And He said to them, "When I sent you out without purse and bag and sandals, you did not lack anything, did you?" And they said, "No, nothing." And He said to them, "But now, let him who has a purse take it along, likewise also a bag, and let him who has no sword sell his robe and buy one. For I tell you, that this which was written must be fulfilled in Me, 'And He was numbered with transgressors;' for that which refers to Me has its fulfillment." And they said to Him, "Lord, look, here are two swords." And He said to them, "It is enough."This is one of those passages that I've read a bunch of times, but have never really understood; nor do I think I understand it now. The passage Jesus quotes is about His upcoming crucifixion. It seems clear to me that He isn't telling His disciples to take up arms to prevent His death, since He has insisted that it is necessary, and we know that He stopped a disciple who did use a sword to try to prevent His arrest. By comparing this instruction with the different one He gave them the last time He "sent them out," I think He's saying that they will be separated from Him again, with all the danger and hardship that it implies. I'm tempted to say that the instruction to be armed is a symbolic way of warning them of their upcoming dangers and hardships ... except that, when a disciple says look here, we've got two swords, Jesus doesn't say, Have you been with Me so long, and still understand nothing? That is, He doesn't rebuke them for their foolish literalism; instead, He casually endorses it, saying, "It is enough."
I'm tentatively convinced that Jesus's words are carrying meaning on multiple levels here, and I merely lack the ears to hear those deeper levels; however, I see no indication that their surface, plain meaning is to be disregarded. For now, then, I think this passage belongs in the "yes, believers can -- and perhaps should -- be armed" file.
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