Jesus and the Sword – Crazy Bible Stories Part 4
Jesus and the Sword
Take a moment and think about all the stories that you know about Jesus. Do any of them have a sword in them? Probably not. Unless you are thinking of the book of Revelation where Jesus comes back as a conqueror, the closest violent based story most people can come up with is when he makes a whip and drives people out of the temple.
If you are really astute, then you may remember the story of Peter cutting a soldier’s ear off with a sword and Jesus miraculously healing it. While this latter story is related to what I am getting at, it is not in and of itself crazy. Actually, any part of the story by itself is not crazy, it is only when you put all the parts together that things get really weird.
One of the reasons that I like this story in the Bible is that it makes no sense. There is no really good answer given to us as to what is going on (at least not one that I have found). Even if you are an ordained seminarian who has studied the Bible in Israel for 30 years, you may still not be able to explain what is going on or why. It goes to show that there are some mysteries or parts of Jesus’ story that we will never fully understand.
Sell Your Shirt, Buy a Sword.
All right, so you know that part of the story is that Peter uses a sword to cut off a guy’s ear, let’s take a step back and look at the beginning of this crazy story. Luke 22:35-38 says:
35 Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?”
“Nothing,” they answered.
36 He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. 37 It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.”
38 The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.”
“That’s enough!” he replied.
The last sentence is the beginning of the bizarre story. It makes sense that Jesus would be preparing the disciples for a long and difficult journey – a journey that may require a sword. However, what does not make sense is that Jesus encourages all of them to get a sword and emphasizes the importance of it so much that he tells them to sell their cloaks in order to afford one. Then, despite the importance of the sword when the disciples produce two of them he tells them that it is enough. Wait a second. It is important for everyone to have a sword, and they should do whatever possible to acquire one (and there were 12 of them total at this point) but two is enough?
Perhaps Jesus was just sick of their ridiculous questions and their answers to his. Peter in particular may have been getting on Jesus’ nerves a little too much. He just declared that he would follow him to prison and death, and Jesus said “nope, you won’t make it through the night.” In Luke 9, Peter speaks without thinking as he suggests building a shelter for spiritual beings and God himself cuts Peter off. Maybe Jesus was thinking “oh forget the swords, two will probably be enough. You guys are not listening to me anyway.”
So it’s already strange that Jesus tells them two swords is enough when in reality they should have had 12, but things just get weirder. A sword has a couple of primary functions. Essentially you can either kill things, or cut things. That’s it. That’s what swords do. So you can see why things get confusing just four paragraphs later when we read this:
49 When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” 50 And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear.
51 But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.
Yep. In other Gospel’s it is poor Peter who actually tries to use the sword to protect and defend Jesus. Surely Peter was thinking “this is it! This is what we needed the swords for! Oh how foolish we were to suggest that two were going to be enough… Alas! To battle, as I said earlier ‘Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!’” So Peter grabs one of the swords and apparently misses horribly as he only manages to cut the ear off of the “servant of the high priest.” Peter must have still been a little drowsy from sleeping through prayer because most people wouldn’t be able to cut a man’s ear off if they were trying (not to mention the fact that his target was probably the least threatening in the situation). Turns out, the swords were not meant to be used. I guess they were more of a fashion statement? If I were allowed to, I would definitely where a sword around at all times. Maybe Jesus was just trendy.
The Rest of the Story
After all the confusion surrounding the sword ends, the story picks up with Peter. (Notice that this is all still found in Luke 22). This is the part where Peter says he doesn’t know who Jesus is three times. Reading the story 2000+ years later and knowing the ending it is easy to think that Peter was just a coward. He should have strengthened his resolve and admitted he was a follower of Christ. After all, he saw Jesus walk on water, raise the dead, command weather, and kill trees with his voice (another crazy story for another time). But let’s take a step back and put ourselves in Peter’s shoes at that moment. He just tried to defend Jesus with a sword and was told to stop. This was after Jesus said the sword was more important than a cloak. Can we blame Peter for wondering if he really knew who Jesus was at this point? In the time span of half a dozen paragraphs he has heard so many different things from Jesus he isn’t sure what to believe any more.
The whole story is just really strange. Every time I read it I chuckle and think “wait, what?” Sure, there are plenty of other ways to look at the sword beside literally, but remember the disciples weren’t very good at understanding what Jesus said half the time either. It’s a story in the Bible that is very easy to overlook. The full meaning of it may be lost to us, but I think this just goes to show us that there is always more we can learn about Jesus and if we try too hard to get hung up on the details we are going to go crazy.
If you want to take a look at this story through the lens of the entire biblical context and try to make some actual connected sense out of it, take a look at this article:
A Brief Explanation of Luke 22:36
So what do you think? What do you think is going on in this story? Have you actually read this story before? I’d love to hear what others think about this story as I am still pleasantly puzzled by it.
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