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Two Swords

Dec 27, 2014

Luke 22:35-38 says,

35 And He said to them, “When I sent you without purse and bag and sandals, you did not lack anything, did you?” and they said, “No, nothing.” 36 And He said to them, “But now, let him who has a purse take it along, likewise also a bag, and let him who has no sword sell his robe and buy one. 37 For I tell you that this which is written must be fulfilled in Me, ‘And He was numbered with transgressors’; for that which refers to Me has its fulfillment. 38 And they said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” And He said to them, “It is enough.”

Luke is the only gospel writer to record this conversation with the disciples. Jesus compared that present time with the past, when, in Luke 9:1-5 He sent the twelve out to proclaim the Kingdom of God. Luke 9:3 gave instructions:

3 And He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, neither a staff, nor a bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not even have two tunics apiece.”

Likewise, when He sent out the seventy, we read in Luke 10:4,

4 Carry no purse, no bag, no shoes; and greet no one on the way.

Why, then, did Jesus reverse this policy as they were about to go to the Mount of Olives just before His arrest? The answer is given in Luke 22:37. According to the account, it was to fulfill Isaiah 53:12, which says, “He was numbered with transgressors; for that which refers to Me has its fulfillment.”

The Prophetic Purpose of the Swords

What role did the swords play in fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy? After all, when we read Isaiah 53, which prophesies of the death of the Messiah as the Lamb of God, we find that He was not come as a military messiah but as a gentle lamb being led to the altar of sacrifice. Isaiah 53:7 says,

7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth [i.e., He did not object or protest].

Were the swords meant to convey the idea of sacrifice? The Greek word for sword is macheira, “a large knife used for killing animals and cutting up flesh; a small sword, as distinguished from a large sword.” The same word was used of a long straight sword that is used in battle.


It is plain that the twelve were not prepared for battle, so their “swords” were really just large knives that were normally used only to cut meat. The priests used such knives to kill the sacrifices and to cut up the meat to be roasted on the altar. Though such knives might be used for self-defense as well, the prophecy in Isaiah 53 gives no indication that Jesus expected the disciples to defend Him when He was soon to be arrested. The context makes us question the use this passage to justify self-defense, as some have done.

When the two swords were shown to Jesus, He said “It is enough” (Luke 22:38). The way it is translated gives the impression that Jesus was saying, “two swords are enough.” But we must remember that Luke was using Greek words to express Hebrew ideas and practices. While the Greek word hikanos (used here) might mean “sufficient,” it was actually a common Hebrew expression seen in passages such as Deuteronomy 3:26, where Moses says,

26 But the Lord was angry with me on your account, and would not listen to me; and the Lord said to me, “Enough!” Speak to Me no more of this matter.

Another example is seen in Elijah’s conversation with God while he was fleeing from Jezebel. 1 Kings 19:4 says,

4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree; and he requested for himself that he might die, and said, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers.”

The phrase “it is enough” is better translated, “Enough!” to express the discouragement of the prophet.

Thayer’s Greek Lexicon comments on Jesus’ use of this expression, saying,

“Jesus, saddened by the paltry ideas of the disciples, breaks off in this way the conversation. The Jews, when a companion uttered anything absurd, were wont to use the phrase…”

In other words, when Jesus told the disciples, “let him who has no sword sell his robe and buy one,” He was speaking prophetically, not literally. However, the disciples took Him literally, so they presented Him with two swords. With a pained expression on His face, Jesus responded, “Enough!” The English equivalent is “Give me a break!” It was obvious that the disciples did not understand what Jesus was really saying.

Peter Tries to Defend Jesus

When people today use this passage to justify self-defense, they interpret it precisely as the disciples did. This is what caused Peter to try to defend Jesus when He was being arrested. Luke 22:49-51 shows us Peter’s action as well as Jesus’ reaction,

49 And when those who were around Him saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” 50 And a certain one of them [Peter] struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. 51 But Jesus answered and said, “Stop! No more of this.” And He touched his ear and healed him.

The use of violence and force only results in cutting off men’s ears—specifically, the right ears. It impairs men’s ability to hear the Word. The right ear is also significant. In Scripture, the left side depicts judgment, while the right side depicts mercy. When we use violence and force to defend Jesus, we end up cutting off men’s right ears, so that they can hear only a word of judgment. They lose the ability to hear about the mercy of God.

