I received this question recently over Academia.edu:
I wish to ask a question which we are battling in my study group: Was Jesus really asking his followers to pick up sword in defense of their faith or what was he telling them to do with the sword he asked them to buy; according to Luke 22:36. I will love to hear your own side of view about this issue.
I had a chance to study this Bible passage over the weekend, and here was my response to this person’s question. Upon examination of the background and context of Luke 22:36, Jesus is not literally commanding all believers to go and purchase and take up swords in general. Rather, what Jesus is instructing His disciples is that after His crucifixion (an area of Jesus’ ministry His disciples had trouble understanding until it actually happened), there would be a time of intense persecution against His disciples and other Christians who would comprise the early church (a solid example of this is found in Revelation describing the church in Smyrna). Jesus was instructing His disciples using symbolic word imagery that His disciples would be persecuted and would need to defend themselves against persecution. Some of this persecution would be spiritual warfare. Additionally, the disciples would need to provide for themselves as some of the generous hospitality they were given would be replaced with more hostility after the crucifixion.
For Christians today, we can draw an application from this passage that when we are persecuted or ridiculed for our believing in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, that we need to be prepared and ready to give a defense of our faith in Jesus Christ. One way we can do this is by grounding ourselves in solid teaching on Bible doctrines and Theology as well as study ways to defend our faith (Apologetics) so we can as 1 Peter 3:15 says: “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:”.
I also included some articles to some commentaries I studied concerning this passage, and I am attaching those articles here as well for those who wish to read them.
Update: I recently received a link to a podcast hosted by Dr. Michael Heiser (a scholar who works for the parent company of Logos Bible Software) that also explains and answers this question.