Luke 22:35-38 – Preparing for Conflict


Luke 22:35-38


In the final scene before Jesus goes to the Mount of Olives, the site of his arrest, he gives instructions to his followers, suggesting that conflict is coming.


Jesus’ enigmatic words in these verses have led interpreters to a variety of different conclusions. His question in v. 35 recalls Luke 9:3 and 10:4, where he sends his followers out to proclaim God’s reign and work miracles. In those instances, they bring nothing with them. Now Jesus tells them to take their possessions and use them to buy swords. He cites a scriptural text, Isaiah 53:12, indicating that the political powers will move against him and treat him as a lawless one, a criminal. This means that his followers should expect to face similar opposition and perhaps legal prosecution.

Jesus’ comments about the swords are probably meant symbolically. He hardly appears to be trying to muster a fighting force, and the disgust he expresses after a sword is used against someone else in Luke 22:49-51 must be taken into account. The contrast he draws with Luke 9:3 and Luke 10:4 is also important to consider here. Earlier he prepared his followers for preaching. Now he prepares them for persecution. Their lives will be marked by the sword from this point forward. His concluding remark, “It is enough,” does not say that two swords will protect all of them. Instead, it voices his exasperation that they have misunderstood him as if he were issuing an actual call to arms. His followers will know the realities of swords, but they are not themselves to wield actual swords.