Sell Your Cloak and Buy a Sword

Today I tweeted;
Jesus told the religious to put away their stones
Jesus told his disciple to put away his swords.
What do you think Jesus might be telling us today?

It took about 15 minutes before someone sent me a DM with Luke 22. So, let’s take a look at that passage.

Luke presents a unique image of Jesus’ nonviolence in his call for his disciples to sell their cloaks and buy a sword (Lk 22:35–38). This call to arms is set against the earlier instructions of Jesus, where the disciples are sent out in pairs (Lk 9:2–3). Though in the earlier circumstance they were sent without purse, bag, or sandal (and yet lacked nothing due to a warm welcome), that experience is now contrasted in the phrase “but now” as Jesus portends a shift toward hostility and even violence.[1] However, as Joel Green notes, the image of a sword is one that has been used earlier in this gospel to speak of animosity (Lk 12:51–53). The “apostles manifest their dullness when they suppose that Jesus opposes his own extensive and emphatic teaching by encouraging them actually to possess (or to purchase) weaponry.”[2] John Nolland agrees, writing, “it is unlikely that the Lukan Jesus expected any literal implementation of the new directive that he offers here,”[3] and his emphatic response “that’s enough” (Lk 22:38) reinforces this view. In fact, when Jesus cites Isaiah 53:12 to say that he will be “numbered with the lawless” (Lk 22:37), Jerome Neyrey suggests that Jesus is speaking of his apostles, “an indication that they are not fully in accord with Jesus directions.”[4] Later Jesus will explicitly reject violence as an option, ordering his disciples to stand down and then healing the servant of the High Priest who had been injured (Lk 22:51). The fact that Jesus uses the image of a sword and then immediately rejects the use of a physical sword confirms that there can be “no thought [of using the violence either in the present or] in an anticipated eschatological armed struggle.”[5]

[1]Geoffrey WH. Lampe, “The Two Swords (Luke 22: 35–38)," Jesus and the Politics of His Day(1984): 335–351.

[2]Joel B. Green, The Gospel of Luke, New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), 775.

[3]John Nolland, Luke 18:35–24:53, Word Biblical Commentary 35C (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1993), 1076.

[4]Jerome H. Neyrey,The Passion According to Luke: A Redaction Study of Luke's Soteriology(Eugene: Wipf and Stock, 2007), 42.

[5]Nolland, Luke 18:35–24:53, 1076.

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