Who (and What) Would Jesus Shoot?

by Richard on January 16, 2013

My friend Mark Byron asks Would Jesus pack heat?

They didn’t have guns in Biblical days, but they did have swords. Luke 22:38 showed up when I did a search on “Sword”

The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.”

“That is enough,” he replied.

Jesus didn’t tell them to leave swords behind or turn them into plowshares, but that two swords was enough for what they were doing.

[Update 445PM-The old Junkyard Blogger, Bryan Preston, noted that I missed the verse before-"if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one." Big oops. Not only do we have swords allowed, but a must-carry rule was in force.]

If the disciples were allowed to pack steel back then, packing heat today seems OK if called for. That would be something left to the modern disciple to figure out, if the situation called for having it around.

Jesus didn’t pack heat, but He had the disciples packing the first-century equivilent.

That’s a “slam dunk”, isn’t it? Jesus insisted that his disciples carry swords. His disciples should be similarly equipped today.

No.

As always, context is everything. (Repeat after me: a text without a context is a pretext.)

The verse in question comes right at the end of Jesus’ ministry. He has gathered his disciples to celebrate the Passover. One of his disciples has been drawn into a plot to betray him (22:1-6). The rest are fighting among themselves about their greatness (22:24-30). Jesus knows what is coming. For all his friends bombast and bravura, he knows that all of them will desert him. The road ahead is a truly bleak one: betrayal, desertion, humiliation, torture and death. He knows. I don’t suppose his dinner table conversation had its usual sparkling repartee.

He turns to his disciples, reminds them how he first sent them out on his mission: ‘When I sent you out without a purse, bag, or sandals, did you lack anything?’ They admit that, no — they had all that they needed.

But now it all seems as if the mission is over: ‘But now, the one who has a purse must take it, and likewise a bag.’ And then: ‘the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one.’ Some take this as wearied irony, perhaps prompted by the disciples inability to follow his way: ‘Forget it. Do your own thing.’ Or is it a rebuke to his disciples failure to understand his message? And when the surprising word comes - “You’re going to need a sword after all” -just this once the disciples are a step ahead of him. “We have two already.” It could be that Jesus is saying: “After all we’ve been through, after everything I’ve said, after all you’ve seen, you still don’t have the trust to take me at my word.”

But for me the meaning of Jesus words about buying a sword are given by what follows: ‘For I tell you, this scripture must be fulfilled in me, “And he was counted among the lawless”; and indeed what is written about me is being fulfilled.’ He urges his disciples to take a sword, not so that they are properly armed to meet an imminent threat (after all, we know what happens when the threat appears. Jesus stops his disciples from violence and heals an enemy injured in the first scuffle). Jesus has never been afraid to be mistaken for a sinner. He went to John and was baptised as the crowds were for the repentance of sin. The respectable routinely accused him - a blasphemer, drunkard, friend of Beelzebub. And now he must be counted among the lawless. He must be a bandit leader with a group of brigands. They’ll need swords for that, but two is quite enough. Not to resist the armed force of his enemies — he has no intention of doing any fighting –but as props in another act of prophetic drama. He will indeed be counted with the lawless. And they’ll hang him with the worst of them.

Is this reading far-fetched? Maybe. But no more so than the one which would have Jesus negate all that he has said and done to this point and insist that his people take up arms.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1

Mark Byron 01.16.13 at 3:38 pm

Interesting; the swords as symbol of being ready to fight. That reminds me a bit of the Sikh kirpan mini-dagger that their guys are required to have on them; it freaks out authorities in no-weapon zones, but isn’t intended to be use per-se.

2

Mark Byron 01.16.13 at 3:40 pm

By the way, I wasn’t saying that modern disciples had to be armed, just that there would be precedent for doing so. I’ve never fired anything stronger than a BB gun and never owned a weapon, nor do I plan to; that’s another post to come.

3

phil_style 01.16.13 at 4:43 pm

Seems to me that Jesus is giving his enemies an excuse to trump up charges that he is leading an armed resistance.

From experience His followers know they have no need of swords, purses etc. How the author is showing Jesus’ innocence once again. There’s no way he was leading an armed uprising - with only two swords. The move appears to be designed to provoke his accusers into coming after him violence.

when they do turn up. Jesus once again proves his own innocence by deliberately, and publicly speaking out against his disciples use of the weapons. He makes a statement that counters the very accusation he would be subjected to. The whole encounter is about the innocence of Jesus, not the endorsement of arms carrying.

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