Luke 22: 35-38 – Two Swords at Last Supper

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This episode concludes Jesus’ discourse at the Last Supper. Like the previous passage; Luke 22: 35-38 too is in the form of a dialogue between Jesus and his disciples and has no parallel in the other gospels.

The background from which we can understand this passage is the impending crisis that Jesus will face, and with him his disciples too.

In the opening verse Jesus reminds them of their experience when he sent then out on a mission without a purse or a bag or scandals. In Luke’s gospel the mission of the Twelve is reported in Luke 9: 1-6, but Luke 22: 35 refers back not to the mission of the Twelve but to the mission of the seventy-two in Luke 10: 4. This is an indication that Luke is using another source here in Luke 22: 35, and that the double mission in Luke 9: 1-6; 10: 1-12 is a duplication of the one and the same tradition about the disciples’ mission. At that time they lacked nothing (Lk 22: 35). But now the situation is different and in view of the coming crisis they must prepare themselves and there is now need for a purse, a bag, and even a sword (Lk 22: 36). This saying is clearly ironical and it expresses a reversal of the situation which Jesus and his disciples are about to face. In other words, Jesus warns them of the coming crisis and instructs them to be well prepared to face it. The exhortation to have purse, bag, and scandals, which the disciples were forbidden to have earlier (Lk 10: 4) points to the new situation on the one hand, and on the other, prepares them to face it. The mention of the “sword” by Jesus does not mean that he is advocating an armed resistance by his followers; neither does it imply that Jesus favored the Zealots’ attempt to resist authority. The disciples, of course, understood the word literally and they produced two swords saying, “here are two swords” (Lk 22: 38). The reaction of Jesus and his disappointment find expression in the ironic statement, “It is enough.” Again it is possible that in the saying, “let him sell his mantle and buy a sword” Jesus is using a violent metaphor as in Matthew 23: 24 and Mark 10: 25. The mention of the sword in Luke 22: 36 also prepared for its use at the time of Jesus’ arrest in Luke 22: 50-52 which in any case, Jesus does not approve.

The reason for Jesus’ exhortation in Luke 22: 36 is his awareness of an Old Testament prophecy which must be fulfilled in him. The prophecy quoted is from Isaiah 53: 12. What the prophet had said of the Servant of Yahweh, “and he was reckoned with transgressors” (Is 53: 12) is for Jesus a prediction to be fulfilled in his passion and death. In other words, Jesus is aware of the spiritual (divine) necessity of his suffering and death. He, therefore, tells his disciples that the prophecy for the Servant of Yahweh will find its fulfillment in him. By speaking about the divine necessity of his passion, Jesus is inviting his disciples to have courage to face the impending crisis (Lk 22: 37). But the disciples do not understand and they take the earlier saying of Jesus about the sword literally. Jesus terminates his instruction with a grimly ironical statement, “It is enough” (Lk 22: 38).

26 COMMENTS

  1. The proposition of it being done to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah is quite brilliant, but I also think there is more there.

    When Jesus gives the opposite commands from when he sent the apostles out before and tells them to sell their cloaks and buy swords, I think He us telling them to sell the cloak of their old lives entirely and buy a new one with Him, which is the sword of truth of His word. That thought is further reinforced when Jesus says that the two swords that were there would be enough, because the apostles were always sent out in pairs and where two or more are gathered in His name He will be there. So the apostles are meant to become the swords of truth for Jesus and work in pairs after they have cast of the cloaks of their old lives entirely and taken on the cloak if new life with Him (as their cloak).

    In Christ, Andrew

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