War Theory, and the Old Testament, and Jesus telling his disciples to buy swords (and the counterarguments) and probably any of the other arguments you may pull out. I grew up hearing them spoken as if [...]

  6. “Since this website is designed to collect quality resources on Christian pacifism”

    So this website instead of telling the truth, using quotes from the bible to promote political agendas?

    Jesus asked for two literal swords. They produced two literal Swords.

    It amazes me at how so many Christians, believe themselves better then Jesus. The Wine drinking/creating, Table flipping, son of God just isn’t good enough for you.

    I personally am a Christian and if God calls me to die for him I will. However if a man is breaking into my home, I will put 21 rounds of Hydroshock through his chest.

    This interpretation of the Bible is False, and uninspired. It offends me when people try this Jesus was a peaceful victim approach. Jesus is the Son of God, and when he returns he will be anything but pacifist.

    You guys are false profits. Its So blatant that you twist the word.

    But now if you have a purse take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell our cloak and buy one.

    If this article was true then the bible verse would have instead said ” Now if you have a purse, don’t take it. You don’t need it. Nor do you need a sword. Sell it to buy cloths. But you don’t need that either. Nothing has changed for you guys. Even though you needed nothing when you walked with me, you will continue to need nothing. For my leaving you, changes nothing.”

    But it didn’t say that. Shame on you for attempting to change the word of God.

  7. Dear Crutch,

    Welcome to the loveyourenemies website. We are glad to have you here. I have responded to each of your statements below.

    So this website instead of telling the truth, using quotes from the bible to promote political agendas?

    This website is politically affiliated with the coming kingdom of God which is by nature international, multi-ethnic, and multi-lingual (Rev. 5.9-10). The kingdom will be populated with people from every tribe, nation, and language and so those who affiliate with that kingdom are not at liberty to divide along nationalistic or other petty political lines which obscure and diminish our unity.

    Furthermore, as kingdom citizens we are dedicated to radical honesty and truthfulness, which is why we launched this website. It is our observation that much of “Christendom” still finds itself in rebellion with Jesus’ simple yet radical and counter-cultural command to love one’s enemies.

    Jesus asked for two literal swords. They produced two literal Swords.

    Agreed, but what was Jesus’ purpose in asking for them? It was to fulfill the scripture that he would be numbered with transgressors. Please do take the time to read the original post above.

    It amazes me at how so many Christians, believe themselves better then Jesus. The Wine drinking/creating, Table flipping, son of God just isn’t good enough for you.

    Sir, I do not, nor do I know anyone who actually believes they are better than Jesus. It is precisely because I believe Jesus is Lord that I try so hard to understand what he said and obey him. I find no difficulty with drinking wine nor prophetic acts like Jesus’ demonstration in the temple. The question I have for you is whether you have the courage to obey Jesus’ command to love your enemies, turn the cheek, give up your coat, walk the second mile, etc. (Mat. 5.38-48; cf. Luke 6)? Do you obey the apostle Paul who said “never pay back evil for evil” (Rom. 12.17, or when he said, “never take your own revenge” (Rom. 12.19)? Do you obey the apostle Peter who likewise said, “not returning evil for evil or insult for insult…” (1 Pet. 3.9)? My friend, if we are Christians–Christ followers–then what right do we have to ignore these Scriptures? With Christ came a new covenant–a new way of being the people of God–which surpassed the old way–the old covenant. We dare not put new wine into old wineskins or else they will burst (Mark 2.22).

    I personally am a Christian and if God calls me to die for him I will. However if a man is breaking into my home, I will put 21 rounds of Hydroshock through his chest.

    Quite honestly, this is a disturbing confession. So, one should follow Jesus when times are easy but when it gets down to a dangerous situation, then we willingly premeditate flagrant disobedience?

    This interpretation of the Bible is False, and uninspired. It offends me when people try this Jesus was a peaceful victim approach. Jesus is the Son of God, and when he returns he will be anything but pacifist.

    Believing Jesus’ words is not a false interpretation. Jesus was not a victim nor do we advocate passiveness. Pacifism is an activism that seeks to confront and self-sacrificially love our enemies so that they may repent and become our brothers and sisters.

    Is this not one of the lessons from the cross? Did not Christ love us while we were still enemies and die for us (Rom. 5.10)? How can we balk at the very notion that saved us?

