Scripture is not always to be interpreted, in this article you will gain deeper insight into Luke 22:36 where Jesus talks about selling your cloak and buying a sword.
Luke chapter 22 verse 36 is one verse of the Bible that is popularly misrepresented. Many Christians cite this passage as a reference for the use of deadly force in self-defense.
Some cite it to prove violent responses to day-to-day activities.
Well, the answer is no. Just like you’re consistently guaranteed the sun shining during the daytime, you are also guaranteed the teachings coming from the One who made the sun. The Bible is always consistent with its teachings.
So what is the relationship between Jesus and swords in this context and what does this piece of Scripture mean?
Let’s find out.
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Biblical Context To Luke 22:36
In Bible study and interpreting the Scriptures, considering context is always important. Christ’s words in Luke 22:36 are no different.
Luke 22 starts with the feast of Passover and the Pharisees and Scribes already seeking to put Jesus to death. Judas Iscariot then approaches them with the intent of selling Jesus. They accept and he receives money in return.
Jesus on the other hand gets ready to eat the Passover meal with His disciples. He sends Peter and John ahead into the city in Luke 22 verses 10-12 saying,
“As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters,
11. and say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’
12. He will show you a large room upstairs, all furnished. Make preparations there.
After they get everything ready, He eats the Last Supper with them in an upper room and institutes the Holy Eucharist.
Shortly after this, an argument breaks out among the disciples about who the greatest is. Jesus carefully explains to them that it is the one who serves others that is the greatest.
To continue in verse 34 comes one of the popular stories of the New Testament, the one of Jesus foretelling Peter’s denial. Peter swears his loyalty to Him and Jesus tells him that he would deny Him three times before the cock crows.
Eventually, verses 35-38 say,
“35. And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no money bag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” He said to them,
“36. But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one.
37. 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 has its fulfillment.”
38. And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.”
This is where Jesus tells His disciples to sell their cloaks and buy a sword.
Afterward, a mob led by Judas Iscariot comes to arrest Jesus and one of the apostles uses one of the swords to cut off the ear of a servant of the high priest.
Even though He asked them to bring the swords, Jesus demonstrated that He wasn’t trying to endorse violence by healing the ear that was cut off. He also rebuked his disciple for wielding it.
A Contradiction Of Commands
In Luke 22:35, Jesus reminds His disciples of the first time He sent them out in Matthew 10:9-10. He sent them out and instructed them not to take any money bags, extra sandals, or anything else.
Then He asks them if they lacked anything and they confirmed that they didn’t, showing that God indeed provides for His own.
But in verse 36, He gives them very different commands by encouraging them to take their moneybags, and even sell their cloak to buy a sword if they didn’t have one.
To some people, this might seem that He was encouraging violence or telling them to arm themselves for self-defense. However, the real reason for these seemingly strange instructions is given in the next verse.
As verse 37 simply puts it, all these were so that
“what was written about Him in Scripture has its fulfillment.”
So how are the words of Scripture fulfilled with some swords and what does what Jesus said mean?
The Meaning Behind Luke 22:36
When Jesus told his disciples “sell your cloak and buy a sword”, He was establishing these three things to His followers.
- The sword wasn’t a physical sword.
Jesus wasn’t referring to a literal sword, but the sword of the spirit, which is the Word of God.
He meant that as His disciples and all believers go out, preaching and modeling the Christian life for others, they must stand against the wiles of the devil, by paying attention to God’s word.
How would they consciously do this? By soaking in the Word constantly through daily prayer and in-depth study.
This was a very important instruction and one of sacrifice. In those days, a cloak was truly important to a man’s well-being.
For Jesus to instruct them to sell their cloaks so they could gain the Word in return, heavily emphasizes just how important the Word of God is to a believer.
Ephesians 6:13-18 lists out the entire armor of God believers are to put on, but the sword of the spirit is especially relevant here.
This is because as a believer, you are bound to go through trials. But when you hold fast to the word of God and its promises, wielding it against all the obstacles you face, you will surely overcome and come out victorious.
- Jesus telling them “sell your cloak and buy a sword” was to fulfill Scripture.
Remember that after telling them to buy a sword, Jesus Himself said in Luke 22:37 that it was so that “Scripture might be fulfilled in Him”.
The prophecy that He was talking about is in Isaiah 53:12 which says,
“Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors”.
This prophecy simply meant that Jesus would be counted as a criminal.
To fulfill this prophecy, he allowed a few swords to make Himself look like the revolutionary leader He would be accused of being. Thereby making the Jewish leaders feel justified in arresting Him.
If the swords were actually for fighting, two of them alone wouldn’t have made a very fair fight.
At this point, Jesus knew He was about to be killed. He was trying to bid them farewell even though they didn’t know it at that time.
He was also trying to teach them so that their faith in Him would be sufficient to survive the dangers of the world awaiting them without Him.
In light of this exposition of Jesus’ words “sell your cloak and buy a sword”, it is clear that justifying violence by referring to this passage is completely misreading Scripture.
Jesus’ disciples, Peter, in particular, made this same mistake when he cut the ear of the High Priest’s servant. Jesus said to Him, and by extension to us too, “No more of this!”
Instead of trying to wield physical weapons, Christians, focus on wielding the Word of God.
As Hebrews 4:12 puts it,
“The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
Luke 22:36 is a call for every believer to build a solid Word foundation.
As a religious leader and keeper of sheep, I have the duty to educate my community in the faith in God. In our fast-paced society, finding time to go to church and dedicate to our Lord is nearly impossible for some people. I want to show how technology can be used in the service of God to strengthen our faith.
Ted Atkins, Co-founder https://www.bestdailyprayer.org/