#98. New Provisions for the Future (Luke 22:35-38)

by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
Other online lessons from Luke | Lessons in book format

Text

Luke 22:35-38 

[35] Then Jesus asked them, "When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?"

"Nothing," they answered.

[36] 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. [37] 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 fulfillment."

[38] The disciples said, "See, Lord, here are two swords."

"That is enough," he replied.


Exposition

Jesus continues his teaching at the Last Supper. The previous week's lesson on Jesus' prediction of Peter's denial and Jesus' warning that Satan would shake and buffet them (22:30-34), goes hand in hand with this week's lesson. Jesus is saying: Up until now, things have gone well, but a dramatic change is coming. Satan will attack you and stir up enemies against you. Whereas people were hospitable to you on your earlier mission journeys, now they will be hostile and inhospitable. Be ready. Be prepared.

No Lack (22:35)

Jesus recalls to their mind easier, happier days.

"Then Jesus asked them, 'When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?'
'Nothing,' they answered." (22:35)

His command back then was to travel light and trust God to supply their needs through friends of the Kingdom who would welcome them into their homes. And if some towns rejected them, never mind, they would go onto the next town (Luke 10:1-9).

The lesson they need then was dependence upon the Father to meet their every need. And they had learned that God could and would meet their needs abundantly. "Did you lack anything?" Jesus asks. "Nothing" is their reply.

But times are changing. Now there is a different lesson. There are new marching orders.

How we hate change. How we long for the good old days. We look back with fond memories and contrast them with the bleak days we are facing now. Why is this? What did I do to deserve this? Why can't it be like it used to be?

We may never know fully in this life. But we can know for sure that the Teacher is teaching us new lessons. Our discipleship training is still underway. The lessons in times of hardship are more difficult than those of easy times, but no less important.

Now Equip Yourselves for Your Mission (22:36)

Jesus' lesson for his disciples now is: Expect hardship and hostility. This time when you embark on your journey, go prepared so that your mission is self-sufficient.

"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.' " (22:36)

Let's examine some of the nouns Jesus uses:

"Purse" is Greek ballantion, "money-bag, purse."[1] "Bag" (NIV) or "scrip" (KJV) is Greek pera, "a leather pouch used by travelers, 'knapsack, traveler's bag.' "[2] Where once they traveled without luggage and traveler's checks, now they will need both.

There is a time to go with nothing and there is a time to go prepared for all contingencies. Are you ready to go now with no preparation? Good. Are you ready to set aside time and precious resources to assemble what you need? Good. Now you are a disciple that is flexible in the Master's hands. Now you are free to obey rather than tied to your fears.

Buy a Sword (22:36b)

The hard part of this passage to understand is Jesus' directive to purchase a sword. The noun "sword" is Greek machaira, "a relatively short sword or other sharp instrument, 'sword, dagger.' "[3] This isn't a soldiers long sword, but a small sword, the handgun of the ancient world. The problem we have is that elsewhere Jesus decries violence. Does he mean this literally or figuratively? We'll examine that in a moment.

First, let's see what he does say:

"If you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one." (22:36b)

"Cloak" (NIV) or "garment" (KJV) translates the Greek noun himation, "outer garment,"[4] a garment of prime importance to travelers to keep them from the chill of the night. Notice how emphatic this clause is. Marshall says: "A garment for wear at night was an utter necessity; to give it up for a sword implies that dire circumstances are at hand... The saying is a call to be ready for hardship and self-sacrifice."[5]

Why, then, is a sword of more importance than keeping warm at night? We have two choices:

  1. Jesus means for his disciples literally to carry a sword on their journeys for protection.
  2. Jesus is speaking figuratively and doesn't really mean for his disciples to be armed on their journeys.

Did Jesus Really Mean for Them to Buy a Sword?

Let me argue both sides; then you decide.

