Why did Jesus have the Apostles Bring Two Swords?


by Richard Mansel

Shortly before Jesus was arrested, Jesus told Peter that he would deny Him that very day (Luke 22:31-34). That led to the following exchange:

“And He said to them, ‘When I sent you without money bag, knapsack, and sandals, did you lack anything?’ So they said, ‘Nothing.’ Then He said to them, ‘But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one. For I say to you that this which is written must still be accomplished in Me: ‘And He was numbered with the transgressors. For the things concerning Me have an end.’ So they said, ‘Lord, look, here are two swords.’ And He said to them, “It is enough.” (Luke 22:35-38).

What does this mean? We must be careful and keep it within the context of Luke’s account. Some indisputable facts are in order.

  • They were sent out in the limited commission and told not to take any possessions (Matthew 10:5-10).
  • In terms of the apostles, Judas had the money box (John 13:29).
  • Judas stole money from the money box (John 12:6).
  • Judas took money to betray Jesus (Matthew 26:14-16).
  • The Roman soldiers came with swords, clubs and violence (Luke 22:52-53).
  • Peter took up a sword to defend Jesus (John 18:10).
  • Peter cut off Malchus’ ear, and Jesus healed him (Luke 22:51).

When swords were used in His defense, what did Jesus say?

“But Jesus said to him, ‘Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels? How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus? ‘” (Matthew 26:52-54).

Later, Jesus told Pilate:

“My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here” (John 18:36).

Concerning Luke 22:36-38, Brother McGarvey writes,

“In this passage our Lord draws a contrast between the favor with which his messengers had been received on their former mission and the trials and persecutions which awaited them in their future course. If they had prepared then to be received with joy, they were to prepare now to be opposed with bitterness; for the utter rejection of the Master would be followed by the violent persecution of the servants. The apostles took the words of Jesus literally, and showed two swords, and the Lord, for their future enlightenment, said, ‘It is enough,’ thus intimating that he did not mean a literal arming with carnal weapons, for had he done so, two swords would not have sufficed for twelve men” [J.W. McGarvey].

Brother Coffman adds these thoughts on Matthew 26:52.

“This place should not be taken as a rejection of the sword’s true place in society, but rather as a recognition on the part of Christ that an ordinary citizen should not resist lawful arrest by constituted authority. Christ did not command Peter to throw his sword away, but to put it in “its place.” In a word, that is Christ’s teaching on the entire subject. Paul described him that beareth the sword as a “minister of God unto thee for good” (Rom_13:4). In this scene there were two swords, that of the civil authority and that of Peter. Christ recognized both the legitimate authority of the first and the potential need and place for the second.”

Jesus was going to submit to His arrest and crucifixion to fulfill all righteousness. Jesus allowed them to bring swords but knew they were unnecessary. It’s clear that Christ’s kingdom is spiritual (Ephesians 6:10-12).

Scripture clearly allows the use of the sword by the proper authorities (Romans 13:4). We also know that God’s people used swords in war for thousands of years.

In Luke 22:36-38, Jesus is contrasting the peaceful success of the limited commission with the impending violence of the persecutions to come. When Jesus denounced the steel sword, it was a powerful moment showing that His mission was greater than they realized.

Following Jesus’ arrest, crucifixion and resurrection, He appeared to them and opened the Scriptures  (Luke 24:44-49). Soon thereafter, Jesus ascended to the Father (Acts 1:9-11), and these apostles are changed men. Peter no longer carries a physical sword, but is fearless with the gospel (Acts 4:1-22). His faith is now more mature.

When the same Apostles carried out the Great Commission, they did so with the sword of the Word (Ephesians 6:17) rather than the sword of steel.

We would do well to remember that as we face physical persecutions in the future. God can accomplish all things and heaven is worth the sacrifice if we lose our lives in service to the Lord (Revelation 21:1-4). Taking up physical swords for the faith would be a renunciation of all that Jesus taught.