At the Last Supper, Luke records this dialogue:

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. 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.”

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

“That is enough,” he replied.

Luke 22:36-38

Why did Jesus tell them to buy a sword? And what should we make of His reply, "That is enough" when they produce two swords? Did He mean, "that is enough talk" or "those are enough swords"?


7 Answers 7


Up until this point, the disciples had operated under the aegis of both Roman and Jewish law. They were seen as just another group of disciples of some charismatic Rabbi. If he had some strange ideas he was teaching, well, so did plenty of others.

But now, all that was about to change. He was going to be taken by the Jews, tried and convicted and put to death by the Romans. Suddenly their Master's public status was about to go from "eccentric Rabbi" to "criminal condemned for stirring up trouble with the Romans," which would turn those who supported him into fugitives, at least temporarily.

Here, he was trying to explain to them that they would need to be prepared to stay mobile (side note: the word fugitive comes from a Latin root meaning "to flee"): they would need to always have a purse (for money) and a bag (to carry basic supplies) ready, and that a sword (for protection against other men) was to be more important to them than a cloak (for protection against the elements) in the days to come.

But as we see repeatedly throughout the Gospels, the disciples never really "got" the whole "Jesus is going to die and then be resurrected" thing until after it was all accomplished. Here, they hear him talking about swords, and someone says "yeah, we've got a couple here already." They just don't understand what he's trying to explain, and you can almost hear the Master's resigned sigh. "Sure, that'll be fine."

  • So you're saying that it was prophetic, rather than literal? Commented Apr 12, 2012 at 18:08
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    @Wikis: Umm... what do you mean? You're apparently trying to draw a distinction here, but I'm not sure what the difference is. Why can't prophecy be literal?
    – Mason Wheeler
    Commented Apr 12, 2012 at 18:48
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    Maybe I didn't explain myself well. I believe that the story is literal. But I think you are saying that Jesus did not literally want them to head out the door then (or at any time) to buy swords but rather it was an indication of the kind of life they would live after He left, right? Commented Apr 12, 2012 at 19:09
  • @Wikis: Ah, I see. Yes, that's what I'm saying.
    – Mason Wheeler
    Commented Apr 12, 2012 at 19:11
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    I prefer sarcastic to both prophetic and literal.
    – swasheck
    Commented Apr 12, 2012 at 20:12

That very part was to fulfill the scriptures written by Isaiah which he cited.

Isaiah 53:12 (KJV)
12  [...] because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Link it also to the fact that he was on the cross in the middle of 2 robbers.

Now, the high priests seek to trick Jesus with questions so they could incriminate him, but they had no reason to. A crime had to be committed before they could at least justify their arrest in the garden.

Luke 20:20 (KJV)
20  And they watched him, and sent forth spies, which should feign themselves just men, that they might take hold of his words, that so they might deliver him unto the power and authority of the governor.

The emphasis on the swords could not be placed out of context to mean Jesus condoned violence. Jesus tells the disciples to sell their cloak for a sword showing how urgent a sword was needed at that particular time in the garden. Two swords that were shown to him obviously could not fight off the armed soldiers who came for his arrest, but he said they were enough.

Luke 22:52-53 (KJV)
52  [...] Be ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and staves?
53  When I was daily with you in the temple, ye stretched forth no hands against me: but this is your hour, and the power of darkness.

Luke 22:49 (KJV)
49  When they which were about him saw what would follow, they said unto him, Lord, shall we smite with the sword?

Jesus did not answer "No!"; he did not stop what was about to happen. Lo and behold,

Luke 22:50-51 (KJV)
50  And one of them smote the servant of the high priest, and cut off his right ear.
51  And Jesus answered and said, Suffer ye thus far. And he touched his ear, and healed him.

It was after this incident, according to John, that Jesus stopped the violence.

John 18:11 (KJV)
11  Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?

This meant that if Peter succeeded in defending Him, it would hinder His death, our salvation which God had planned.

Of course the disciples wouldn't understand Him, but a little crime (2 swords) was enough to (number Him among transgressors) to fulfill Isaiah's prophecy.

