Why Did Jesus Tell His Disciples to Buy Swords?

Why did Jesus command his disciples to buy swords in Luke 22:38?

Now, however,” He told them, “the one with a purse should take it, and likewise a bag; and the one without a sword should sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in Me: ‘And He was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about Me is reaching its fulfillment.”

So they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.”

“That is enough,” He answered. (Lk 22:36-38)

A lot of people assume that it was in order to defend themselves, and use this as an argument for warfare and liberal gun laws. But if it’s one thing we can be sure of, it is that Jesus definitely didn’t intend the swords to be used for self-defense.

See, when a disciple (according to the Gospel of John, it was Peter) later uses one of these very swords for self-defense, Jesus rebukes him:

When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear.

But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him. (vv. 49-51)

I bet Peter was quite surprised by this. The very reason he struck the ear was that it would fall off, and now Jesus insists on putting it on again!

According to Matthew, Jesus pointed out to Peter that he doesn’t need violence to be protected:

“Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?” (Mt 26:52-54)

When the Savior later met with Pontius Pilate, he pointed out that his disciples wouldn’t fight because of the nature of his Kingdom:

“My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.” (Jn 18:26)

Some have suggested that while Jesus didn’t want his disciples to use the swords in order to stop his arrest, he did want them to use them for self-defense later. But this is not supported by the text.

Jesus says that two swords are “enough”, which doesn’t make much sense if these swords are supposed to protect all eleven apostles or even the whole church (which in a few weeks’ time would encompass over 3000 people). Furthermore, These swords, or any other swords, never show up again in the forthcoming narrative. Luke also wrote the book of Acts, and the only swords there are used to persecute and kill Christians (like James in chapter 12).

If the disciples had been armed, they would had at least tried to kill persecutors like Paul. Instead, it seems like they loved their enemies and turned the other cheek, allowing Paul to be converted by a supernatural vision instead.

Also, note that Jesus told his disciples in Lk 22:36 that it was so vital that they had swords that they sold their cloaks to get one. This clearly expresses urgency and importance. The cloak was among the last thing one sold in Biblical times, especially travellers were very vulnerable without cloaks. Jesus isn’t expressing long-term usage of swords, but that they immediately need them around.

But why?

If there’s nothing in the text that supports the idea that the swords were used for self-defense, what were they used for? There are a number of alternatives. Some have argued that Jesus spoke about spiritual, metaphorical swords, that they would get ready for spiritual battle. When they mistook him to speak about literal swords, he cuts them off, and later rebukes them when they use literal swords for self-defense.

Another similar theory is that he knew that they would take him to mean literal swords, and so he let them act out on their mistake so that they would learn that spiritual swords are the only ones that matter.

Personally, I don’t think Jesus talked about spiritual swords. But I don’t think he wanted literal swords to be used violently, either. Pay attention to the motivation he gives when he has just commanded the disciples to buy swords:

For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in Me: ‘And He was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about Me is reaching its fulfillment.

This quote from Isiah is the key to this text. Jesus would be numbered with transgressors. That’s why he wants the disciples to buy swords. I believe he plays prophetic theater, just like he does when he rides a donkey into Jerusalem or when he picks twelve apostles. He fulfills and reinforces prophecy not just in his words, but in his actions.

You may have another theory on why Jesus gave this command, and that’s perfectly OK. But I hope I have shown you that the theory of self-defense doesn’t match with this narrative: it’s a modern idea that the biblical text doesn’t support.

Micael Grenholm is a Swedish pastor, author and editor for PCPJ.

ska%cc%88rmavbild-2017-01-06-kl-21-17-02Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice is a multicultural, gender inclusive, and ecumenical organization that promotes peace, justice, and reconciliation work among Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians around the world. If you like what we do, please become a member!

26 thoughts on “Why Did Jesus Tell His Disciples to Buy Swords?”

  1. Jesus rebuked Peter for striking with the sword, because Peter was acting in defense of Jesus. There is no need to protect Jesus – anything would only happen to Jesus if He would allow it. This does not reflect on a mortal person or follow defending themselves or other innocent life. We have that responsibility.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I see what you mean. However, when Jesus rebukes him he seems to point to a universal principle of not using swords (Matthew 26:52). We see no swords being used by Christians in Acts, even when the church is persecuted. And the crucial question is of course if we really love our enemies and turn the other cheeks when we try to kill others?



