Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?”
“Nothing,” they answered.
He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfilment.”
The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.”
“That’s enough!” he replied.
There is more to following Christ than our personal growth and development. As Jesus’ disciples we are on mission.
After predicting Peter’s three-fold denial, Jesus spoke next about the preparations they would need to make in order to carry out the mission he was entrusting to them. Peter’s failure would not be final! The mission and his role in it would continue.
Circumstances had radically changed, however, since Jesus first sent them out (see Luke 10:1-4). The nation’s religious leaders had now rejected Jesus as Messiah. The King was now an outlaw, meeting with his disciples in a borrowed room in the city that was about to kill him. That did not mean that the mission was stopped. On the contrary the mission was to be extended far beyond the nation of Israel to the whole world. But the disciples could no longer expect to be welcomed as the representatives of Messiah and to be supported and protected accordingly. They would have to fend for themselves as best they could and not expect any special treatment.
Indeed, they now needed to expect difficulty, hardship and opposition. For as the Scriptures had prophesied, the Messiah would be ‘numbered with the transgressors.’ The world would not simply be neutral regarding Jesus. It would be hostile. The message of the cross divides. It is God’s wise and loving provision for forgiveness and reconciliation for all who accept it, but it is also a stumbling block and foolishness for those who reject it.
Christ’s metaphorical reference to the need for a sword was at first misunderstood by the disciples – and has been misunderstood by many since. When the disciples showed him two swords, which they probably had for protection against robbers and bandits, Jesus replied, “It is enough.” What he meant by that would soon become apparent.
He certainly could not have meant that two swords would be enough to defeat the entire troop of soldiers who would shortly come to arrest him! Moreover, when Peter began to use one of the swords to defend Jesus and prevent his arrest, Jesus rebuked him immediately and undid the damage he had done.
At no time did Jesus ever advocate or endorse the use of violence either to defend him or to help propagate his message. As he later explained to Pilate, “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.” (John 18:36)
The church has not always grasped the true, spiritual nature of Christ’s kingdom.History is littered with tragic examples of how the church has disobeyed Jesus and employed physical force in the pursuit or maintenance of power.As Christ’s famous parable of the soils reveals, we are not sent out as soldiers with swords, but as farmers with seed, sowing God’s word in the world and allowing it to do its supernatural work.