On the one hand, it wasn't uncommon for travelers to carry a short sword to protect themselves against bandits and thieves who preyed on them in the lonely stretches of road. Jesus may be anticipating the time when the disciples would travel hundreds of miles beyond Jerusalem, as tradition tells us they did. To carry a small sword doesn't make them violent or evil men, just men prepared for any contingency.

For decades I have enjoyed J.R.R. Tolkein's Lord of the Rings. Frodo carries the heavy burden of destroying the Ring and keeping it from the enemy in the dark Land of Mordor. So Frodo and his Hobbit companions -- Sam, Pippin, and Meriodoc -- set out on their journey. In the Shire they have no need of weapons, but when they prepare to leave the Shire they equip themselves with swords. They are not warlike. They come on a peaceful mission, but they refuse to be deterred by their enemies. They are equipped to defend themselves if necessary so that they might complete their vital mission.

On the other hand, Jesus seems critical of violence and using weapons. The sword is generally used in the Bible to indicate warfare and violence. Jesus recognizes that he is introducing a faith that will arouse intense antagonism. "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword" (Matthew 10:34).

When Peter draws his sword and cuts of an ear in his zeal to prevent Jesus' imminent arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus responds, "Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword" (Matthew 26:51-52). He may have been trying to protect Peter from immediate death, since Judas was accompanied by the armed temple guard against which one or two swords would have been no match. If Peter hadn't sheathed his sword immediately, he probably would have been struck down by the soldiers. But Jesus seems to be laying down a general truth -- violent men can expect to die violent deaths.

Luke's account includes the disciples' question in the Garden: " 'Lord, should we strike with our swords?' And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. But Jesus answered, 'No more of this!' And he touched the man's ear and healed him" (Luke 22:49-51). Jesus' whole mission is about healing and giving life, not death.

John's account includes a word to Peter who has been unable to accept Jesus' suffering and death (Mark 8:33). Peter's swordplay is having the effect of frustrating Jesus' mission to redeem mankind by his death.: "Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?" (John 18:11).

Many commentators see Jesus' command to obtain a sword as figurative rather than literal. Schlatter says,

"Jesus was not speaking of increasing their weapons. But just because He was not thinking of their weapons, the disciples needed the courage which regards a sword as more necessary than a cloak, and which will surrender its last possession but cannot give up the fight."[6]

Marshall sees it as "a call to be ready for hardship and self-sacrifice."[7] Geldenhuys assumes Jesus meant it spiritually, and sees the disciples who take it literally as "still blind to the spiritual nature of the Lord's work and kingdom."[8] Green sees Jesus' words as "a metaphorical reference to the coming [spiritual] reality," and his words "It is enough" as an expression of his exasperation with the disciples' dullness.[9] Calvin declares, "It was truly shameful and stupid ignorance, that the disciples, after having been so often informed about bearing the cross, imagine that they must fight with swords of iron."[10] And nowhere in the New Testament, besides the incident with Peter in the Garden, do Christians take up arms as they spread the faith.

Two Swords (22:38)

Let's look at verse 38 next, before we conclude with verse 37.

"The disciples said, 'See, Lord, here are two swords.'
'That is enough,' he replied." (22:38)

What does Jesus' reply mean? "Enough" is the Greek adjective hikanos, "sufficient, adequate, large enough."[11] While it could mean, "Two will be sufficient at this time," it very probably means "That's enough of this conversation."[12]

Does Jesus encourage his disciples to equip themselves with a sword in the coming days in order to carry out their mission among hostile world? Though others might disagree, I think perhaps so. But the main point of this passage is to be prepared and self-sufficient for the next phase of their ministry, determined to serve the Kingdom no matter what.