Many people of all religions—including Christianity—have thought that they please God by defending their founders, prophets, and holy men by using physical swords. Some are ready to kill anyone who speak a negative word about their founders. Their perception of God is such that they believe they must defend His honor. In so doing, they cut off the ears of their perceived enemies. But Jesus went to the cross with no protest, for His purpose was to save His enemies—not to kill them.

The love of God is demonstrated in the fact that “while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son,” even as we were justified while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8, 9). Instead of killing the so-called enemies of God, Christ tells us to follow His example, showing love to those enemies. We are to conquer them by the Sword of the Spirit, which is His Word. The essence of that word is Love.

This makes no sense to the carnal mind, but it is clear that Jesus’ death was according to a divine purpose that was understood only later.

Numbered with Transgressors

Jesus said plainly that He was to be “numbered with transgressors.” He was fulfilling Isaiah 53:12, which says,

12 Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, and He will divide the booty with the strong; because He poured out Himself to death, and was numbered [manah] with the transgressors; yet He Himself bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors.

The Hebrew word manah, translated “numbered,” is translated into Greek as logizomai, “to count, reckon, or impute.” Luke was very familiar with this word, because he was Paul’s scribe in writing the letter to the saints in Rome. Romans 4 uses logizomai fifteen times, where it is defined in Romans 4:17 KJV in terms of God’s promise to Abraham. The promise to Abraham was that he was to be the father of many nations, though at the time of this promise, Abraham had no children at all. Hence, God imputed many children to Abraham, calling what was NOT as though it were.

The Hebrew word manah also means “to count, reckon, or impute.” Thus, Isaiah was prophesying that the Messiah would be counted among the transgressors (“lawless ones”) as if He were actually lawless. As a sacrificial lamb, taking upon Himself the sin of the world, lawlessness was imputed to Him. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:21,

21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin [i.e., a sin offering] on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Jesus was not actually lawless but was condemned as a lawless man in the temple court at His trial before the high priest. In this we see the distinction between legal guilt and actual guilt. Jesus was counted among the transgressors when the priests pronounced him guilty. This fulfilled the law of sacrifice, wherein the priests imputed the sin of the people to the animal and then killed the innocent animal as if it were guilty.

In the Hebrew text, sin and sin offerings are expressed by the single word khawtaw. In other words, the sin offering was a sin. This is how we should understand Paul’s statement in 2 Corinthians 5:21 that “He made Him who knew no sin to be a sin offering on our behalf.”

The Lesson of the Swords

We conclude, then, that Jesus’ instructions to the disciples, reversing the earlier pattern, was a statement of irony. As for the purse and bag, it implied a long journey ahead, or a long, hard road to travel in the Pentecostal Age to come. The day of Pentecost itself was designed to endow the disciples with the Sword of the Spirit, which was first offered to the House of Israel at Mount Horeb when the Spirit of God came on that first day of Pentecost, and they all heard the voice of God.

The House of Israel then refused to hear anything beyond the Ten Commandments, telling Moses in Exodus 20:19, “Speak to us yourself, and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, lest we die.” In rejecting the word (voice) of God, they rejected the Sword of the Spirit. This left them with only a carnal sword, which they used to conquer Canaan.

There are two swords in the hands of Jesus’ disciples. These represent the physical sword and the Sword of the Spirit. Peter used the carnal sword to cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant. The unused sword was prophetic of that which was to be given them in a few weeks on the day of Pentecost.

Jesus’ disciples were still under the carnal influence (curse?) of their forefathers when they could not see beyond the physical sword. But Jesus was setting the stage for the day of Pentecost. Although they could not yet understand what He was telling them, they would remember this later. No doubt they remembered these words and discussed it in the week prior to the day of Pentecost, as they rehearsed the Scriptures and the words which Jesus had said to prepare them for that great day.

This is the 1st part of a mini-series titled "Two Swords." To view all parts, click the link below.

Two Swords

This is the 127th part of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Luke." To view all parts, click the link below.

Studies in the Book of Luke

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Category: Teachings
Blog Author: Dr. Stephen Jones