35 And he said to them, ‘When I sent you out without money bag and knapsack and sandals, did you lack anything?’ They said, ‘Nothing.’
36 He said to them, ‘But now let the one having a money bag take it, likewise also a knapsack, and the one not having let him sell his cloak and buy a sword.
37 For I say to you that this scripture must be fulfilled in me – the “And he was counted with lawless men”; for indeed that which concerns me has its fulfilment.’
38 And they said, ‘Lord, look, here are two swords.’ And he said to them, ‘It is enough.’
John Piper argues that the quotation of Isaiah 53:12 in Luke 22:37 is evidence that Jesus saw himself as the righteous servant who would ‘make many to be accounted righteous, and… bear their iniquities’ (Is. 53:11): ‘So in the Gospel of Luke, the way Jesus saves is by shedding his blood and for the forgiveness of sins and by being a righteous one and counting many righteous.’ This is correct, except that Piper reads more into the phrase ‘Jesus saves’ than is warranted either by the context or by the argument from Isaiah 53. It is Israel that will be saved by the vicarious suffering of a righteous one, who is ‘stricken for the transgression of my people’ (Is. 53:8); and it is Israel’s cup of judgment that Jesus will have to drink when he is executed as a rebel on the Roman cross (Lk. 22:42; cf. Ps. 75:8; Is. 51:17, 22; Jer. 49:12; Lam. 2:13; Ezek. 23:31-34; Hab. 2:16).1 Chris Tilling, I notice, cautions (understandably) against losing sight of the personal dimension to the gospel in our enthusiasm for these historical reconstructions, but I think we need to find a way of construing the personal that does not short-circuit the biblical narrative.
The immediate significance of the quotation, however, is rather different. It is that for the sake of Israel’s salvation Jesus expects now to be treated as a rebel or outlaw or sinner, and that his disciples will suffer severe harassment on account of their association with him, which is why they should carry swords with them as a matter of routine self-defence. They too should expect to be treated by the Jewish hierarchy as rebels, outlaws, sinners – a threat to the security of the nation.
I think this reinforces the point that Jesus did not think of his own suffering, rejection and death in stark soteriological isolation from the experience of his disciples as they confronted first Judaism and then the pagan world with the unwelcome announcement that the reign of Israel’s God was at hand.
I also wonder whether this quite practical recognition that Jesus came to be regarded as an outlaw, numbered with the lawless, a sinner, helps to explain Paul’s statement in Romans 8:3 that God sent ‘his own Son’ – that is, one who would be Israel’s anointed king – ‘in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin’. I suggest in my forthcoming book on Romans that in the background to Paul’s thought is not the abstract thought that God the Son assumed sinful human flesh – that does not, in any case, account for ‘in the likeness of’ (en homoiōmati). It is rather the recollection that Jesus (and indeed those closely associated with him) came to be regarded (not least by Paul) as an outlaw, a rebel, a sinner, who fully deserved the punishment of crucifixion.