    When Jesus returns he will execute the righteous wrath of God. This end-time judgment is yet to come and for now we have been told how to live. If we reject Jesus’ teaching then we reject Jesus and we will be on the receiving end of his judgment.

    You guys are false profits. Its So blatant that you twist the word.

    If you mean “profit” as in making money…we make none from this website. If you mean “prophet” as in Isaiah or Jeremiah, we claim no such distinction. We, just like you, are trying to understand the Scriptures so we can live godly lives.

    But now if you have a purse take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell our cloak and buy one.

    If this article was true then the bible verse would have instead said ” Now if you have a purse, don’t take it. You don’t need it. Nor do you need a sword. Sell it to buy cloths. But you don’t need that either. Nothing has changed for you guys. Even though you needed nothing when you walked with me, you will continue to need nothing. For my leaving you, changes nothing.”

    But it didn’t say that. Shame on you for attempting to change the word of God.

    Your interpretation leaves out two things: (1) the historical context and (2) the prophetic significance of being numbered with the transgressors. Surely, Jesus is not laying down a new principle for discipleship, that we must use swords to share the gospel, is he? No, the key for understanding his statement is the reference to Isaiah along with the historical context which makes clear that his disciples brought the swords to the arrest of Jesus. Peter used the sword and Jesus rebuked him for it. Here is conservative scholar Ben Witherington III’s commentary on this:

    What about the famous text in Lk. 22.36-38 where Jesus seems to advise the disciples to go out and obtain a weapon? Again context is king here. Remember this is the same Jesus who: 1) advised that those who live by the sword will die by the sword and 2) who immediately put a stop to Peter’s violence against the high priest’s slave, and indeed reversed it’s effects by healing the man’s ear. So what is the meaning of this little story, taking into account the larger context of Jesus’ teaching? Vs. 37 is the key where Jesus quotes Is. 53.12—“he was numbered with the transgressors”. Jesus is saying to the disciples—you must fulfill your role as transgressors of what I have taught you!!! They must play the part of those who do exactly the opposite of what Jesus taught them in the Sermon on the Mount. The disciples become transgressors by seeking out weapons and then seeking to use them. This much is perfectly clear from the context for the disciples then go on to say “look Lord here is two swords”. They already have such weapons and Jesus responds in disgust to the fact that they are already transgressing his principles of non-violence by responding “that’s enough” (of this nonsense).

    Clearly, Jesus knew that two swords would not be enough to hold off a Roman legion, so we must take his response as highly ironic not as straight forward. Either he says ironically “oh that will be plenty”, or more likely as I have suggested, he means “that will be enough” of this foolishness. Either way, there is absolutely no endorsement here by Jesus of his followers using weapons. Carrying weapons makes them fulfill the role of transgressors, as the citation of Is. 53.12 makes evident.

    I look forward to hearing back from you.

    grace & peace

  8. Astrix are what you wrote. **

    **The question I have for you is whether you have the courage to obey Jesus’ command to love your enemies, turn the cheek, give up your coat, walk the second mile, etc.**

    Absolutely. I am ready to Die for God. Anytime. I am willing to lay down my .308 AR-10 and allow myself to what ever fate God has in store for me, the second he commands it. I welcome, and pray to be so lucky! I will allow an unarmed man to kill me, while I am armed, if it is Gods will.

    **Furthermore, as kingdom citizens we are dedicated to radical honesty and truthfulness, which is why we launched this website. It is our observation that much of “Christendom” still finds itself in rebellion with Jesus’ simple yet radical and counter-cultural command to love one’s enemies.**

    I love everyone. I love Muslims, gays, and, even people who undertake political blind fold’s and buy into party paradigm control. Its the sin I hate. It is the rejection of truth I lament. But I am not afraid to call it what it is. One thing I am not is PC.

    **Your interpretation leaves out two things: (1) the historical context and (2) the prophetic significance of being numbered with the transgressors. Surely, Jesus is not laying down a new principle for discipleship, that we must use swords to share the gospel, is he? No, the key for understanding his statement is the reference to Isaiah along with the historical context which makes clear that his disciples brought the swords to the arrest of Jesus. Peter used the sword and Jesus rebuked him for it. Here is conservative scholar Ben Witherington III’s commentary on this:**

    Historical Context? The Short Sword was the most Deadly of weapons a man could own. I am VERY aware of Historical Contest and Warfare. It would be todays standard a Civilian owning a Barret .50. Something so unbelievably powerful, or deadly only an army could stop him.

