Question: And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.”
Can anyone please explain it [Luke 22:38] like I’m 5 years old.
Everything Jesus taught was pacifist. But then there is this one scripture which has been used to inspire Crusades throughout history. Can anyone provide scripture or Church Fathers quotes (first 5 centuries of the church), that sheds some light on what this scripture [Luke 22:38] means: “And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he (Jesus) said to them, “It is enough.”
There is nothing in history about Peter (the man with two swords), ever using a sword in the name of Jesus. So, I feel this scripture is misused, but I don’t have more to go on other than the rest of the teachings of Jesus.
No matter how tempting, I would refrain from ever putting any labels on Jesus. For all eccentric labels can only restrict, narrow, and distort the true essence of this figure, thereby leading to wrong interpretations of His Nature. For human beings, He should simply be regarded as the Son of God who embraces all qualities and virtues. Now to the matter at hand.
As the allusion to swords can only be understood within the broader context of the previous statements attributed to Jesus about the need for the disciples to secure “swords”, I will furnish some preliminary explanations before addressing the meaning of the sword reference. In so doing, I will try to provide an overview that is both logical and simple.
Introduction: The context
Through the sinfulness and guilt of the human spirit, the darkness was ruinously spreading over the whole earth and held the soul of man hostage to evil. With each passing year, the virtues within the human spirit—equivalent to sparks of light, grew dimmer and dimmer. This meant the qualities of the darkness were suffocating the last vestiges of light within man, and was barring their way back to the luminous heights. Consequently, mankind became spiritually lost and entangled in the undergrowth of evil. The only outcome of this condition would be spiritual death, the same way a decreasing supply of oxygen will cause physical death.
In this dreadful state of affairs, an intervention was needed. A Pure Light that would bring the true knowledge of God, reinforce and animate the noble qualities within the human spirit and imbue it with the power to conquer evil within itself, and also reopen the way back to Paradise. In summary, to arrest the downfall of man and mercifully reroute his downward trajectory back to an upward one. To achieve this lofty task, there was only one possibility: God had to send a Part of Himself into the battleground of the Darkness. For only a Part of God could transmit undimmed and completely the true knowledge of God, and dispense Light strong enough to achieve total victory over the darkness.
But since this darkness and evil was caused by the individual human spirit, it follows that salvation and liberation from darkness could be attained by each person only through the participation of his free will, i.e. completely adjusting his being to the Word of Truth brought by this Divine Envoy. However, as Jesus could not remain on earth indefinitely, human disciples were needed as bridges between the Divine Envoy and human beings. Disciples whose task it would be to receive a deeper meaning of the Word, spread it abroad, live exemplary lives, and thus to be the first to put it into practice. And so, among the ranks of human beings, Jesus chose a few who expressed the wish to follow Him and serve the Word. As the word “disciple” derives from the Latin word discipulus that means “pupil, student, follower”, it follows that a disciple is meant to be foremost a student of Truth.
As every activity requires a time of intense preparation, so was a period of grooming needed to prepare the disciples for their field of activities of proclaiming the Word after the death of Jesus. Hence, this period of training was also a period in which the disciples were to adjust their whole lives to the Word of Truth. It is in the various stages of this process of adjustment that we find the meaning of the concept of swords.
Luke 22:35. “And he said unto them, When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye anything? And they said, Nothing.”
When a baby is born, it is under the parent’s protection for the first phase of its life. During this time, it is helped to slowly master the use of its physical body, cultivate the tools necessary to successfully engage life, and develop a gradual understanding of its environment. In summary, it is helped to mature toward full physical and spiritual independence. During childhood, the parents shoulder the full weight of life’s forces, which protectively allows the child a carefree space to slowly unfold into full responsibility. The child lacks everything, yet possesses everything. It lacks an understanding of the complexities of the outside world, money, developmental skills for employment, and ownership of a dwelling. And yet, it has access to all these things through its parents. Thus, even though the child personally lacks everything, as the parents have them, it yet possesses them while within the care of its parent.
As this happens in the physical process of development between child and parent, so does it occur in the spiritual process of preparation for a human spirit in the service of a Divine Envoy. When Jesus entered into His Mission, the chosen ones were still woefully immature and to some extent entangled in the snares of the darkness. However, under the protective shield of the immediate vicinity of Jesus, the disciples-in-training were given a space of time to mature into their high calling—just like the child in the parental home. During this period, they were to work on shedding their childish tendencies and faults by fully adjusting themselves to the Word of Truth until it became inseparable from their being. As they were not fully in unison with the Truth, it follows that they lacked genuine faith, conviction, steadfast volition, and true knowledge—purse, scrip, and shoes. However, just like the immature child, they had access to all these things through the immediate presence of the Divine Light of Jesus. Hence it meant they were without everything, and yet they paradoxically lacked nothing. Despite their inner deficiencies, this protection and bounty were afforded them owing to the childlike trust they had in their Master. Consequently, while the disciples were still in preparation, the full weight of the darkness was directed on the Person and Word of Jesus—just like the full weight of life’s forces are shouldered by the parents and not the developing child. Ergo, it meant Jesus was entirely alone in the struggle and battle against the darkness while His disciples were still immature.
Luke 22:36. “Then he said unto them, But now, he that hath a purse let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one.”
Imagine if the parent of the young child one day discovers he will soon pass away. His concern and anxiety for the young child will prompt him to warn it that the comfortable protection and carefree life of childhood he has hitherto enjoyed—the money, employment, house, and knowledge he has been afforded through the immediate presence of the parent, will soon come to an end. The child will now have to struggle for its daily bread, i.e. it has to grow up quickly. To achieve this, it will have to develop initiative, use its abilities to seek employment, sharpen its knowledge of the outside world, cultivate a focused drive to navigate through hardships, and brace itself to shoulder the full weight of the forces of human experiences, i.e. “in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread” [Genesis 3:19]; thus, do everything it was taught. The parent might also inform the child of the resources it has at its disposal, but despite these provisions, it would not be as easy as its carefree childhood, for there will inevitably be struggles and sufferings it will pass through that will serve to inwardly mature it.
