While challenging myself and another brother to follow Christ the other day I was reminded of curious words from our Lord. While the disciples readied to travel with Jesus to the Olive Garden after the Last Supper the disciples said, "They said, 'Lord, behold, here are two swords.' He said to them, 'That is enough'" (Luke 22:38 WEB). This is just the type of verse we might easily glide right over without much meditation. Yet we should remind ourselves that the literary arts of the Holy Spirit are second to none and he has richly filled every inch of the Scriptures with wisdom for believers.
Consider the verse above. Jesus says, "That is enough" with absolutely no explanation. Yet we might ask, "enough for what?" The disciples were all anticipating a showdown between their leader, Jesus, and the Jews. Peter and all the disciples had earlier vowed that they were willing to die for Jesus. Now they gathered what little armament they had preparing to defend the cause of Christ with swords of steel in Gethsemane. Did they imagine that Jesus was testing their faith as they readied for the battle of their lives? Would Jesus miraculously multiply the two swords like he did with the fish and loaves earlier? Would God work miracles for the small army like he did for Gideon and Israel many times?
The disciples were resolved to stand by Jesus’ side believing that he could do anything. Some may argue that Jesus did intend to advance his kingdom with the swords of his disciples, but changed his mind in his final hours. Though it is easily proven that Jesus did not change his mind, nor ever intend to stand behind the swords of his disciples.
Yet we still ask why would he say, "That is enough"? We read in Matthew’s gospel,
50) Jesus said to him, "Friend, why are you here?" Then they came and laid hands on Jesus, and took him. 51) Behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck the servant of the high priest, and struck off his ear. 52) Then Jesus said to him, "Put your sword back into its place, for all those who take the sword will die by the sword. 53) Or do you think that I couldn't ask my Father, and he would even now send me more than twelve legions of angels? 54) How then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that it must be so?"55) In that hour Jesus said to the multitudes, "Have you come out as against a robber with swords and clubs to seize me? I sat daily in the temple teaching, and you didn't arrest me. 56) But all this has happened that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled."Matthew 26:50-56 (WEB)
So we see that Jesus used his final hours, despite his personal agony, to make two of his most important points to his zealous, but very ignorant disciples.
First the Scripture records that Jesus paused to miraculously heal the ear of the high priests servant. This simple act of mercy reminds us that Christ was not starting one more hypocritical or schismatic religion to divide men. Jesus loves all of us, from the drunken adulterer who knows nothing and cares nothing about God to the hypocritical Pharisee who is ready to put Christ to death. Peter was determined to terminate evil men, but Jesus was determined to love evil men from the cross, Peter included.
Second we see that Jesus says that "...For all those who take the sword will die by the sword." God commanded Israel to punish sinners of various types with the death sentence under the Old Covenant. Perhaps bold Peter was ready for a blood bath as in days of old at the foot of Mount Sinai. But instead Christ was inaugurating a New Covenant making the old obsolete and Peter was still learning the new way of things.
To be sure God still authorizes the state to punish evildoers. However, all the death penalties of the Old Covenant people of God have been abrogated by the New Covenant, and only the death penalty mandate to Noah in Genesis 9:6 still stands and is restated in Romans 13 under the New Covenant. This is not in question.
What is in question is how are Christians called to advance the kingdom of Christ and fight against evil? Peter’s adrenaline was flowing in anticipation of dying for Christ with a sword in his hand, but Christ assigned Peter and any that would follow him to anticipate dying with the sword of the Spirit in our mouths. Are we willing to lay down the steel sword to wield the sword of the Spirit? Are we willing to suffer for preaching the truth of God’s love to an unbelieving world? Is our adrenaline flowing for this commission?
Two swords were enough to provide opportunity for Christ to further teach and correct his disciples then and now. I speak more on this subject in my article, To Battle with the Sword of the Spirit and Prayer.