    The Disciples brought swords to arrest Jesus? You are WRONG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The ear of a slave would tell you different. They brought swords because it was common to carry them. Brigands and Highway men happened. However they were not a problem while Jesus walked with them. THAT is the point of him telling them they no longer had that veil of protection.

    Why else would things be so radically different once Jesus Left?

    **If you mean “profit” as in making money…we make none from this website**

    You attack my Grammar? Fair enough. I am not Educated. Belittle me. However this isn’t something you should simple equate to an intellectual debate. You are waging an eternity in hell on some “radical” idea. Know the price you will have to pay if you are wrong. Finding some Grammatical error on a forum or thread is NOTHING in comparison to the wage you set.

    **Again context is king here. Remember this is the same Jesus who: 1) advised that those who live by the sword will die by the sword **

    Ooh Rah! One good way to go. Fighting for Jesus, Never backing down. Telling a King to his face he is wrong. I will find Victory in being beheaded! Praise God for the Honor!

    **2) who immediately put a stop to Peter’s violence against the high priest’s slave, and indeed reversed it’s effects by healing the man’s ear.**
    Jesus put a stop to it. And immediately after, he explains WHY, he put a stop to it. Which you are trying to pervert scripture to change.

    So what did Jesus say directly after the eat was cut off in Matthew 26:51 and 52?

    “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?”

    He didn’t NEED protection. Neither Worldly, nor divine intervention. He accepted this as it was the sacrifice needed and required to save us from out own sins. He was saying he accepts his fate, and the sword wasn’t necessary.

    “But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?”

    He was saying IT HAS TO HAPPEN.

    “At that time Jesus said to the crowd, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me.”

    Jesus wanted it to be clear he wasn’t arrested for any reason. He had broken no law, or lead no rebellion. Thus the sword was put away.

    I will continue to live the life as a Christian as God has put before me. I will live off my land, and spread the word of God. Not this PC “your ok, I’m ok” garbage. I wont tell Christians to bend over and be weak. Jesus Wasn’t weak. A sacrifice is being in the position to say no, but you allow yourself to die anyways. THAT is a sacrifice. Not this unarmed, weakling, that ignores every part of the bible, but the ones that are convenient.

    As a Father, a Man, and a Christian, I will defend my family, and promote Christianity Truth Even if it isn’t popular or convenient.

  9. Two swords. Command in spirit by dominion over all principalities of darkness and satan himself. And Command of the scriptural words. TWO SWORDS!

  10. There is much deeper meaning to this verse. The word of God is sharper than any two edged sword. This is found in the bible, Hebrews to be exact. In this verse is also the word “sword” and “two”. if we rightly divide the word of God based on keywords, we see these verses are related. Jesus is telling us the word of god is enough. Ephesians also tells us the sword of the spirit is the word of God. The sword in the bible represents the word of god. If we have the word of God abiding with us/in us, this is enough.

  11. The poor apostles; they were hopelessly confused right up to the end of Jesus’ 3 years of travels and teaching Peter was so confused that he cut off the ear of the high priests servant who came out to arrest him, then he denied that he even knew him! No wonder we are confused today about this line in Luke.

    The apostles probably were very afraid after Jesus’ prediction of his terrible death at the Last Supper, but Luke is really telling us about Isaiah’s prediction “And he was numbered with the transgressors, and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me.” So as Jesus was sending them out, he gives them freedom to bring along some money and to sell their coat (it was Spring) and buy a knife—the handiest tool they could own back then. (Of course the Romans wouldn’t allow a band of men to be walking around carrying big, clunky fighting swords. It was their job to keep the peace, and they probably did it well for the territory, as long as people paid their taxes.)

    Once the apostles got over their fear for their lives they lived with the courage Jesus taught and look what happened to them: Ancient stories and legends of the lives of the apostles tell us that eleven of them were martyred. Only John wasn’t, but he was persecuted and had a miraculous escape. Very curiously, no one knows of a single story of any of them fighting back or defending themselves. Either they never did or people were too embarrassed to retell it and the story died.

  12. Does this view of pacifism extend to the government/military? What is your understanding of Rom. 13:1-7.

    4. “For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. “

  13. Dan,

    Thanks for your question. Romans 12 clearly outlines the behavior of Christians and Romans 13 outlines the behavior of governments. Christians are not to ever take revenge or return evil for evil, but instead overcome evil with good. Governments are to use violence (the sword) for the sake of justice. This is why Christians did not allow government officials to be baptized in the early centuries (cf. Hippolytus of Rome).

