WHAT DO THE SWORDS IN LUKE 22:38 REPRESENT?
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“Sell your cloak [if you cannot afford] to buy a sword,” Jesus commanded His disciples just before He went to pray in Gethsemane. “Are you the [political] king of the Jews?” Pontius Pilate demanded the very next day. “My Kingdom is not of this world,” Jesus declared. “If My Kingdom were of this world, My servants would [physically] fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My Kingdom is not from here. [It is a Spiritual Kingdom, and has no earthly origin, source, or political aspirations,]” (Jn. 18:36.)
Ž So, what was Jesus really saying in Luke 22:36?
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Ž What can the two swords between eleven disciples “being enough” possibly mean?
Ž Is it a commandment to defend ourselves physically when in danger?
Ž How could Jesus tell Peter that same night, “Put away your sword. He who lives by the sword will die by the sword?”
Ž And why did Jesus tell Pilate the next day that His disciples will not physically fight to protect Him from crucifixion?
Ž Are the two swords an allegory of “selling” everything to get “the Sword of the Spirit;” God’s Word?
Ž Are the two swords a symbol of Jesus’ Truth that will separate even those in one household — the “two edged sword?”
TO UNDERSTAND SCRIPTURE, THE CONTEXT OF EVERY VERSE IN THE BIBLE IS MOST IMPORTANT
The Bible was given to us in two very different Testaments or Covenants for a very good reason. Our entire understanding of the Bible depends on this fact. All churches blend the two covenants to bind believers to a physical building as “the house of god,” (read Acts 7:48,) where they extort time, money, and service from believers to enrich and glorify themselves. This was Paul’s fight “with those from the circumcision,” who came to Jesus of the New Covenant, but kept to the ceremonial temple laws of the old covenant as well. Eph. 5:1-6, “Stand fast in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with an [old covenant] yoke of bondage… If you [conform to Judaist law,] Christ will profit you nothing... You who attempt to be justified by [Messianic Judaism,] have fallen from grace…”
The Old Testament only pertained (past tense] to God’s Old Testament covenant with the Hebrew nation; all Gentiles or other nations excluded. Jesus ministered to the Hebrews under the Old Testament Covenant before the cross and Pentecost. Thus, He tried to turn Israel’s attention away from the Old Covenant, which would be utterly fulfilled and done away with to establish His Eternal New Testament Covenant at Golgotha, to include true believers from all the Gentile or non-Hebrew nations as well, (Mt. 5:17; Jn. 1:1-14; 3:16; Heb. 8:13, chapters 7-9.)
During the Old Covenant, the Holy Spirit could not indwell anyone except Jesus because the old temple sacrifices only “covered” the sin of the Israelites as symbols of the Perfect Sacrifice, the Lamb of God, Who was to come, (Jn. 1:29.) That is why the Spirit only “came upon” Old Testament leaders to do miracles. Before the cross, no one could be spiritually born again “from darkness into God’s [Kingdom of] Light,” (1 Pt. 2:9-10.) Only after the cross, all true believers from all the tribes, tongues and nations could be completely “washed” by Jesus’ blood atonement in their place, (Jn. 3:16-17; Col. 2:11-14; Rev. 1:5-8.) Thus, only at Pentecost, the Holy Spirit, for the first time in all of history until the end of this world, fully and constantly indwelt Jesus’ blood-cleansed believers as His temple on earth, (Mt. 28:18-20; Rom. 8:9; 1 Jn. 2:27.)
Because Jesus’ entire earthly ministry was in the time before the cross and Pentecost, the Hebrews were still subject to indwelling demons, as they could not experience Jesus’ blood-cleansing atonement and Holy-Spirit indwelling. The Holy Spirit still, before the cross, only “came upon” them because the “Spirit was not yet given, [at Pentecost,]” (Jn. 7:37-39.)
