This is the final teaching of Jesus to his disciples. After these final words, Jesus and his disciples are going to leave the upper room in Jerusalem and go out to the Mount of Olives. What Jesus is going to tell his disciples is critical to their future work and mission.
The World of Hostility (Luke 22:35-36)
Jesus begins this final instruction with a question. “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” (Luke 22:35 ESV) The question refers back to the first commissioning Jesus gave to his disciples. The first time we read this was in Luke 9:1-6. There we read Jesus calling the twelve apostles, giving them power over demons and the power to cure diseases, and sending them to proclaim the kingdom of God. He told them to take nothing with them on their journey. They were not to take food, money, or clothes. They were to stay in the homes and towns that received them. Did the apostles lack anything when Jesus sent them out to preach empty-handed? The answer the disciples give is, “No.” We see this in Luke 9:6. They went through the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everyone. Jesus did this a second time which is recorded for us in Luke 10:1-12. Jesus appointed 72 of his disciples to go ahead of Jesus proclaiming the kingdom of God. Notice in verse 4 they were instructed to take nothing with them and verses 7-8 show they were being provided for by the people of the homes they were staying in. These events are the background to Jesus’ question. Did you lack anything when I sent you out empty-handed into the villages and towns? No, they did not lack anything. People were responsive. They opened their homes and gave them food to eat and a place to sleep. They were able to depend on the hospitality of the hearers.
Now Jesus is going to send out his apostles, but the situation has changed. No longer will they be able to go out empty-handed preaching the kingdom of God. Jesus says in verse 36, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one.” (Luke 22:36 ESV) Things have changed. Now when they go on mission they will find trouble and suffering. They are not going to find a welcoming world. People are not going to be opening their doors and inviting you in to preach Christ. They will face hostility. The world that has rejected Jesus as the Son of God is going to reject those who proclaim Jesus as the Son of God. The missionary situation has changed and it will be a dangerous time. The situation will be so dangerous that Jesus tells his disciples that if they do not own a sword, they need to sell a cloak and buy a sword. This sword is not a sword to attack people who do not accept their preaching. That is not the message at all. The point is that they would need a sword to defend themselves. The sword shows how they were going to be received by the world as they go out. The world is not going to provide for you nor be hospitable to you. They are going to reject you and attack you. A sword for self-defense would be needed.
We need to recognize that we live in an unprecedented time and in an unusual country. For 237 years this nation has experienced religious freedom. We are able to practice our faith and teach people about Jesus without fear of imprisonment or persecution from the government. That is not the way that it is in other countries. Last week we heard of a Christian teacher being sentence to eight years in prison in Iran for preaching Jesus. Open Doors USA keeps a list of the top 50 countries that are persecuting Christians. The nations where extreme persecution is reported is in North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Maldives, Mali, Iran, Yemen, Eritrea, and Syria. It is believed that approximately 200 million who profess faith in Jesus are being persecuted or having their human rights limited by government authorities. It is also believed that around 100-300 people who profess faith in Jesus are killed each day. Agencies admit that violence is increasing against Christians around the world. The reason I bring this up is so that we will consider that we live in an unusual country where we are not persecuted like others.
However, we must not mistake our freedoms to be the norm. Jesus described what would be the norm. The norm was not going to be a friendly reception of the gospel. Jesus is warning them of hostility and persecution. We must be careful that because we have experienced a time of wonderful religious freedom that we are not surprised when hostility begins to intensify against Christians. One of the issues that is going to bring this to a head is God’s teaching on homosexuality. As our nation continues to move to make the practice of homosexuality a human right and marriage a right, there is going to be conflict between the church and these rights. We are already seeing hostility increase against Christians because Christians are considered intolerant. Of course, they are intolerant of Christians, which shows the hypocrisy of the situation. But we need to observe that being a Christian does not mean that we will only practice our beliefs and proclaim our faith when it is socially acceptable to do so. Jesus is teaching his disciples that they will be living in a time of hostility. Jesus told them that they would be arrested. When we read the book of Acts we read about the persecution of Christians. Are we prepared to stand individually for Christ and together as a church in the face of hostility? Will we say the words, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29)? Will we stand joyfully during trouble and dangerous times just like the first century disciples of Jesus? Or will we change our beliefs or shrink in our faith as the pressure mounts against Christians?
