Can you explain Luke 22:36? Why does Jesus counsel the disciples to buy swords?
Luke 22:36-38 Then He (Jesus) said to them, "But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one. 37 "For I say to you that this which is written must still be accomplished in Me: ‘And He was numbered with the transgressors.’ For the things concerning Me have an end." 38 So they said, "Lord, look, here are two swords." And He said to them, "It is enough."
To understand this, we need to look at a few more scriptures.
1. The parallel accounts of Peter using his sword to cut off Malchus’ ear. Jesus rebukes him and heals Malchus
Matthew 26:51,52 And suddenly, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword, struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear. 52 But Jesus said to him, "Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.
Mark 14:47,48 And one of those who stood by drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear. 48 Then Jesus answered and said to them, "Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs to take Me?
Luke 22:49-51 When those around Him saw what was going to happen, they said to Him, "Lord, shall we strike with the sword?" 50 And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. 51 But Jesus answered and said, "Permit even this." And He touched his ear and healed him.
John 18:10 Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus. 11 So Jesus said to Peter, "Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?"
From this we understand that Jesus was not intending them to fight with the sword.
2. Jesus’ words that convinced Pilate that he was innocent of fermenting an insurrection because he forbade his followers to fight.
John 18:36 Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.
Jesus’ followers would not fight in this world.
3. Jesus’ instruction to his apostles to be as harmless as doves.
Matthew 10:16 Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.
They were to harm no one.
4. Jesus tells them to flee persecution, not fight it.
Matthew 10:23 When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
From these examples we conclude that Jesus was not telling them to buy swords. Jesus often spoke using words not to be taken literally but to be understood as having a spiritual meaning which needed deciphering.
Example 1 Leaven represents false doctrine.
Matthew 16:6-12 Then Jesus said to them, "Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees." 7 And they reasoned among themselves, saying, "It is because we have taken no bread." 8 But Jesus, being aware of it, said to them, "O you of little faith, why do you reason among yourselves because you have brought no bread? 9 "Do you not yet understand, or remember the five loaves of the five thousand and how many baskets you took up? 10 "Nor the seven loaves of the four thousand and how many large baskets you took up? 11 "How is it you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread? —but to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees." 12 Then they understood that He did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
Example 2 Eating his flesh and drinking his blood must be understood as living by his commandments.
John 6:51-59 I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world." 52 The Jews therefore quarrelled among themselves, saying, "How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?" 53 Then Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. 54 "Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 "For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. 56 "He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 57 "As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. 58 "This is the bread which came down from heaven—not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever." 59 These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum. 60 Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, "This is a hard saying; who can understand it?"
Example 3. Temple to be understood and his body.
John 2:19-21 Jesus answered and said to them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." 20 Then the Jews said, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?" 21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body.
What then does he mean by a sword? We find the answer in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians:
Ephesians 6:17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;
They were to equip themselves to preach the word of God which was more important than anything else that they possessed.
Philippians 3:8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.
Those who believe the Gospel and are baptised into Jesus Christ are not to fight. They are to love their enemies and turn the other cheek and leave all retribution to God.
Matthew 5:44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,
2 Timothy 2:24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel (Greek: fight) but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient
Romans 12:19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord.
I hope you find this helpful.