“Simon, stay on your toes. Satan has tried his best to separate all of you from me, like chaff from wheat. Simon, I’ve prayed for you in particular that you not give in or give out. When you have come through the time of testing, turn to your companions and give them a fresh start.”

Peter said, “Master, I’m ready for anything with you. I’d go to jail for you. I’d die for you!”

Jesus said, “I’m sorry to have to tell you this, Peter, but before the rooster crows you will have three times denied that you know me.”

Then Jesus said, “When I sent you out and told you to travel light, to take only the bare necessities, did you get along all right?”

“Certainly,” they said, “we got along just fine.”

He said, “This is different. Get ready for trouble. Look to what you’ll need; there are difficult times ahead. Pawn your coat and get a sword. What was written in Scripture, ‘He was lumped in with the criminals,’ gets its final meaning in me. Everything written about me is now coming to a conclusion.” (Luke 22:31–37)

Most Jewish people believed that the Messiah would raise an army against the Roman occupation. So Jesus’ words about buying a sword would have initially been understood by the disciples in that context. But when Peter told Jesus that they had two swords already, Jesus told him “that’s enough.” Hardly the call to arms that the disciples anticipated.

The interpretation that Jesus literally meant that his disciples should go out and arm themselves with swords stands at odds with everything else that Jesus ever said. When an interpretation creates contradictions or absurdity, that is our first indication that an interpretation is wrong.

Jesus command to his disciples to procure a sword is best understood in a metaphorical sense. Jesus was indicating the need for his disciples to be spiritually armed and prepared for spiritual battle. Consider Paul’s words that “the weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world” (2 Corinthians 10:4 NIV). Also, consider that Paul said “the sword of the Spirit” is “the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17 NIV).

We do not fight God’s enemies with physical weapons. Instead, we do battle “in the Spirit.” That is, we are called to challenge those who are enemies of God by bringing them the Good News that Jesus died for their sins. We attack the gates of Hell, not with physical swords, but with the Gospel message.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm the interim pastor at Quartz Hill Community Church. I have written several books. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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