(Luke 22:35-38) Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?”
“Nothing,” they answered.
36 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. 37 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.”
38 The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.”
“That is enough,” he replied.
Here’s another classic proof text in the pacifism debates, used by both sides. One side says, “See, Jesus told them to carry swords!” The other side says, “Yes, but he wouldn’t let Peter use his sword!” Both are true.
Why did Jesus tell them that, unlike the missionary journey he’d earlier sent them on, to grab up some money? I think plainly because they were about to suffer a time of persecution. They could no longer count on the generosity of many supporters when their leader was condemned as criminal.
Why sell a cloak to buy a sword? Why not use the money in the purse? Because they needed both — some money and a sword. The requirement for a sword was just as literal as the requirement for money.
But the sword wasn’t to be used to defend Jesus against the Romans. It was to defend the disciples.
Now, we learn quite plainly only a few verses later that swords were not to be used in defense of Jesus. After all, Jesus needed to surrender for his task to be accomplished. And the gospel, by its very nature, cannot be spread by force. But none of these truths prevent Jesus from telling his disciples to carry a sword to protect themselves during the times that were to come.
Why didn’t Jesus say, “You’re my disciples. God will protect you. Save your money!” or “Carry a sword but don’t use it”?
We, of course, later see disciples being arrested for their faith and being stoned or otherwise brutalized by the government. But they were in no position to use force in their own defense against the government and were prohibited from rebellion by the principles found in Rom 13.
And so, in Luke 22 Jesus didn’t mean to fight off Roman or the Jewish authorities with the sword. He did mean, I believe, for the disciples to protect themselves from the hysteria of the crowds that may well have sought to kill the disciples of Jesus for the same reason that many cried for the death of Jesus.