  14. Jesus ment for his diciples to carry swords for self defence just as in the old testament .To say otherwise would be to contadict Gods word .Jesus would not say anything that went against the old testament.They were never ment for forcing people to become beleivers.
    Nowhere does God ban the use of weopons or self defence.He only urges self restaint

    • Jesus came to fulfill the law. The word of God is our sword. “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.” If your love of arms is more then a love of peace and your neighbors as Paul and the Lord Christ Jesus preached then God does ban weapons, like he bans anything that gets in the way of worship of Himself and the Son.

  15. I’m not a scholar, but when you claim, “very explicitly, Jesus equates the carrying of a sword with being a transgressor” I don’t see how the verse supports your statement. It seems pretty obvious that Jesus’ quote of Isaiah is in reference to Him needing to be killed as one of us, the transgressors. As others have pointed out in comments, there are a couple of thoughts going on in these verses–prepare yourselves for my leaving, I am fulfilling prophesy, and now is not the time to fight since preventing my death will prevent salvation.

    Sorry, but This verse does not seem to support your proof-text.

  16. The idea of having two swords does seem to be directly connected to the concept of “being numbered with the transgressors.” First, the original prophecy in Isa. 53:4 says ,”We ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted.” Verse 12 says, “He poured out Himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors… And interceded for the transgressors.” I believe there may be at least two fulfillments of this prophecy, as there is in the case of some other prophecies. When Judas approached the Jewish authorities with the final details of how to arrest Jesus away from the crowds, I’m sure he strengthened his case by citing the fact that there were weapons in the group (swords), and that some had short tempers and would likely resist (i.e., Peter and the “sons of thunder”). This would explain why John mentions that not only were the officers from the chief priests and Pharisees present, but that a Roman battalion (John 18:3) and a chiliarch (Joh 18:12) were there for back-up. This could have represented anywhere from 600 to 1000 soldiers. The apostles could certainly have qualifed as being viewed as the “transgressors.” As for Jesus interceding for them, we can find that in such places as Luke 22:31-32 and John 17:9.
    A second fulfilment is seen in the company in which Jesus was found as He hung upon the cross. He was numbered wth two robbers (Luke 23:32). He intereceded for one of them (Luke 23:43). The scribes of many early manuscripts believed so strongly that this scene was the fulfillment of Isa. 53:12 that they inserted the prophecy in Mark 15:28 as part of the text.

  17. Thanks a lot for this explanation, it is indeed an eye opener. May God richly bless you.

  18. Very interesting discussion. I have no contention with the notion of loving one’s enemies, but I’m not sure the interpretation of the passage in this article is entirely correct. It seems to me that Jesus rebuked his disciples not (at least specifically) for using violence to defend their friend and Master but for attempting to obstruct God’s plan, since Jesus’ death was required for the salvation of mankind. I agree with C.S. Lewis with the admittedly somewhat radical notion that it is possible to love someone and still kill them if absolutely necessary. For example, a friend of mine and I actually had this discussion recently. He asked me “If [my other best friend and mutual friend of ours] went crazy [from the pains he's suffered recently] and decided to start shooting up a place and you were there with your gun, would you shoot him?” Without hesitation my reply was “yes.” I love my friend and certainly don’t want him to die but if he was gunning down innocent bystanders I would have put the safety of others above my friendship with him and stop him at any cost. I would probably warn him first but if he made any sudden moves I would be obligated to shoot him. I and this other friend have even told just about as much to each other. When we were watching the Walking Dead, we saw a character demonstrate dangerous corruption, threatening th e lives of people who were just trying to help them. I turned to my friend and said (and meant) “If we ever find the country in a desperate situation and I as a result become that guy, I want you to kill me.”
    “Same,” he replied.
    I could not risk the continued murder of many over the life of one, or even one over the life of one if the latter was the instigator. I could not possibly allow someone to be murdered while I had to ability to stop it. And if for some reason I did nothing, I’m sure I could never forgive myself. Thoughts?

  19. Hey Thanks for posting this. I’ve always loved the example and writing of these guys. Do you have any idea where I can find the unabridged version of the Romans 13 article from Jesus for president? Their website jesusforpresident.org isn’t maintained anymore. Thx


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