I was asked by someone this weekend why Jesus told his disciples to sell their cloaks and buy a sword in Luke 22:38? Was Jesus promoting violence? Did He want them to kill or hurt others in order to carry out the will of God?
Then Jesus asked them, "When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?" "Nothing," they answered. He said to them, "But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. 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." The disciples said, "See, Lord, here are two swords." "That is enough," he replied. (Luke 22:35-38, NIV)
Was Jesus advocation violence? We see that later that same evening, when Peter uses a sword, Jesus tells him to put it away. Matthew 26:52 says, "Put your sword back in its place. Then Jesus said to him, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword." Luke 22:51 records Jesus saying, "No more of this!" And he touched the man's ear and healed him." In John 18:11, Jesus commanded Peter, "Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?"'). Mark only notes that while one disciple used a sword, Jesus allowed himself to be arrested peacefully.
So, why did Jesus tell them to buy swords and then would not let them use them? Why did Jesus rebuke Peter for using the sword He told him to purchase? Buy them then don't use them? Take up a sword then let me rebuke you for using it?
For one, there wasn't enough time between Jesus telling them to purchase a sword and Peter using a sword. In Luke 22:38, the disciples tell Jesus they already have two swords. Jesus said that was enough. Enough? For 11 people? Everyone didn't have one Jesus. How could they fight with only two swords? This is exactly my point. Jesus wasn't telling them to take up arms to fight all who resisted or oppressed them. That would go against everything He had already preached and would live out on the cross. But there could be times, although none are listed in scripture, that they may have had to personally defend themselves from robbers, etc. If Jesus had wanted them to fight everyone that opposed them, He would have said that two swords were not enough. He would have also taught this throughout His entire ministry with the disciples.
One thing that proves this point is that none of the disciples (including Peter) resorted any further to violence to build the Kingdom. In Acts, we see, they consistently accepted persecution peacefully. (Acts 4:25-31, 8:1-3, 9:1-2, 12:1-5).
Does Jesus promote the use of violent self-defence? I think only as a last resort. While I think that, there is no record of Jesus or the apostles ever resorting to it, despite the extreme persecution they all faced. Would the disciples face attackers? Yes. Should they have defended themselves? Maybe. What kind of attack was it? If they were attacked for furthering the Kingdom, then no. If they were attacked by a robber or random thug that could prevent them from preaching and carrying out the will of Jesus, then possibly yes. Never because of preaching but if there was a chance that a thug would harm them and prevent them from preaching the next day, then maybe.
As in all cases, if we are defending ourselves from attackers, we have to love them (Matthew 5:44). I think this means in the extreme situation when we are trying to protect ourselves and family, we try to minimise the harm needed to carry this out on the attacker.
But, as Jesus demonstrated on the cross, violent self-defense must never be against a ruling authority. Even if we don't like or agree with it. Violent self-defense must only be used in a violent attack on ourselves when life is at stake (i.e. if someone breaks into your home or if someone attacks your wife and kids). This kind of death is not martyrdom, but crime. Justice must be carried out by the courts and police. You are only seeking to stop the harm done to you or your family until the authorities arrive and can take over to carry this out.
So, does Luke 22:35-38 promote self-defense? I think only as we apply it with all of Jesus' other teaching. It cannot be separated from all His other commands to love our enemies.