Likewise, when His sudden departure through the crucifixion became inevitable, Jesus sought to inwardly prepare His disciples for the challenges they would soon face. The comfortable protection, carefree life, and gradual preparation they were afforded in the proximity to Jesus would come to an end. It meant that once the darkness (through the willing cooperation of mankind) had murdered the Son of God, the full weight and attention would now shift and focus on the attempt to destroy the disciples one by one. However, since Jesus recognized His disciples were still missing the steadfastness and maturity needed to win through, He tried to warn them in Luke 22:36. If the disciples were hitherto missing genuine faith, conviction, and a focused volition…they would need to immediately acquire it. Hence the urge to “take your purse, scrip, and buy a sword”. Selling one’s garment to procure a sword is equivalent to discarding anything that hinders you from the sharpened oneness of focus of completely fulfilling the Divine Will. They were now moving from the trainingground to the battleground, and the struggle would not be easy. Hence, they would need to develop genuine faith, flaming conviction, and the razor-focus of a sharpened volition that is akin to a spiritual sword of battle. Jesus was instructing His disciples to brace themselves with the armament He had given them in the Word for spiritual warfare with the darkness and Lucifer. Mark well, not physical combat and bloodshed, but inner spiritual warfare that would manifest in the struggle of physical experiences.
To buttress the above point, Jesus is reported to have cautioned Peter a few passages earlier [Luke 22: 31-32] when He spoke of the temptations he would face by the darkness that intends to derail him. Here Jesus was trying to raise the vigilance of Peter and the disciples to understand the focused warfare that the darkness would now wage against them. This was more than necessary because the disciples had two major flaws: 1) lack of understanding of the full gravity of the coming battle, and its implications for themselves and for mankind; and then 2) an overestimation of their maturity which is tantamount to partial spiritual blindness. The latter point was proven when Peter made lofty declarations about his intentions to “stand by Jesus” through prison and death, only to thrice deny Him before the cock crowed. Furthermore, this lack of understanding [John 16:12; 1 Corinthians 13:9-10] were blindspots that presented potential points of attack by the darkness. Ergo, the reference to the sword by Jesus was not meant physically, but alluded to the spiritual process of the need for His disciples to develop a firm conviction, unwavering faith, and a sharpened volition to victoriously live the Word of Truth He brought to mankind, in the inevitable struggle against the darkness. It was a call to be the foremost to put it into practice among mankind, so that their conviction might become a source of strength for others.
But the Love of God went further! During Passover, Jesus performed some ceremonial acts. These acts spiritually marked the disciples as chosen ones, forged a connection between Him and them, and opened special spiritual pathways. The disciples did not know this then, but the special acts prepared the spiritual road on which the heavenly cloven tongues of flames would travel, and also marked the target upon whom it would mercifully descend, on the day of Pentecost [Acts 2:3]. As a mark and endowment of their high spiritual calling. But to enter the subject of this flame would be going too far, so just suffice it to say that this flame equipped the disciples with access to higher spiritual knowledge and reinforced them with supernatural heavenly powers. All of this was done out of pure love, to reinforce and strengthen them further for their impending struggle against the darkness. For the sake of their salvation and for mankind, so that the road of salvation would remain open long enough until the future time when the Son of Man, once promised by Jesus, would enter His Mission on earth.
However, I implore caution. For through the above statements one should not ascribe sacrosanctity and infallibility to the written words and concepts of the disciples. Accompanying the natural respect that should inform our approach of their statements, should be a simple awareness: the blessing of this tongue of flame does not erase human deficiencies and misunderstandings, but only gives access to higher power and understanding…for which it is then left to the free will of the human spirit to adjust and use according to its nature and volition. Therefore, we must beware of drawing wrong conclusions, and must always exercise the intuition to impartially and carefully examine everything presented to us.
In view of the meaning of the allusion to swords, anyone who uses these statements as a license for bloodshed, thereby declares his incompetence and utter lack of understanding of all that is spiritual. He numbers himself among the foolish virgins. For even in the strictly mundane sense, it was later reported that when the guards came to arrest Jesus, one of the disciples drew a physical sword (a weapon of sorts) and struck one of them in the ear [Luke 22:50-51; John 18:10-11]. According to the biblical reports, how did Jesus react? Rebuke. This simple fact alone stands in sharp contrast to any attempt to use the transmitted teachings of Jesus as a tool for crusades and bloodshed. The emphasis of His teachings ever again draws humanity’s attention toward and shows them how to inwardly achieve victory over the darkness within their souls through a complete spiritual rebirth. Nothing but a fire of gratitude should blaze in the human spirit in response to this immeasurable grace!
We human beings are always enveloped and showered by the infinite and inconceivable Love of God the Father! The Love that inclined toward humanity in the Mission of Jesus, in order to save us from the whirlpool of spiritual death by showing the way upward. This Love even today inclines anew, but requires the intuition, i.e. the oil in the lamp [Matthew 25: 1-13] to properly perceive and recognize It. But with this recognition comes the willingness to serve and adjust to It. It is in this adjustment that the human spirit personally finds salvation and eternal happiness. In this salvation, he rediscovers the path back to the Light and will thus celebrate a resurrection back to life, as is already indicated in the parable of the prodigal son!
~Ikenna Q. Ezealah