Numbered With The Outlaws (22:37)
Jesus now amplifies this message by quoting from Isaiah 53 and applies it to himself. The prophecy of the suffering servant, the prophecy of Isaiah that we know so well and often read from when we take the Lord’s Supper, is the text Jesus says was speaking about him. Jesus quotes from Isaiah 53:12, “Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.” (Isaiah 53:12 ESV) In Isaiah 53:12 the word translated “transgressors” means “people who rebel, revolt.” The HCSB, NET, and NLT again read, “because He submitted Himself to death, and was counted among the rebels.” (Isaiah 53:12) The New Testament Greek carries the same meaning. The word “transgressors” in Luke 22:33 means “to act without law; lawless.” The HCSB captures the idea well when it reads, “And he was counted among the outlaws.” The NLT reads, “He was counted among the rebels.” Jesus would be counted with the lawless.
The timing of Jesus’ quotation of this prophecy is interesting. Notice that this quotation is not a reference to Jesus on the cross hanging between two thieves. That is not the time when this prophecy was fulfilled. Nor is the prophecy fulfilled when Jesus is eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners. It is at this moment when Jesus is talking with his disciples that this prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled. So let’s put the pieces together. Jesus has told them that they are going to preach Jesus in the face of hostility. No longer would they receive a welcome reception for proclaiming the gospel. Instead they would find trouble and suffering for preaching the message. Why are they going to face trouble and hostility? The answer is this quotation in Luke 22:37. To follow Jesus means you are part of the outlaws. To follow Jesus is to be numbered with the outcasts and the rebels. Jesus says the prophecy of Isaiah does not point to the cross but to being with his disciples. They are now the outcasts of society. They are the outlaws of the nation. This does not mean that we try to break the laws of the land. Paul taught clearly that Christians obey the government because it is instituted by God (Romans 13:1-7). But following Jesus will put us in hostility with the government and with the world, not in harmony with them. Jesus was counted as a criminal and suffered a criminal’s death. We will be outcasts and rebels for following him. Do we have faith to stand in such times? Will we follow Jesus and be numbered with the outlaws? Will we be rejected and be considered lawless for the sake of Jesus?
The Disciples Misunderstand (22:38)
The disciples respond to this by saying that they currently have two swords. There are two ways to take Jesus’ response. One way to understand Jesus is that he is saying that two swords are enough. Two swords are all the swords you will need. But I do not think this is what Jesus means. We will see on the Mount of Olives that two swords are not enough to protect themselves. The point was not to arm his disciples to go to the Mount of Olives. Everything is going according to Jesus’ plan. Nothing is happening by accident. The disciples have to turn and run at the arrest of Jesus because they did not have enough to defend themselves. The other way to understand Jesus is that he is saying it is enough of this talk. It is not the swords that are enough, but enough of this talk. The point would mean that his disciples are completely misunderstanding what he is telling them. The HCSB, NIV, and NLT reflect this meaning in their translations.
“Enough of that!” He told them. (Luke 22:38 HCSB)
“That’s enough!” he replied. (Luke 22:38 NIV; cf. NLT)
I believe this makes the most sense of the conversation. Jesus is telling them about their future. No longer will their mission be easy. No longer will people welcome them into their homes to preach. They will be met with hostility and suffering. They will need to go prepared and ready to protect themselves because they are going to be counted as outlaws and rebels in society. This is appropriate because Jesus will be counted as a criminal and outlaw as well. Rather than understanding Jesus to be talking about their mission efforts, they think they need swords right now. So Jesus ends the discussion because they do not grasp what Jesus is telling them yet.
The title of the lesson is Dangerous Christianity. We must recognize that we are called to stand outside of what is mainstream in our society. We are called to stand against popular thinking. We are called to rebel against teachings that stand contrary to the teachings of Jesus. We are going to be considered outlaws and rebels. We will be outcasts as we serve the One who became an outcast and outlaw to save us from our sins. We cannot seek the acceptance of the world. We cannot try to fit into the world. May we truly consider the words of the apostle Peter and what it means to be a Christian in our world today.
Dear friends, don’t be surprised when the fiery ordeal comes among you to test you as if something unusual were happening to you. Instead, rejoice as you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may also rejoice with great joy at the revelation of His glory. (1 Peter 4:12–13)