Jesus, Peter, and the Sword

Anthony Barbato

In Luke 22:36, Jesus tells the disciples to take a sword when they go out to spread the gospel. Hours later, when Peter uses a sword to try to protect Jesus, Jesus rebukes him. The obvious question is why did Jesus tell the disciples to arm themselves but then rebuke Peter the first time he used such a defense?

It helps to go back to the previous time Jesus had sent the disciples out, which is referred to in Luke 22:35:
And He called the twelve together, and gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases. And He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to perform healing. 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. Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that city. And as for those who do not receive you, as you go out from that city, shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them." Departing, they began going throughout the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere. Luke 9:1-6
Here Christ sends the disciples out to proclaim the kingdom of God, demonstrating miracles and authority over demons. He tells them they are to take nothing, no money, no equipment, no food. This of course wasn't so they'd starve or become stranded, but it was to show them the Lord in His sovereignty would take care of all their needs. We then come to our next passage:
And He said to them, "When I sent you out without money belt and bag and sandals, you did not lack anything, did you?" They said, "No, nothing." And He said to them, "But now, whoever has a money belt is to take it along, likewise also a bag, and whoever has no sword is to sell his coat and buy one. For I tell you that this which is written must be fulfilled in Me, 'AND HE WAS NUMBERED WITH THE TRANSGRESSORS'; for that which refers to Me has its fulfillment." They said, "Lord, look, here are two swords." And He said to them, "It is enough.'' Luke 22:35-38
So while before He commanded them to take nothing, now He's telling them to take money and a weapon. Why? Because soon Christ will be crucified, having been "numbered with the transgressors" (Isaiah 53:12). The Lord's departure is near, and the apostles will need to prepare for persecution and spiritual opposition. They were to look out for their own temporal needs, such as food and clothing, but also their own protection. But was Christ commanding them to carry weapons? One thing's for sure, we must be very careful with being too literal here. Certainly the Lord didn't want them to freeze to death because they sold their coats to buy weapons! Also, right after they found the two swords the Lord responds with "It is enough," not "Oh good I didn't see those there, grab them." Here's a section that helps us see His meaning:
Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH, and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, and having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:11-17
The Lord isn't telling them to prepare for physical war, He's telling them to prepare for opposition. Soon He would be taken away. Of course He'll be with them always (Isaiah 41:10; Matthew 28:20; John 14:23), but from here on out, things weren't going to be so easy.

As for telling Peter to put away his sword, an understanding of the passages in Luke help us here. This is also not he first time Peter was rebuked in such a way by the Lord. When He first begins to teach them about His death, Peter says "God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You" (Matthew 16:22). The Lord responds, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's" (Matthew 16:23). As Christ says in John 12:27, "Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, 'Father, save Me from this hour'? But for this purpose I came to this hour." The purpose of Christ coming in the flesh was to "give His life a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28). In Peter's attempts to stop the Lord's death, he was not helping but hindering Christ's mission.

Fast forward to Peter cutting the servants ear (John 18:10), it's the same issue. The Lord came for this very hour, and to rebel would be against the Father's will. He offers several rebukes to Peter here. In John 18:11 He says, "Put the sword into the sheath; the cup which the Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?" And in Matthew 26:52-54 He says, "Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels? How then will the Scriptures be fulfilled, which say that it must happen this way?" A couple points are made here. First, Christ laid His life down willingly, according to the will of the Father (John 10:18, 18:11). Second, the Kingdom would not be established by warfare, but by the Spirit (violence would only bring about more bloodshed — Genesis 9:6; Zechariah 4:6). Thirdly, the Lord was not in need of protecting, as He could summon the angels of God if need be (Psalm 91:11-12). Lastly, the death of our Savior was the fulfillment of Scripture (Isaiah 53; Matthew 16:21; Mark 8:31; Luke 9:22, 24:7).

Image Credit: Giotto; "The Arrest of Chrsit (Kiss of Judas)"; 1304-1306; Public Domain

TagsBiblical-Truth  | Jesus-Christ

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Published 11-1-6