Numbered with the Transgressors (22:37)

The most important sentence in this passage, however, isn't about swords. Jesus quotes Isaiah and applies the quotation directly to his own mission:

"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 fulfillment." (22:37)

Jesus has been speaking about preparing for the dangers ahead for his disciples. For Jesus, the danger will end in death, in fulfillment of scripture. Jesus is quoting from the last verse of a wonderful passage in Isaiah 52:13 - 53:12 describing the redemptive ministry of the Suffering Servant who takes upon himself the sins of others. The full verse from which Jesus quotes reads:

"Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors." (Isaiah 53:12)

Jesus speaks to his disciples of a hostile world in which they are to spread the Gospel. Jesus dies alongside two thieves. But in his death he offers atonement and forgiveness: "Father, forgive them, for they don't know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34).

Weeks before Jesus had "steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem" (9:51), though he knows death awaits him there. But he is clear about his mission: "The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45). How? That he might "bear the sin of many" on the cross. My sin. Your sin. Our world's sin.

We are bearers of this good news that forgiveness is available from God no matter how you have sinned in the past. What are the lessons in this passage for disciples? The world may not welcome our message, since this forgiveness requires acknowledgement of wrong and repentance. That we messengers will be mocked, resisted, and persecuted. That we must prepare to sustain ourselves on our journey and not be cowed by threats. Some of us, my friends, will die to further this cause for which he died. But it is a worthy one -- to bring redemption to the world -- to people just like you and me.

So get a backpack and some cash for your trip -- and even a sword, if need be. But do not let fear or threats deter you from this great Journey to bring salvation and freedom to a world in bondage. Jesus felt it was worthy of his life, and as his disciples, so must we.


Prayer

Father, this is a sobering passage. It calls for courage and resolution. Please strengthen my resolve that I will do what it takes to fulfill your purposes in me as your disciple. Thank you that Jesus' resolve to ransom me never waned. Thank you for my salvation and joy. In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.


Key Verse

"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 fulfillment." (Luke 22:37)


Questions

JesusWalk: Discipleship Training in Luke's Gospel, by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
All 120 lessons now compiled as a 808-page e-book and paperback. Get your copy for easy reference
  1. What lesson was Jesus seeking to teach his disciples when he sent them out without purse, bag, or sandals? (22:35)
  2. Why now does he tell them to take a purse and a bag? (22:36a)
  3. Why does he tell them to sell their overcoat, if they need to, in order to obtain a sword? What is the main point of mentioning the sword? (22:36b)
  4. Extra Credit: Is his command to obtain a sword meant literally or figuratively? What difference will your decision on the interpretation of 22:36b make in terms of your actions?
  5. Why does Jesus' quotation about being "numbered with the transgressors" have to do with the context of this passage? (22:37)
  6. How was being "numbered" with the transgressors fulfilled in Jesus' life? According to the passage quoted in Isaiah 53, what did he do for the transgressors by means of his death?


References

Common Abbreviations www.jesuswalk.com/faq/abbreviations.htm

  1. BDAG 163.
  2. BDAG 811.
  3. BDAG 622.
  4. BDAG 475.
  5. Marshall, p. 825.
  6. A. Schlatter, Das Evangelium des Lukas (Stuttgart, 1960), p. 429. quoted in Wilhelm Michaelis, "machaira," TDNT 4:524-527.
  7. Marshall, p. 825.
  8. Norval Geldenhuys, Commentary on the Gospel of Luke (NICNT series; Eerdmans, 1951), p. 571.
  9. Green, pp. 774-775.
  10. John Calvin, Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists.
  11. BDAG 472.
  12. Marshall, p. 827.

Copyright © 1985-2014, Ralph F. Wilson. <pastor@joyfulheart.com> All rights reserved. A single copy of this article is free. Do not put this on a website. See legal, copyright, and reprint information.

Sign up now!To be notified about future articles, stories, and Bible studies,why don't you subscribe to our free newsletter,The Joyful Heart, by placing your e-mail address in the box below. We respect your privacy and never sell, rent, or loan our lists. Please don't subscribe your friends; let them decide for themselves.
FirstLast
E-mail
Country(2-letter abbreviation, such as US)
Preferred FormatHTML (recommended) Plain text