Troublesome Topic: Why Did Jesus Say to Buy a Sword?

Luke 22:34


Then He said, “I tell you, PETER,

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I tell you, the rooster will not crow today

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until you have denied knowing me three times.”

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Then Jesus replied, “YOU WHO ARE SOLID AS A ROCK, let me tell you something. I assure you that the rooster will not crow even once as this next morning comes before you have denied knowing me three times.”

Luke 22:35


And He said to them, “When I sent you without a money pouch, a traveler’s bag, or sandals,

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did you lack anything at all?” And they said, “Nothing.”

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Then Jesus said to them, “When I sent you out on that mission without a debit card, without a backpack full of snacks, and without

a suitcase full of extra clothes, i.e. without anything but the clothes on your back, did you lack anything at all?” They answered, “No, we did not lack anything.”

Luke 22:36


Then He said to them, “Now then, to the contrary,

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the one who has a money pouch should take it, also a traveler’s bag, and the one who does not have a sword, should sell his cloak to buy one.”

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Then Jesus said, “[I have reminded you of the principles I have been teaching you which you have proven trustworthy because God provided for your needs. Now let me place a contrary idea on the table for you to consider, one you already espouse. It says,]

“You need to go into situations as well prepared as you can to meet all your own needs, and

self defense is even more important, do anything you need to do, even abandon your sense of honor in order to be able to defend yourself.”

Luke 22:37


“For I say to you,

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this [statement] that has been written must be accomplished in me: ‘and he was counted with the lawless.’ For the things [written] concerning me are being fulfilled.”


“I also tell you something else.

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must be fulfilled in me:

‘and he was considered to be one of the wicked ones.’ For the things [that have been written] about me are now in the process of being fulfilled.”

Luke 22:38


Then they said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.”

And He said to them, “It is enough.”

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Then some of them said, “Look, Lord, two of us have a weapon so they can do defend the rest of us.”

His response to them was, “OK, whatever.”

What Should We Make of Jesus’ Statement about Buying a Sword?

I am convinced that Jesus did not mean for them to actually sell their cloaks and buy a sword. Here are the reasons why I say that.

1) this contradicts the rest of Jesus’ teaching about violence

2) it contradicts what Jesus told Peter a while later as recorded in Mt 26:52. He told him to put away his sword, for “those who take up the sword will die by the sword.”

3) His response to them having two swords among them was not equal to the strength of the statement about the need to go and buy a sword.

4) After Pentecost, none of the Apostles used violence means to defend themselves. All of them ended up understanding that the way Jesus taught them to act was better than the way human nature teaches us and better than what Peter attempted to do in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Here is what I think was really going on: Jesus had asked them a question which reminded them of His teaching on issues related to preparedness, and it also reminded them of God’s faithfulness. That was His perspective which He placed on one side of the imaginary table. Then He placed on the other side of that table an alternate idea for them to consider, which happened to be the idea that most of them already espoused. Jesus knew their tendencies. He knew they still wanted a fight with Rome. He knew some of them would still rely on the sword if the right situation arose. They had to choose which way they would live, and He would not force them to do it His way.

Shortly after this, the temple guards and Roman soldiers (some say 300 of them), came to arrest Jesus and Peter tried to use violence to protect Jesus. He was told, “Put your sword in its place for those who take up the sword will die by the sword.” The unspoken lesson was, “I don’t want you to live that way, and you don’t want that either.”

Most commentators see in this passage a change indicated by the conjunction with which the statement begins (I agree with them on that). They see here an indication that times are coming that will be difficult and they need to be prepared with money, provisions, and self-defense (here I disagree). The commentators then go on to make clear that the use of the sword is not intended for the killing of others, or it is only in self-defense or to discourage attacks. Some say it is a reference to the sword of the Spirit, i.e., the word of God.

But why should we take the comment about the purse to be literal and the one about the sword to be figurative or only partially literal? That is an inconsistency in interpretation.

In summary: Jesus said two opposing things because he was laying two opposing options on the imaginary table before them. One was the Jesus way, such as they had experienced when He sent them out two by two, and the other was the human way, expressed with strong words about getting a weapon at all costs. Jesus was using their own thoughts, words and actions as a way to show that they needed a major change in their lives. They would soon be forced to choose how they would respond to strong opposition. That night Peter chose the human way and cut off a man’s ear with his sword; Jesus gave him a mild rebuke for doing so; after Pentecost, Peter consistently chose the Jesus way and those choices brought glory to God.



Notice that Jesus calls him Peter, which means “the rock”, rather by his more common name, Simon, which means “heard by God.” Sometimes both names were used together. However, here it is only the name that points to strength. Even while Jesus was telling Peter that he would fail miserably, Jesus was telling him that he had strength; he would not be known for his failures but for his strength. Therefore he should not let guilt overcome him, but move on to live in strength.


Their day started at sundown and went till the next Sundown. Since this was already after sunset, it was the same day as the morning would be, thus “today” in this case is the same as “tomorrow morning” would be for us.


I include this verse to show the context for the following verses. Luke is the only one of the Gospel writers to mention Jesus’ comments about the sword on this occasion. I want you to see that Jesus brings up the issue of whether or not to take a sword with them; it is not a direct response to something that the disciples said or asked. It may be an indirect reference to their arguing earlier, but Jesus decided to bring it up in order to emphasize something.


“Sandals” probably means an extra pair of sandals. It is possible that they were bare footed, but it is not likely. I believe that only the poorest people went without shoes, the rest wore sandals. This statement is bigger than just footwear; it is about having extra clothing in general.


Jesus started with this question because this is the main point He was trying to make. This was a reminder of all that He had taught them about dependence on material things and the use of violence. His teachings about material things stated that we must trust God for our “daily bread,” sell all our excess stuff and give the money to the poor. He also reminded them that they had proven by their own experience that God can be trusted to meet their needs. This question was the main point and it set the stage for the topic of preparedness when the need for self-defense became a reality.

6: “To the contrary”

the conjunction used here is a very strong one, and “to the contrary” is one of its possible meanings. I think Jesus used this word to indicate that He had asked them a question which reminded them of  His own teaching on this matter, and now He was placing on the table an alternate idea for them to consider, which happened to be the idea that most them already espoused. The text does not say “but you say,” it only uses this strong conjunction to show that Jesus had changed direction.


This is a very strong statement. They used and needed their cloaks every day. Without a cloak one could not leave the house or he would suffer intense shame. It was his protection against bad weather by day and his blanket if he got caught away from home at night. Usually you could not convince a man to give up his cloak for anything. The reality is that a person would sell a few sheep to buy a sword, but never his cloak. This is obviously hyperbole, and when He said it the disciples were tempted to laugh, but because of the seriousness of the situation, they probably smiled instead


Jesus has now moved on to another topic.


Jesus’ answer was not a clear condemnation of their statement, but neither did it condone their statement. To me it shows that the disciples did not understand or fully espouse the teachings of Jesus about depending on God rather than on material preparedness, and His teaching about nonviolence. Jesus had made His point and was not inclined to argue with them. Notice the difference in what was said just moments ago – sell you cloak if you must, but by all means buy a sword! That is a very strong statement, while here his response is basically “whatever.”