Question: If Jesus is opposed to violence, why did he tell his disciples to buy swords (Lk 22:36-37).

Answer: Given how Jesus responds to Peter’s use of the sword (he rebukes him), and given everything Jesus says about loving enemies, doing good to them, turning the other cheek, and so on, it’s clear that, whatever Jesus was up to in telling his followers to buy swords, he clearly didn’t intend for them to use them.

I think a close look at the passage reveals Jesus’ purpose. Immediately after telling them to buy a sword (Lk 22:36) Jesus says, “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.”(vs. 37). To fulfill prophecy, Jesus had to be viewed as a transgressor. He had to at least appear to be a political revolutionary to the Jewish authorities for them to feel justified in arresting him. His cleansing of the temple a few days earlier was probably calculated for the same effect. So, to fulfill the prophecy and to provoke the Jewish authorities, he had to have enough weaponry to justify being viewed as a law breaking revolutionary.

This is why, in the next verse, when the disciples say they have two swords, Jesus says “That is enough.” (vs. 38). Obviously, if Jesus ever intended for the disciples to use the swords, that wouldn’t be nearly enough. But it’s enough to fulfill the prophecy by making Jesus look like a transgressor.

When Peter used the sword to cut off the guard’s ear, Jesus rebuked him and then demonstrated the kind of power the Kingdom of God uses to advance its cause by healing the guards ear.

When Jesus later appeared before Pilate and was asked if he was the King of the Jews, Jesus responded that his kingdom is not of this world, and he points to the fact that his followers are not fighting as proof of this fact (Jn. 18:36). So, a distinguishing characteristic that a person belongs to Jesus’ Kingdom is that they refuse to fight their enemies. They rather prayer for their healing and seek to serve them any way they can — including dying for them, as Jesus did, if necessary.