  • +1 very similar to an answer I was about to give, which would seem redundant now. A good summary of the above: That particular night, Jesus wanted his followers to have weapons so that they would fit the bill of the dangerous, rebellious group that opponents thought they were. He did not want the soldiers who came to hesitate in arresting him.
    – asfallows
    Commented Apr 12, 2012 at 13:12
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    Are you saying that Jesus committed a crime to fulfill prophecy and be arrested? I can't agree with that. Commented Apr 12, 2012 at 13:15
  • @asfallows wow, overtaking right? The meaning is quite fascinating as Jesus hints that a prophecy is just about to be fulfilled, must be fulfilled, and actually gets fulfilled. So interesting.
    – Nok
    Commented Apr 12, 2012 at 13:20
  • @Wikis take it as God's plan. As asfalow said, to fit the bill. At least he healed an ear he did not cut.
    – Nok
    Commented Apr 12, 2012 at 13:23
  • @Wikis I don't personally think that Jesus committed a crime, and I don't think that carrying swords was an inherently criminal act in that time. But Jesus knew that appearance would matter. If he were standing there unarmed, surrounded by unarmed followers, peacefully being arrested without hesitation, it may have made the guards think, "Are you sure this is the guy we want?" If they had doubted the chief priests, Jesus might not have been arrested, but he knew that it had to happen.
    – asfallows
    Commented Apr 12, 2012 at 13:24

It was a plot device.

A couple of scenes later (vs 49-51) shows Jesus' healing powers by restoring the ear of a high priest that had been cut off by one of those swords. In doing so, he capitulates magnanimously, where he could have instead used force to resist arrest.

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    @Wikis The Bible is a story with a definite plot, so yes, it has plot devices. The swords that Jesus requested are used only for that specific moment, then never seen again. Therefore, that moment is the reason for which the swords were needed.
    – Kaz Dragon
    Commented Apr 12, 2012 at 13:28
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    If we add the Matt 26 account to this, that means: Jesus instructed them to fetch swords, just so he could tell them off for using them? Commented Apr 12, 2012 at 20:06
  • @MarcGravell Sure. Jesus wanted to look buff, to give the appearance of allowing himself to be arrested, as he knew he had to be. He never intended that the swords actually be used. That also answers the question of why two swords would be "enough."
    – Kaz Dragon
    Commented Apr 13, 2012 at 8:50
  • @MarcGravell I think user208769 gives a good answer justifying Jesus' actions there. Commented Apr 13, 2012 at 18:54

I don't think the two acts are related I read it just as it is. Jesus showed them the importance of a sword to defend themselves and others but when Jesus was arrested he told peter not to fight for this is my fathers cup and it must be fulfilled. If Jesus had a army of 1000000 that undoubtly could defeat Rome would he to not call them off because it was him going about his fathers will? To say that he uses swords for one event only and the cutting of the ear to rebuke violence is adding context that is not there to me.


At the end of the day, the New Testament is clear to turn the other cheek. Yet, as we live through the Tribulation, it is impossible for me to simply stand back and watch the slaughter of innocence. Can we be expected to merely stand back as our children are beheaded? Do we lack faith if we fight back? God has given us an inherent instinct to protect life. To feed the hungry and put down evil, not to give into it and throw yourself into the fire. Even animals will run or fight to protect the sanctity of life. Knowing we will die is a fact. Whether we fight or stand still we all will die in our bodies here. The difference is that the strong and faithful in Christ, will be with God, in spite of physical death regatdless. So, I personally believe that we must literally pick up the sword and use it to defend.


For me, and I can speak for no one else, the answer to what Jesus said about arming one's self is found in Romans Chapter 12: "Insofar as possible, live at peace with all men."
The key phrase is "insofar as possible." While no one despises war more than those who have been a part of it, I know that violence is to be avoided but I'm not anxious to be a martyr without making a few martyrs of those who would take my life, and I refuse to stand idly by while my loved ones are martyred. So, what I believe Jesus was telling us is that we sometimes are forced to make a choice to either die or survive, and if I should happen to forfeit my eternity in Heaven because I chose to defend myself and others, then that is for me to decide.

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    – user3961
    Commented Sep 24, 2014 at 4:40

Why did Jesus tell His disciples to buy a sword?

When Jesus offered the kingdom to the nation of Israel it was a legitimate offer. He did not wink at the disciples and say, "I know you guys are going to blow it, so here is the real plan".

The words of Jesus, even the prophetic words are true regardless of what Israel does.

If Israel had accepted Jesus anytime up to this point, the disciples would be rulers in Israel.

Now that Jesus is about to be put to death, there is a transition from the supernatural protection and provision of the disciples to a more natural existence.

The sword at the time is representative less of combat as we are likely to think today than it was of a normal tool used in traveling such as for processing kindling and firewood as well as protection.

The sword is rather emblematic of a hiatus in the unfolding of the kingdom.

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