February 2023

The Two Swords: a bible study.

35 And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no purse or bag or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” 36 He said to them, “But now, let him who has a purse take it, and likewise a bag. And let him who has no sword sell his mantle and buy one. 37 For I tell you that this scripture must be fulfilled in me, ‘And he was reckoned with transgressors’; for what is written about me has its fulfilment.” 38 And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.” (Luke 22: 35-38, RSV)

This short passage, unique to St. Luke’s gospel, comes at the end of the extensive account he presents of the betrayal of Jesus and the last supper. It serves to describe the change in circumstances from those which characterised the mission of the seventy-two disciples which Luke describes in chapter 10 (vv. 1-12). In that mission the disciples would travel light and yet have everything they needed and the result would be success and joy. Now the opposite is true. Both Jesus and the disciples face a time of trial and rejection.

There is in the passage a disillusionment which reflects a dramatic change in Jesus’ mission. It can be read along with the lamentation over Jerusalem (Luke 13: 34-35 and Matthew 23: 37-39) and Jesus’ prophecy to the women of the city (Luke 23: 27-31).

The passage is full of irony which is lost on the disciples. They understand Jesus’ words literally despite the quotation from the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 53: 12) with its reference to the Lord’s Messiah. For some at least, it seems to be a call for action, even a call to arms; now is the time to rebel against the aggressors. What is clear, given the context of the passage, is that were the mission of Luke 10 to be carried out today it would not have the happy ending which Luke has previously recorded. The Evangelist makes it clear that Jesus’ fate is already determined and that resistance would be useless. Two swords could not possibly suffice.

The passage does show the commitment of the disciples to Jesus. It is a sentiment reminiscent of John 11: 16 in which Thomas encourages the others to follow Jesus to the death. Even so, their expectation of a fight in Luke 22 is misplaced, nor could it ever be effective. All the gospel writers know that Jesus’ words point towards martyrdom; that where he goes the disciple must follow.

Jesus concludes the incident with the words, ‘It is enough’. He is not referring to the swords which are not relevant either to his anticipated course of action or his fate as described by the gospel writers. According to T. W. Manson Jesus is instead using a Semitic idiom with a meaning similar to ‘that will do’. He is simply bringing the conversation to an end because it has served its purpose. It is now time to go to Gethsemane.

The passage is a hard one. Joachim Jeremias describes it as pointing to an eschatological time of distress akin to that described by Jesus as he meets the women of Jerusalem. This goes beyond the fate of the disciples which is Jeremias’s principal concern. Few of them died by the sword as far as can be ascertained from historical record. Jesus’ words include the destiny of Israel itself which came to be defined by the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and the Bar-Kochba rebellion in A.D. 132-135 in which the sword played a greater part. N.T. Wright would point out that Jesus’ teaching and the gospels as a whole can only be understood in terms of the completion of the destiny of Israel and the coming of the Messiah. Jesus is not just concerned with a small band of disciples, he sees the bigger picture and in doing so completes the history of Israel.

Select bibliography:
Joachim Jeremias, New Testament Theology (1971) SCM
T. W. Manson, The Sayings of Jesus (1937) SCM
N. T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God (1992) SPCK
N.T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God (1996) SPCK

Wednesday 1st February, 10.00am Mass (Presentation of Christ)
Friday 3rd February, 7.00pm Mass
Sunday 5th February, Septuagesima / Third Sunday before Lent
Wednesday 8th February, 10.00am Mass
Friday 10th February, 7.00pm Mass
Sunday 12th February, Sexagesima / Second Sunday before Lent
In addition to services at 8am and 9.30am: Family Service at 11.15am
Wednesday 15th February, 10.00am Mass
Friday 17th February, 7.00pm Mass
Sunday 19th February, Quinquagesima / Sunday next before Lent

Ash Wednesday, 22nd February
Mass with imposition of ashes (Modern Rite), 10.00am
Mass with hymns and imposition of ashes (Traditional Rite), 8.00pm

Friday 24th February, 7.00pm Mass
Sunday 26th February, First Sunday of Lent

Tuesday 28th February, 12 noon SSC Chapter Mass
8.00pm Stations of the Cross
Wednesday 1st March, 10.00am Mass (St. David, Bishop)
8.00pm Stations of the Cross and Benediction (Guild of the Servants of the Sanctuary)
Friday 3rd March, 7.00pm Mass
Sunday 5th March, Second Sunday of Lent

Please return last year’s palm crosses by Sunday 19th February so that they can be burnt before Ash Wednesday.

ACS works to support the provision of priests in ‘poor and populous parishes’ especially those in which the incumbent only receives a half-stipend (or no stipend at all). If you wish to have a collecting box for the work of ACS these are available at the back of church or from Fr. Andrew. Your support is very much appreciated.

On the first Sunday of the month during the communion at the 9.30am service, the Healing Team offer the laying on of hands with prayer for healing. Those who wish for prayer are invited to join the team in the Lady Chapel where the ministry is offered. Over the years many people have benefitted from receiving prayer in this way, receiving graces which have strengthened them in body, mind or spirit.

Prayer cards are available at the back of church for you to send to those for whom prayer is being offered. This is intended to be a comfort to the recipient and a useful reminder of an important ministry at St. Peter’s. A small donation of 10 pence per card is requested.

The delayed, and much requested, darts event has now been rebooked for Saturday 4th March at the Three Crowns. Put the date in your diary and look out for further details on the weekly pew sheet.