      1. Uh, no. He tells Peter to put his sword, “in it’s place”. He does not say to rid of it.


      2. And turning the other cheek is not a passive affair at all. When the other cheek is turned, the assailant would find it necessary to strike the other cheek with the open hand, as opposed to the back of the hand as on the prior strike. To use the open side of the hand was a punishable criminal offense against another citizen and would subject him to punishment.

        Same goes for a Roman soldier to order someone to run further than a mile, that would be against the law and subject the soldier to punishment.

        If you gave your cloak, you would be NAKED! In the days of scripture, it was not a disgrace to be seen naked, but on the contrary the disgrace was upon the OBSERVER of the nakedness! As such the shame of Ham when he saw his father’s nakedness as he was naked in his tent.


      3. This quote from Isiah is the key to this text. Jesus would be numbered with transgressors. That’s why he wants the disciples to buy swords. I believe he plays prophetic theater, just like he does when he rides a donkey into Jerusalem or when he picks twelve apostles. He fulfills and reinforces prophecy not just in his words, but in his actions.

        What does having a sword have to do with Jesus being numbered with transgressors,,,,unless it was illegal to have sword,,,but then you did not explain that. Which way is it?


      4. Barnes’ Notes on the Bible
        Thy sword into his place – Into the sheath.
        For all they that take the sword … – This passage is capable of different significations.

        1. They who resist by the sword the civil magistrate shall be punished; and it is dangerous, therefore, to oppose those who come with the authority of the civil ruler.

        2. These men, Jews and Romans, who have taken the sword against the innocent, shall perish by the sword. God will take vengeance on them.

        3. However, the most satisfactory interpretation is that which regards it as a caution to Peter. Peter was rash. Alone he had attacked the whole band. Jesus told him that his unseasonable and imprudent defense might be the occasion of his own destruction. In doing it he would endanger his life, for they who took the sword perished by it. This was probably a proverb, denoting that they who engaged in wars commonly perished there.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Seems every forgets that David conquered nations with a sword and was favored by God.


      6. The conclusions you draw in your article don’t seem to make logical sense. For what other reason would Jesus tell his disciples to bring a weapon with them if not to protect themselves from criminals and murderers?


    2. I totally agree with this Arthur, concerning Jesus just fulfilling biblical prophecy. But, the war of Armageddon will the Christians fight against sinner’s of the world?


      1. Christians have no command to fight any war. Perhaps that command will come. We are commanded to obey our Earthly government orders. Jesus brought the law of Heaven, not the law to rule in Earth over other men. There is only Sharia law to ensure the collapse of Earthly governments. Revelation 12, John 14 verse 30, Matthew 24….. the sealed scroll of Daniel 12 is the Quran.


    3. Jesus brought law for the Kingdom Heaven. Not the law to rule over other men on Earth. Jesus was a slave to His Father and set the example for us to follow in order to inherit eternal life.. Faith. Men fight wars to preserve their way of life and protect their families. There is no command of Jesus to do that at all. Islam has the law to rule by terror. Any man can rule by terror. That is Satan’s way from the temptation in Matthew 4. Mohammad accepted the offer that Jesus declined. Jesus warned us he would. John 14 verse 30…Revelation 12 to 20. And others as well…. Matthew 24 is one. Ephesians 6….17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.


  2. Jesus instructs His disciples to not use swords as He sends them out to proclaim the Gospel.

    This statement does not apply to other possible life events. We are to protect innocent life. In the process of protecting innocence, death might be an unintended consequence of whatever level of force was required to stop the offensive action.


    1. Jesus’ words and actions are not contradictory. Jesus’ didn’t want them to pick up a sword against the soldiers, because “how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?” Nor was Jesus ruling out that there would be other times His followers might need the swords for defense. These are two different situations and call for two different responses. As Ecclesiastes teaches there is a time and a season for everything under the sun, including war and peace.


  3. Yep, funny how Jesus can clearly reference defending yourself as normal and expected but gun grabbers still seek to deceive….


