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Sell your clothes and buy a sword (Leo Tolstoy)

Then He said to them, “But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one. For I say to you that this which is written must still be accomplished in Me: ‘And He was numbered with the transgressors.’ For the things concerning Me have an end.” So they said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” And He said to them, “It is enough.”

Luke 22:36-38

Another interpretation, which doesn’t detract from the nonviolent nature of Christ’s sacrifice, but rather emphasizes it, can be found in Leo Tolstoy’s “The Four Gospels Harmonized and Translated.”

No matter how much the interpreters have laboured on this passage, there is no possibility of giving it any other meaning than this, that Jesus is getting ready to defend himself. Before this he tells his disciples that they will deny him, that is, will not defend him, will run away from him. Then he reminds them of the time when the criminal accusation did not yet hang over them. Then he says, It was not necessary then to struggle. You were then without your scrips, and did not need anything, hut now the time of the struggle has come, and we must provide ourselves with food and with knives, in order to defend ourselves. This is necessary, since they regard us as outlaws.

Is. liii. 12. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death : and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Jesus has reference to this passage. He speaks of the physical struggle, and that the end will come to all of you. It is impossible to understand it in any other way, for the disciples reply to this, Here we have two knives, and so it is impossible to understand it to mean that his disciples did not understand him, because Jesus replies to them, ἱκανόν ἐστιν, that is, Very well.

The church interpretations have so spoiled the Gospel, and have mixed us up in such a way that the clear and profound and significant passage is either lost for us, or, like a cataract, represents a manifest contradiction. The chief obstacle in the comprehension of this passage is this, that Jesus is God, and so he could not have weakened and fallen into an offence. But here we get a clear and straight story, — not an inward moment of wavering, as is shown in the discourse with the Greeks, in the garden at Gethsemane and on the cross, but a moment of wavering, a dejection of spirit, which almost passes into action. He orders them to provide themselves with knives, and praises them for having done so. He wants to struggle with evil against evil, and even explains this by saying that he did not struggle as long as he was not persecuted, but that he cannot help fighting when he is regarded as an outlaw.

After that height of love, which he expressed at the arraignment of the traitor at the last supper, the temptation overcomes him in the night, and he says, Let us fight with knives, that is, he wants to do what is contrary to his teaching. This passage would be offensive, if it were not connected with what follows, if it were not a necessary introduction and illumination of the minute in the garden of Gethsemane and of the conduct of Jesus when he is taken, when the disciples wanted to make use of their knives and cut off Malchus’s ear; in connection with these it not only fails to be offensive, but is even necessary, and is one of the profoundest and most instructive passages of the Gospel. Two dangers beset those who profess Christ’s teaching: the offence of cowardice, — the renunciation of the teaching, against which Jesus warns Peter; and the offence of violence, — fighting evil with evil Against the first evil Jesus struggles all his life. He goes away, when he is persecuted. He answers the temptation of the Pharisees in such a way as to contradict them as little as possible. Most strongly does this offence show itself in the discourse in the temple with the Gentiles, when Jesus struggles against the offence, and comes out a victor. Now there approaches the second offence, the resistance to evil, and Jesus for a moment submits to it; but he goes out and prays, and struggles against the offence, and vanquishes it. The failure to understand this passage is due to the fact that it is separated from the prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, as the church does it, and both passages become obscure, but especially the prayer in the garden of Gethsemane.

The Four Gospels Harmonized and Translated by Count Lev N. Tolstoy
Chapter X. The struggle against the offences


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