JESUS’ COMMISSIONS TO ‘THE SEVENTY’ AND ‘THE TWELVE’ BEFORE THE CROSS AND PENTECOST
In Luke Chapter 10, as a demonstration of what was to come for all true believers from all nations after the cross and Pentecost, Jesus commissioned seventy disciples to minister the power of His coming New Testament Covenant to the Hebrew nation. He did not send them out as hyper-anointed supermen, but “as lambs among wolves,” to preach His “peace” or coming New Covenant Gospel, and His miracles “followed” them. They told all those who would experience His power through personal faith in, and acceptance of Him, that “The Kingdom of God has come near to them,” as the Kingdom of God could still not be “within them” until after the cross and Pentecost, (Mark 16:15-18; Lu. 17:21 Kjv.)
The Seventy were to carry no provisions; relying completely on God’s provision. They were not to greet anyone on their way, as their commission was so urgent. Those who would refuse to accept Jesus’ peace and healing, actually refused Jesus, God Himself. So, the Seventy had to “wipe their dust off their feet against them [as a testimony that they chose to remain in darkness, bondage, and under the curse without the Savior God. Because they rejected Jesus,] it will be more tolerable for Sodom, [Tyre, and Sidon] in That Day, [when everyone must give and account at Jesus’ return, than for these Hebrews.]” Those who reject the truth and powerful ministry of Jesus will receive a “greater condemnation” than the citizens of those cities, (Lu. 10:8-16.) The Seventy returned rejoicing, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your Name.” But He warned, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I give you the authority to temple [on demons,] and over ALL the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means harm you. But do not rejoice that demons are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”
In Mt. 10, Jesus then commissioned “the Twelve,” saying, “Do not go [to] the Gentiles [because His mission remained focused on the Old Covenant Hebrews, Jn. 1:1-14...] Preach that the Kingdom of God is at hand, [as the cross and Pentecost were now much closer. Now, as a clearer example of New Covenant discipleship, the Twelve had to go beyond the Seventy’s commission, and also] cleanse the [physical and spiritual] lepers, raise the [spiritual and physical dead,] and cast out demons, [which still indwelt the Hebrews, as they were not yet washed in Jesus’ blood and indwelt with His Spirit.] Freely you have received, freely give.”
Just as the Seventy, the Twelve also had to carry no provisions because God would provide for them. And just as the Seventy, they also had to “shake the dust from their feet” from all those who refused to accept Jesus and His New Covenant Gospel of Truth. A “stricter judgement” will also overcome these blasphemers in the judgment than the judgment that befell the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. The Twelve were also sent “as sheep in the midst of wolves. Thus, [they had to be] as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves.”
Then, The Savior extended this commission to the Twelve and all His other disciples to after Pentecost, saying, “Beware of men, for you will [be falsely accused in synagogues and churches, and politically persecuted unto death — 2 Cor 11:23-33; 1 Pt. 4:7-11.] But as you are delivered up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. It will be given to you in that hour what you should say, because [after Pentecost] the Spirit of your Father would speak in you...”
JESUS FINAL COMMISSION TO ALL HIS DISCIPLES WORLDWIDE AFTER THE CROSS AND PENTECOST
However, in Lu. 22:35-38, just before Jesus went to pray in Gethsemane, He asked the Eleven, [Judas fell away,] “When I sent you without [provisions] did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” Then He commanded, “[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. [The context of this passage is the two previous commissions of Jesus’ disciples. And here is the vital verse, which most interpreters of Scripture miss: verse 37,] For I say to you that [the Scriptures] must still be [fulfilled] in Me: ‘He was numbered with the transgressors.’ [Paraphrased, Jesus warned, ‘On your third mission, the unbelieving world I will commission you to enter will do the same to you, (Mt. 28:18-20.)’]” So they said, “Lord, here are [only] two swords [and we are eleven men.]” The disciples were used to carrying swords and Jesus never objected, although He never carried a sword. He answered them, “[Two swords are] enough.”
The meaning of this conversation is straightforward.
Contextually, this cannot be a mere metaphor. It is also a parable.