      1. Democrats are not liberals – they are Leftists, and this is quite a different thing.


      2. Jesus set an example fornus all in his judicious use of Violence.
        He was not by all accounts a Rowdy Fellow, but was also not above using violence when he feltmitmwas called for.

        On more than one occasion Jesus visited violence upon the bankers in a temple and even fashioned an Whip out of a cord or rope with which to effect a deterrent force upon the assembled crowd.

        The swords Jesus advised his crew to start packing were defacto outward signs of projected force, whether they were ever unsheathed or not.

        He did not tell people to sell their most valuable possession to acquire a sword just as a fashion statement, or to use as a can opener.

        Swords were the AK-47 of the era. Not just everyone could afford such a weapon, and those who had one were given a wide berth.

        When the dirty dozen dozen of western lore breezed into a town, packing their six guns, they commanded respect and nobody gave them any gruff.

        They mere lresence of weapons gave them license to behave as they wished without asking leave from the locals.

        Jesus projected that power for good, whereas the Western dirty dozen were ruffians who would barge into a saloon and tip over tables and cause half the leople to run out of there in fear of their lives.


  4. Interesting how Jesus mentions “12 legions of angels” . A legion was 6,000 men and Legion was the name of the spirit who was inside the man in Mark 5:9. Therefore Jesus said he could ask his Father for 72,000 angels to defend him. All this is symbolic and not a literal thing.


  5. its passive christianity that led to our countrys fall. if our armed forces or george washington was passive we wouldnt even be in this country enjoying the freedoms the blood got us. God also TOOK the land, he wasnt just into self defence. there is a time to pray, but there is also a time for us to fight for whats right, and there are many biblical principles for that. standing up to die for talking about jesus is one thing. not standing up against pro abortions or protecting the innocent God will actually judge YOU for. there is a reason we have a police force. its not heaven here. we have to actually arrest people not just turn the cheek. God even appointed judges. he isnt into just letting the courrpt having their way. he doesnt like when people do nothing about it either. prayer is good but its not the only thing you do. therwise you better disband the military, the police, and never bother to evangelize because God will just do it all for you.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Jesus says, “..for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.”
    MATT 26:52

    We all die. Jesus does not make any judgement relating to dying by the sword. There is no declaration that dying by the sword is a bad thing or even sinful.

    It’s just a matter of fact, and maybe it would not be one’s first choice as a path to the after life.


  7. What about the second sword? Every thing written in the Scripture has a reason for it! I believe that Judas did not hang himself from a tree with a rope, but he fell upon or impaled himself upon that second sword thus the better explanation or understanding of his falling head first onto the ground with his guts spilling out. The word hang is used also for crucifixion and impalement.


  8. There is no doubt that Jesus would use the swords for a teaching moment later,.. While He knew ,and certainly wanted His disciples to know that at that moment of His arrest they were not to use physical force to try and prevent what was critical, and that was His Father’s will to go to the cross…In the disciple’s mind it was all about overthrowing Romans now that the Christ had come,,,They were looking for a kingdom taken by force and physical weapon’s…Jesus I believe told them to bring swords as a teaching moment…” That is enough”…


  9. Truly a weak analysis. There is a case to be made that when Jesus said enough, it was to mean enough of this discussion. He was rapid firing though various important things He was saying to the disciples.

    Peter was not acting defensively but offensively and against an official of state. His actions could be seen as insurrection.

    The context of the verses makes it crystal clear he was talking about their defense. Jesus compares to the first time He sent them out when they needed nothing. But this time they will need to be prepared and will need to be ready to defend themselves, because the cross is going to change everything. People will rise against them from here on out.

    This writer is clearly seeking to preserve the pacifist line that Jesus was a gentle, passive wimp that hates the 2nd amendment. He was clearly not any of those things. He was a man of peace in a world of war. He knows what we are up against, and He does not ask that we bow to evil. Quite the contrary.


  10. Hi there I ask is anyone in any doubt about what a purse and a bag is used for them let us be in no doubt what a sword is used for its used to defend and attack. The bible says that there is a time to kill in Ecclesiastes 3:3. Also in Romans 13 :4 the authorities bear the sword not without purpose. I think therefore a Christian can join the army and kill his enemies as long as it’s a lawful war .


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