And he said unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise a wallet; and he that hath none, let him sell his cloak, and buy a sword.
The absolute pacifist tradition among Christians of all ages and the acceptance of it by many commentators make this verse "a real problem" for many. Most commentators view the passage as figurative, as did Geldenhuys, who said, "The Lord intended (these words) in a figurative sense." F19 But if the sword is figurative, what about the purse, the wallet, and the cloak?
As Hobbs said, "It is impossible to tone down this statement; neither can we dismiss it as not being a genuine saying of Jesus." F20 The clear meaning of the passage is that "a sword" is the one thing needful, even surpassing in priority such an important item as a cloak. The two errors to be avoided here are (1) the supposition that the gospel should be spread by the sword, and (2) the notion that a sword should ever be employed against lawful authority. Before the evening was over, the Lord would have further occasion to demonstrate the proper and improper uses of the sword. Barnes was certainly correct in his view that "These directions (concerning the sword) were not made with reference to his being taken in the garden but to their future lives." F21
J. S. Lamar, an eminent Restoration scholar, expressed surprise "to find several of the ablest Protestant expositors interpreting (this passage) as a warrant for self-defense." F22 Nevertheless, the view maintained here is that self-defense is exactly what Jesus taught. Self-defense is a basic, natural right of all men, and there is no lawful government on earth that denies it. Just why should it be supposed that Jesus denied to Christians such a basic right has never been explained. "Resist not evil ... go the second mile ... turn the other cheek... give thy cloak also, etc." are not applicable to situations in which one's life is threatened, or endangered.Verses 37, 38
For I say unto you, that this which is written must be fulfilled in me, And he was reckoned with transgressors: for that which concerneth me hath fulfillment. And they said, Lord, behold here are two swords. And he said unto them, It is enough.
That which is written must be fulfilled ...
The avowed intention of the Pharisees was to kill Jesus by assassination (Matthew 26:1-5); and despite their change of strategy due to the treachery of Judas, many of them doubtless preferred the method of killing Jesus they had already agreed upon; and the view here is that Christ would have ordered the apostles to resist any effort to assassinate him. The sword in view here, therefore, was an assurance that his purpose of witnessing his godhead before the Sanhedrin would not be thwarted by an untimely assassination.
When the time came, of course, Jesus would submit to arrest by lawful authority; and the possession by his apostles of swords, coupled with his prohibition of their use against such lawful authority, emphatically dramatized the willingness of his submission. Barnes' note that "the apostles followed the customs of the country, and had with them some means of defense" F23 is doubtless true.
It is enough ...
It is customary to interpret this expression as an assertion that the disciples were missing his point altogether, as if he had said, "Enough of this!" But there is no valid reason for supposing that these words mean anything other than "two swords are enough." As a matter of fact, the swords were a necessary part of the drama of the Lords arrest. Jesus used the excision of Malchus' ear as an occasion to command Peter to put up his sword into "its place," a powerful endorsement of the premise that such a sword of self-defense HAS its place (see my Commentary on Matthew, Matthew 26:52). Significantly, even then, Jesus neither commanded Peter to throw his sword away or surrender it.