Even God’s People Have Need of Necessities
Today’s passage is one that presents difficulties and so lends itself to different interpretations. And as I have said before, my interpretations are only mine and no one need embrace them. Only Luke records this saying of our Lord, which makes it harder to manage as we have little light from the other gospels.
The problem has to do with Jesus’ seeming approval of carrying swords. The context is, of course, Thursday evening, the Last Supper, and Jesus’ final instructions to his disciples before his impending passion. He has just told them of their upcoming desertion of him, which each of them has vehemently protested. Jesus knows that in a few hours they will be without him physically for the rest of their lives, “for what is written about [him] has its fulfillment.” Thus, matters on the ground are about to change drastically. This calls for a new set of instructions to adjust to those matters.
Jesus first reminds them, through their own mouths, that they had never lacked anything, even when he sent them out with nothing (9:1-6; 10:1-12). But now, he would no longer be with them. The people to whom they would preach would not know the name of Jesus as did the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matthew 10:6). Of course, they would soon have the Holy Spirit, and the Church would be established, but God’s people must invariably reside in the real world where they too must require life’s necessities. So Jesus says, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one.” Wait a minute: a sword? Yes, Jesus said sword. And when the disciples respond, “Here are two swords,” Jesus says, “It is enough.”
Some say that Jesus said, “It is enough,” in exasperation at the disciples’ lack of understanding. But Jesus did say to get a sword. On the other hand, he did rebuke the disciples for defending him with the sword just a few hours later (Matthew 26:52). I certainly agree with those who argue that Jesus did not allow the sword to be used in defense of the gospel, or to spread it, as history woefully records. But Jesus does not condemn self-defense, no more than he condemns a moneybag (bank account) or knapsack (necessary supplies). Christians live in a broken world along with everyone else and must share the world’s goods. They too must eat, drink, buy and sell, defend their country, and yes, if need be, defend themselves and their families. I’m glad we worship a practical Savior.