Ž The missions of the Seventy and the Twelve symbolize the first sword of the disciples before the cross. By first sending His disciples out on two missions without any money, provisions, or physical protection, the Holy Spirit taught them to fully rely on His encompassing provision. Jesus asked if they lacked anything during those missions, and they answered, “Nothing.” So, the previous two missions forever settled the certainty that God’s supernatural provision is “enough” under all circumstances.
But now, schooled in complete reliance upon the provision of God, the situation was changing. After the cross and Pentecost, they obediently had to go beyond Israel’s borders to proclaim Jesus’ Gospel to the whole world, (Mt. 28:18-20.)
Ž The second sword is their personal responsibility to take care of themselves as far as possible while relying totally on the First Sword. Accordingly, they had to carry their own purses. Paul testified, “We did not eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but worked day and night not to be a burden to anyone… to make ourselves an example of those who would follow us...” (2 Ths. 3:8-10; 1 Tim. 5:8.)
Ž Furthermore, in fulfilling their worldwide commission, they had to remember that Jesus also told them to carry backpacks to provide for their physical needs, (Lu. 22:35.) Paul, for one, wrote in 2 Cor. 11:23-33, “I am in labors… stripes.. prisons… deaths… stoned… shipwrecked… in perils of robbers [and everything else…] weariness… sleeplessness… hunger… thirst… nakedness…” God took care of Paul on a supernatural level, but we can be certain that Paul did not face those dangers without his backpack. Acts 18:3-7, “[Paul stayed with Aquila and Pricilla and worked with Aquila as they were both tentmakers.] And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath to persuade [the Hebrews to accept Jesus as The Savior that was prophesied in the Old Testament.] But when they opposed him and blasphemed, he departed [and went to the Gentiles with the Gospel.]” No one goes on such a journey without carrying a ‘backpack.’
Ž Likewise, in this dangerous world on such a death-defying mission, Jesus plainly warned that it is so important to carry a sword to defend themselves, they should sell some of their necessities such as clothing to buy a sword. There is no doubt that Jesus was speaking of a physical sword. Yet, as with all other things, this literal sword can only operate in combination with the First Spiritual Sword. Furthermore, the second sword only pertains to human capabilities in certain situations and not to situations that warrant suffering in God’s will. Hence, the second sword or the vigilance and human resources of the disciples, the physical sword they must carry, was also “enough”
CONCLUSION — WHEN NOT TO UNSEATHE THE SECOND SWORD
While Jesus said that circumstances and His disciples’ responses to danger would drastically change after the cross and Pentecost, He was not suggesting that they were to use force to extend the Gospel, or to do their own will even while under threat. There is indeed a time and a definite command to physically defend ourselves on a multilevel, should circumstances call for physical action. We must, for instance, also lock our doors and guard our spiritual, emotional, and physical gates. The first commandment God gave Adam when He placed him in Eden, was to “tend and keep [or work and protect]” the garden, (Gen. 2:15.) “The garden” now translates into everything that pertains to our lives on a spiritual, emotional, and physical level. However, only God can provide for us and protect us supernaturally.
There is also a time to suffer for righteousness in the will of God, (2 Tim. 3:12,) as Jesus proved when He was arrested in Gethsemane. In Lu. 22:49, totally outnumbered, His disciples were nonetheless ready to defend Him and asked, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” And before Jesus could answer, Peter drew his sword and cut off Malchus’ ear. But Jesus said, “Put your sword back into its sheath. [Jesus did not even suggest that Peter should dispose of his sword, but healed the man because Peter blundered the situation.] Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me? (Jn. 18:10-11.) All who live by the sword [or rely on self-defence alone,] will perish by the sword [without God’s will and supernatural protection.] Do you think that… My Father cannot provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels [to protect Me?] But how could the Scriptures be fulfilled if this does not happen now? [There is a time to suffer for righteousness in God’s will, when self-defence is utterly inappropriate,]” (Mt. 26:51-54.)
The two swords operate for us from the spirit world where God’s throne is seated, and in this natural world through our own watchfulness and human capabilities. In combination, they are there to provide for, and protect us under all circumstances according to God’s sovereign will for every situation.
Ž Read the book, illustrative of this study: What Meddling Parents can do to Adult Children