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WHAT DO THE  SWORDS IN LUKE 22:38 REPRESENT?  

Renette Vermeulen

 

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[Acknowledgement to the person who compiled and published this image] 

 

“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, when He commanded His disciples to “sell your cloak to buy a sword?”

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Ž  What can the two swords between eleven disciples “being enough,” possibly mean? 

Ž  Is Luke 22:38 a commandment to extend Christianity to build a “physical” Kingdom of God through war and bloodshed

Ž  Is it a commandment to defend ourselves physically when in danger? 

Ž  Why then did 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 analogy 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?” 

 

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 good reason.  Our understanding of the Bible depends on this fact.  All churches blend these two separate covenants to bind believers to a physical building as the house of god,” (Acts 7:44-50,) 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 accepted Jesus of the New Covenant, but kept to the ousted, ceremonial or ritual temple laws of the old covenant as well, (Heb. 8:13.)  He commanded in Ephesians 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 ceremonial, Judaist temple laws,] Christ will profit you nothing... You who attempt to be justified by [Messianic Judaism and other church ritualism] have fallen from [the New Covenant] grace [in Jesus Christ]” 

The Old Testament only pertained (past tense) to God’s Old Covenant with the Hebrew nation; all Gentiles or non-Hebrew nations excluded.  So, the Man Jesus ministered to the Hebrews under the Old Testament Covenant before the cross and Pentecost, (Jn. 1:1-14.)  During that time, 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; Col. 2:9-10.That is why the Old Hebrews were still subject to indwelling demons; they could not experience Jesus’ blood-cleansing atonement and Holy-Spirit indwelling because the “Spirit was not yet given, [at Pentecost after Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension,]” (Jn. 7:37-39.)  The Holy Spirit still, before the cross, only “came upon” them as no one could be spiritually born again “from darkness into God’s [Kingdom of] Light, to be the holy temple of the indwelling Holy Spirit, (1 Pt. 2:9-10; 1 Cor. 6:15-20.) 

Thus, Jesus 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, (non-Hebrew,) nations as well, (Mt. 5:17; Jn. 3:16; Heb. 8:13, chapters 7-9.)  Hence, only after the cross, all true believers from all the tribes, tongues, and nations, (Israel as well,) could be completely “washed” by Jesus’ blood atonement in their place, through personal faith in Him, (Jn. 3:16-17; Col. 2:9-15; Rev. 1:5-8.)  After that, at Pentecost, the Holy Spirit, for the first time in all of history until the end of this world, fully and constantly indwelt (and indwells) Jesus’ blood-cleansed believers as His spiritual, fully “anointed,” holy temple on earth, (Mt. 28:18-20; Rom. 8:9; 1 Jn. 2:20, 27.

 

JESUS’ FIRST COMMISSION TO ‘THE SEVENTY’ 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 [effortlessly] “followed them, (Mark 16:15-18.)  They told all those who would experience His power through personal faith in, and acceptance of Him,The Kingdom of God has come near to you,as the Kingdom of God could still not be “within them” until after the cross and Pentecost, (Lu. 17:21 KJV.)  

The Seventy were to carry no provisions; relying completely on God’s care.  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 God Himself.  So, The Seventy had to “wipe their dust off their feet against them [as a testimony that those people 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.]”  Those who reject the truth and power of Jesus will receive a “greater condemnation” than the citizens of those cities received, (Lu. 10:8-16.) 

When The Seventy returned, they rejoiced, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your Name.” 

But Jesus warned, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.  I gave you the authority to trample [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.” 

 

JESUS’ SECOND COMMISSION TO ‘THE TWELVE’ BEFORE THE CROSS AND PENTECOST 

Next, in Matthew chapter 10, Jesus commissioned The Twelve, saying, “Do not go [to] the Gentiles [because before the cross and Pentecost, His mission remained focused on the Old Testament/Covenant Hebrews, Jn. 1:1-14.] Preach that the Kingdom of God is at hand, [as the cross and Pentecost were now much closer.Freely you have received, freely give.”  Now, as an even clearer example of New Testament/Covenant discipleship that will manifest after the cross and Pentecost, The Twelve had to go beyond The Seventy’s commission, and] cleanse [Israel’s physical and spiritual] lepers, raise the [spiritual and physical dead,] and cast out demons, [which still indwelt the Old Hebrews, as they were not washed in Jesus’ blood or indwelt with His Spirit yet.] 

