What Would Jesus Be Packing?

The interpretation of the verses in Luke 22:36-38 can follow either a strictly physical direction in which swords must be used, or a nonphysical one in which swords must not be used, during Jesus’ last hours.

jesus-gun-wwjd41First I read that churches in Kentucky are using gun giveaways to help people find Jesus. Then, in a front-page story in my area, the pastor of a local Baptist church plans to give away an AR-15 assault rifle to the winner of a free raffle at an upcoming Sunday service.

From the Troy, NY church’s website:

We have decided to hold a special service honouring hunters and gun owners who have been so viciously attacked by the antichristian socialist media and antichristian socialist politicians the last few years. Our country was built with the King James Bible and the gun.

My theology is very different from this, and I struggled to understand it. Part of the issue has to do with the notion of “a long-standing and deep sense of a special and unique American Destiny, the belief that… America is a nation called to a special destiny by God.” This thought process fueled Manifest Destiny in the 19th Century, for instance.

Thus, embracing the Second Amendment rights, if I am sussing this out correctly, is akin to embracing God. “The notion that there was some providential purpose to the European discovery and eventual conquest of the landmasses ‘discovered’ by Christopher Columbus was present from the beginning.” Ah, American exceptionalism. It’s not “America, right or wrong”; America has ALWAYS been right unless the socialists have taken over, trying to take away “our guns” and “our freedom.”

But what is the Biblical theology defending guns? More than one person online cited Luke 22:36. From the King James Bible, which seems to be the only version that matters to this church:

36 Then said he 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.

What IS Jesus saying here? That we need weapons to defend ourselves? Continuing:

37 For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me, And he was reckoned among the transgressors: for the things concerning me have an end.

38 And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords. And he said unto them, It is enough.

Rev. Alan Rudnick, who wrote about the gun giveaway, pointed me to this interpretation, which I need to quote at length:

The interpretation of the verses can follow either a strictly physical direction in which swords must be used, or a nonphysical one in which swords must not be used, during Jesus’ last hours… first we analyze why the literal one will not fit into Luke 22:34-38 and into the passage about the arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:39-53).

Violent use of the swords

Jesus says to the disciples to buy swords, but when they show him two, Jesus says the two are enough. The literal [direction] is inadequate for two reasons.

First, the obvious question is: two swords are enough for what? Are they enough for a physical fight to resist arrest? This is hardly the case because during Jesus’ arrest… Jesus sternly tells Peter to put away his sword, “No more of this!” and then he heals the servant, restoring his ear (Luke 22:49-51). Resisting arrest cannot be the purpose of the two swords.

Second, were the two swords enough for an armed rebellion to resist the authorities and to impose the new Jesus movement in a political and military way? Jesus denounces this purpose in Luke 22:52, as the authorities are in the process of arresting him: “Am I leading a rebellion that you have come with swords and clubs?” The answer is no, as he is seized and led away (v. 54).

The contextual meaning of the swords…

Jesus reminds the disciples of his mission for them before he arrived in Jerusalem (Luke 9:3; 10:1-17). Did they need a purse, a bag, or extra sandals? No, because people were friendlier, and their opposition to him was spread out over three years. Now, however, he is in Jerusalem, and he has undergone the compacted antagonism of religious leaders seeking to trap him with self-incriminating words. When the authorities are not present, they send their spies…

Second, “For I tell you, this scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered among the lawless'” (Luke 22:37). By far the clearest purpose of the two swords is Jesus’ reference to Isaiah’s prophecy (53:12). He was destined to be arrested like a criminal, put on trial like a criminal, and even crucified like a criminal (but his arrest, trial, and execution were based on false evidence. He did nothing but good.) Yet, he was hung on the cross between two thieves, which is also a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy (Luke 23:32; 39-43). What are criminals known for carrying with them? Weapons, and to be numbered among criminals, Jesus must also have weapons. That is why he said that only two swords would be enough—to fulfill this prophecy.

The argument that Jesus was fulfilling Scripture, and/or that two swords would not be sufficient if meant literally for defense, was noted HERE and HERE and especially on the Wikipedia page. The “armor of God”, in my belief system, does not require OUR literal weaponry.

Image purloined from neg8thehate.com