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July 2019

Why Did the Disciples Offer Jesus Two Swords?

Let’s put it into context

Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?”

“Nothing,” they answered.

 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. 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.”

The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.”

“That’s enough!” he replied.  Luke 22: 35-38

My first take on this was Jesus preparing the disciples. As He was going to send them out again, it would be for a longer period and further away . . . to all the nations. The mission would be dangerous and maybe he wanted them to be able to defend themselves. Early church history tells us that all the disciples, except John, were martyred and did not put up a fight to the death with swords drawn.

In Matthew 26:52, just a few hours later, Jesus rebukes Peter for using a sword, perhaps one of the swords offered. He told him to put it back in its place. Where was its place? In the scabbard. He went on to warn that, “all who draw the sword die by the sword.” The literal sword was not to be drawn.

So, why did Jesus say they would need a sword?

Jesus had spoken of a sword earlier when he said, “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) He wasn’t talking about a weapon made of metal, He was talking about the gospel. He went on to say that it would pit loved ones against each other.

I think the sword symbolizes the Word of God. In Revelations, John describes Jesus as having a two-edged sword in his mouth. In Ephesians, Paul talks of the “Sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

When speaking to the disciples, Jesus was saying it is better to trade your possessions for a sword or the word of God. Granted, there weren’t any bibles around for them to tote with them on their journey. What’s amazing is that they weren’t just going to read it, some of them were going to write it.

So why did they offer him two swords? They didn’t understand what he meant. That is why they offered up literal swords. They didn’t have an understanding of what he was trying to tell them.

Alright, so that question wasn’t so difficult to answer. What seems more difficult to explain, if our answer is correct, is the response Jesus gives. After he is offered two swords, he says, “That’s enough.” Based on our answer, two literal swords would be enough for twelve disciples if Jesus wasn’t talking about literal swords. But why answer it that way? Again, I don’t think he was talking about those metal swords.

Let’s look at another passage:

Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

That evening the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away so they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.”

But Jesus said, “That isn’t necessary—you feed them.”

“But we have only five loaves of bread and two fish!” they answered.

 “Bring them here,” he said. Then he told the people to sit down on the grass. Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, and blessed them. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he gave the bread to the disciples, who distributed it to the people. They all ate as much as they wanted, and afterward, the disciples picked up twelve baskets of leftovers. About 5,000 men were fed that day, in addition to all the women and children! Matthew 14: 14-21

What happened here? Basically, the disciples saw a problem that Jesus didn’t see. What did they give him? You could say that they gave him fish and bread, but what they really gave was an excuse. Jesus essentially said, “Give me what you’ve got.” Was it enough? Oh, yeah, in fact, there were left overs. Enough for each disciple to carry a basket full. I imagine that was intentional.

Back to the swords. How were they presented?

The Bible says, “The disciples said, ‘See, Lord, here are two swords.’” It wasn’t one or two disciples. It said the disciples responded. I think he looked past the weapons of war and saw the willingness of a few believers.

When the Spirit prompts us to move, we often respond like those disciples with a half empty lunch box. We give excuses. But Jesus knows about our fears and inadequacies. He is aware of our wounds and past failures. He looks past those in search of willingness. If he finds it, regardless of everything else, He says, “That’s enough.”

 

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