Just as the Seventy, the Twelve also had to carry no provisions because God would take care of them, and ask no money for their ministrations.  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 [not malicious] as serpents and as harmless [sincere] as doves.” 

Then, The Savior also prophetically extended this commission to the Twelve to all His other disciples after the cross and 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 [indwelling] Spirit of your Father would speak in you...” 

 

JESUS THIRD COMMISSION PERTAINS TO ALL HIS DISCIPLES WORLDWIDE, (MT. 28:18-20.) 

In Luke 22:35-38, just before Jesus went to pray in Gethsemane where the Judaist Sanhedrin arrested Him, He asked The Eleven, [Judas fell away,]  “When I sent you without [provisions,] did you lack anything?” 

They answered, “Nothing.” 

Then He commanded, “[But now, after the cross and Pentecost,] 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.”

Of course “the sword of the Spirit” is the Word of God.  But Jesus was speaking about physical evangelization through active discipleship and servanthood in this passage.  The two previous commissions of the Seventy and the Twelve disciples construct the context of these commandments. 

And here is the vital verse, which most interpreters of Scripture miss.  Luke 22:37, “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 scene will change.  Just as I will shortly be taken by brute force, tortured, and murdered, I will commission you to enter the dangerous worlds of the Hebrews and the Gentiles.   You must be on your guard because they will do the same to you as they are about to do to Me,’ (Mt. 28:18-20.) 

So, they said, “Lord, here are [only] two swords [and we are eleven men.]”  The disciples knew He was warning them to watch out for themselves on a physical and emotional level on their next worldwide mission by taking money and provisions, and they were used to carrying swords.  Jesus never objected, although He never carried a sword. 

He answered them, “[Two swords are] enough.” 

Contextually, this cannot be a mere metaphor that refers to standing on the Scriptures.  The meaning of this conversation is straightforward.  Of course they must be vigilant spiritually and emotionally, and they should not depend on physically providing for and defending themselves, but they must be willing to take responsibility for themselves where necessary. 

 

However, when Pontius Pilate asked Jesus at His trial if He were coveting the throne of Caesar as the physical king of the Hebrews, He calmly stated that His Kingdom is spiritual, otherwise His disciples would physically fight so that He would not be handed to the Hebrew Sanhedrin, (the temple masters,) to murder Him, (Jn. 18:36.)  From this statement, we must understand that Jesus warned, His coming, unseen Kingdom in the born again ‘hearts’ or human spirits of true believers must not be extended by force as during the Christian crusades and cruel inquisitions, although there will come times when His disciples will have to endure hardships to expand His spiritual Kingdom on earth, (1 Ths. 5:23; Mt. 28:18-20; 1 Pt. 4:12-19!)  His previous commissions to The Seventy and The Twelve were to actually to prepare His New Covenant disciples for this worldwide commission after the cross and Pentecost. 

 

From the entire context of these passages, we can conclude the following:

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 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. 

Ž In Matthew 28:18-20, at His ascension into heaven, Jesus commanded them as follows, “[At Pentecost, I will give you all My authority through the indwelling Holy Spirit, 1 Jn. 2:20.] Therefore, go into all the world, [the Hebrew and the Gentile world,] and make disciples [by preaching My True Gospel to those who would choose to listen and accept Me, Jn. 3:16.]  Then, [water] baptize [those believing disciples] in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; teaching them to observe all things that I [and not church dogma,] have commanded you.  And lo, I Am with you always [inside you as the spiritual temple of the Holy Spirit,] even to the end of the world,” (1 Cor. 6:15-20.) 

