About Jesus - Steve Sweetman

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Buy A Sword - Buy A Gun

Just prior to His arrest Jesus gave this instruction to His eleven apostles.  "If you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one (Luke 22:36 NIV)."  This verse is consistently misappropriated by many Americans who defend their constitutional right to possess and use a gun.  Although I am not an American I have absolutely no problem with Americans, including American Christians, defending their right to bear arms based on their constitution.  Christians aren't Scripturally prohibited from exercising their rights as a citizen.  The Apostle Paul exercised his right of Roman citizenship when he said "I appeal to Caesar" (Acts 25:11).  I do, however, have a problem with using Jesus' statement to buy a sword in defense of gun ownership.  Once we know why Jesus instructed His apostles to buy swords we'll know if His instruction to buy swords has any relevance to the present day gun debate.


The very next statement Jesus uttered after telling His apostles to buy a sword was a quote from Isaiah 53:12.  "It is written: 'He (Jesus) was numbered with the transgressors,' and I (Jesus) tell you that this must be fulfilled in me (Luke 22:37)."  The insertion of this prophecy into the conversation tells me two things.  First, the prophecy itself states that its fulfillment is in Jesus.  Second, Jesus associated the prophecy with His instruction to buy swords. 


The prophecy predicted that Jesus would be numbered with the transgressors (NIV), or counted among the rebels as the HCSB puts it.  Knowing who the rebels are in this prophecy explains why Jesus instructed His apostles to buy swords and tells us if His instruction is relevant to us possessing guns.   


You might think the rebels were the two thieves who were executed with Jesus but I think the context of the Isaiah quote in Luke's account says differently.  Isaiah prophesied that Jesus would be counted among the rebels which Jesus connected with His instruction for His apostles to buy swords.  The thieves executed with Jesus were not the rebels.  The eleven apostles were viewed as rebels by the Jewish leadership and the soldiers who arrested Jesus because they possessed swords and especially because Peter used his sword to cut off the high priest's servant's ear (Luke 22:50). 


In addition to the above, Jesus asked those arresting Him, "Am I leading a rebellion (Luke 22:52)?"  This question raises the possibility that Jesus' captors viewed Him and the apostles as rebels; one of many groups of zealots attempting to overthrow Rome's domination of the Jews.


The swords Jesus instructed the apostles to buy were never intended to be used, neither in an offensive or a defensive manner.  The swords were meant to make the apostles appear to be rebels in the eyes of those arresting Jesus, thus fulfilling Isaiah 53:12.  Maybe you've never thought about it, but when Peter cut off the servant's ear he was fulfilling prophecy.  He was one rebel Jesus was counted among.   


Further to the above, the pronoun "you" in the phrase "if you don't have a sword, buy one" is a singular pronoun in the Greek text.  It's not a plural pronoun.  This means "any one of you who doesn't have a sword should buy one."  Grammatically speaking, Jesus was instructing each man to possess a sword, but that never happened.               

In Luke 22:38 the apostles told Jesus that they already had two swords.  Jesus' response to them having two swords is vital in understanding this passage's relevance to the present gun debate.  In verse 39 Jesus answered, "That is enough."   After telling each man they needed a sword Jesus said that two swords among eleven apostles plus Himself were sufficient.  I ask, "Sufficient for what?"  That makes no sense.  Two swords among twelve men who would be surrounded by an army of soldiers carrying both swords and clubs (Luke 22:52) are useless as a means of self defense.   


If Jesus expected His apostles to use the two swords for defensive purposes He would not have told them to put the swords away after Peter cut off the high priest's servant's ear (Luke 22:51, Matthew 26:52).  He would not have replaced the servant's ear.  He would not have allowed Judas to kiss Him.  He would not have freely handed Himself over to the soldiers.  He would not have told Pilate that His kingdom was not of this world, and therefore, His servants would not fight to prevent His arrest by the Jews (John 18:36).  Clearly, these two swords were never intended to be used for any purpose but to fulfill the Isaiah prediction that Jesus would be counted among the rebels; His apostles who were considered just one of many groups of zealots.


Using Jesus' instruction to buy a sword in defense of owning and using guns is simply bad Biblical interpretation.  It misrepresents what Jesus said and His mission to be the Lamb of God, who through death deleted our sin from the heavenly record.  I applaud my American friends for standing firm on their second amendment right, but please, let none of us, wherever we live, misrepresent Jesus as we exercise our rights of citizenship.   



Post Script
Some of you may not have heard this passage used in defense of gun ownership but I have.  What caused me to write this article now is because Carl Gallups in his book entitled 'Be Thou Prepared' used it in defense of his views on possessing and using guns.

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