A few weeks ago our college study group talked at length about differing viewpoints on Christians and war, self-defense, and violence. One passage that has always perplexed me is Luke 22: 35-38. I find this passage difficult on both sides of the argument because 1) The reading of this text prima facie (am I using that right?) seems to advocate the use of weapons for defense, when just a few verses later Jesus rebukes the disciples for defending themselves and Jesus and 2) In the direct context of the passage, Jesus appears to give the disciples the instruction to obtain swords specifically for a prophetic fulfillment… “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.”
Here’s what I have so far: If the above is the case, and the disciples’ sword wielding pertains directly to Jesus being numbered with transgressors, then his rhetorical question in v. 52 “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs?” is well fitted. Furthermore, if the disciples’ need to defend themselves is really the issue at hand here, two swords hardly seem sufficient.
With regard to this and a few other passages typically seen as “pro-sword” passages, Homebrewed Christianity has an extremely helpful blog post here (don’t hold the fact that he’s “emerging” against him…or do, but I think he’s on to something in this particular area). While I don’t interpret all the relevant passages exactly as is done in the post, overall it does a nifty job clarifying some of the Scriptural metaphors which are easy to misunderstand. I would encourage you to read it and engage the interpretations discussed.