Ž For this final mission, the second sword is their responsibility to physically take care of themselves as far as possible while relying totally on the first sword, God’s supernatural provision and protection.  Accordingly, they had to carry their own pursesPaul 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 knapsacks or backpacks to provide for their physical needs, (Lu. 22:35.)  Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 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 and the other disciples on a supernatural level, but we can be certain that they did not face those dangers without their knapsacks.  Acts 18:3-7 explains, “[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  his own ‘backpack,’ because Jesus commanded us to “freely give” as we have “freely received,” (Mt. 10:8.)  Paul, as far as possible, modelled his obedience to this commandment to all Jesus’ disciples. 

Ž Likewise, in this dangerous world on such a death-defying mission, Jesus plainly illustrated that the physical lives of His disciples also matter, (1 Cor. 6:15-20.)  So, should the situation call for it, 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 clue in these passages that suggest we must interpret this commandment symbolically.  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.  So, the second sword or the vigilance and human resources of the disciples, (the physical sword they must carry,) was also “enough,” as Jesus knows how to take care of those Who belong to Him. 

 

CONCLUSION — WHEN NOT TO UNSHEATHE THE SECOND SWORD OR HUMAN RESOURCES

It is impossible to dismiss the explanation of the two swords as a symbol of Jesus’ Truth that will separate even those in one household — the “two edged sword,” (Mt. 10:35-39; Heb. 4:12.)  In Luke 22:35-38, Jesus was speaking of provision and protection on God’s supernatural and physical levels for His disciples to advance His spiritual Kingdom in the hearts and minds of all true believers across the whole earth, (Mt. 28:18-20; Rom. 12:1-2.)  I.e., on this worldwide mission, they must literally take their ‘purses,’ knapsacks,’ and ‘swords’ with them. 

Nevertheless, when Jesus warned 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.  Neither was He saying they must violently make church members like both Catholic and Protestant church hierarchies did during the dreadful Christian crusades, which were actually en masse, human sacrifice to SatanNor were the disciples to do their own will even while under threat, as the Holy Spirit must guide all their responses.  We must not lose sight of the fact that there is also a time for Jesus’ disciples to suffer for righteousness in the will of God, when even natural, logic, legitimate self-defence is inappropriate, (2 Tim. 3:12; Acts 20:22-24; Heb. 5:8, KJV.)  

Ø In Luke 22:49, when the soldiers of the high priest came to violently arrest Jesus, although totally outnumbered, His disciples were nonetheless ready to defend Him and asked, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?”  But before Jesus could answer, Peter drew his sword and cut off Malchus’ ear. 

Jesus calmly said, “Put your sword back into it’s 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 without the leading of the Holy Spirit,] will perish by the sword [without God’s will and almighty protection.]  Do you think that… My Father cannot provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels to protect Me? [There were 6,000 soldiers in a Roman legion; that is 72,000 angels.]  But how could the Scriptures be fulfilled if this does not happen now?”  (Mt. 26:51-54.) 

 

The two swords function firstly for us from the spirit world where God’s throne is seated, and then in this natural world in Holy-Spirit leading and power through our own awareness, our God-given capabilities and Holy-Spirit gifts, our obedience to His True Word, and according to His will for every situation, (1 Cor. 12:4-11; Mt. 6:10!) 

There is indeed a time to physically defend ourselves with God’s permission on a multilevel, should circumstances call for physical action.  Jesus commanded, “Watch and pray that you do not enter into temptation [or danger that can be avoided…]” (Mt. 26:41.)  We must, for instance, also lock our doors and guard our spiritual, emotional, and physical ‘gates,’ although we pray for God’s protection.  ‘Watching’ is not unbelief.  It is doing what God called us to do on a physical level. 

However, we cannot watch without praying for God’s  grace to see, obey, and  His Spirit to guide us.  The two swords truly operate on all levels of life.  God does His part to keep us safe, but we must also be “sober and vigilant, for our adversary the devil walks about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour,” (1 Pt. 5:8.)  The first commandment God gave to Adam when He placed him in the garden in Eden, was to “tend and keep [or work and protect] the garden,” (Gen. 2:15.)  We can now interpret “the garden” as everything God had entrusted to us from the spiritual and physical worlds. 

Nonetheless, only God can do the impossible so we can follow Him through all the difficulties of life.  No matter how self-sufficient man becomes, he will always be totally dependant upon the provision and protection of our Lord God Almighty. 

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