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Luke 22:36-37 (NASB):

And He said to them, “But now, whoever has a money belt is to take it along, likewise also a bag, and whoever has no sword is to sell his coat and buy one. For I tell you that this which is written must be fulfilled in Me, “And He was numbered with the transgressors”; for that which refers to Me has its fulfillment.

Does the fulfillment of the prophecy lie in the fact that someone would use the sword to protect Jesus and thus be a “transgressor”? I’m confused as to what “transgressor” is referring to here. Did Jesus mean for His disciples to carry swords moving forward, or only for the night to fulfill the prophecy?

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  • Thank you for this question. The way you thought about it made me reconsider the meaning of this passage in an entirely new light. – Nhi Mar 8 at 3:25
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Luke 22:37 is a direct reference and quotation from the Messianic prophecy ending in Isa 53:12 -

Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.

The Cambridge commentary observes:

  1. he was reckoned among the transgressors] A quotation from Isaiah 53:12. Hence clearly the sword could not be for His defence, as they carelessly assumed.

This was fulfilled when Jesus died the death of a a low criminal (by Crucifixion) between two convicted thieves. Barnes notes this -

Was reckoned among the transgressors - Not reckoned as a transgressor, but "among or with" them - that is, he was treated as transgressors are. He was put to death in their company, and as he "would have been" if he had been a transgressor. He was innocent, holy, harmless, and undefiled, Hebrews 7:26. God knew this always, and could not "think" of him, or make him "to be" otherwise than he was; yet it pleased him to bruise him, and to give him into the hands of people who did reckon him as a transgressor, and who treated him accordingly.

The pulpit commentary succinctly states this -

The tragic end of his earthly ministry is close at hand. The prophetic description of the suffering Servant of the Lord will soon be found to have been terribly accurate.

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This interpretation is based on the first verse of Luke 22 (35-37), in which Jesus reminded his disciples of how he first sent them forth:

  • Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits. These were his instructions: ‘Take nothing for the journey except a staff – no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra shirt... They went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed with oil many people who were ill and healed them. (Mk 6:7-13)
  • v. 35 - Then Jesus asked them, ‘When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?’ ‘Nothing,’ they answered.

In the next verse, Jesus contrasted how he sent them then and how things were “now”:

  • v. 36 - He said to them, ‘But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.’

Whereas before they had not lacked for anything, now they would need purse, bag and sword. Why did they need those things “now,” especially considering the fact that Jesus would later stop and admonish them for using their swords? Perhaps Jesus words were not meant to be taken literally. Instead, they may have been a reference to the ways in which his disciples were straying or would stray from the spirit of their original calling. Judas, for one, was being led by greed to betray Jesus (hence his need for purse and bag):

  • Then one of the Twelve – the one called Judas Iscariot – went to the chief priests and asked, ‘What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?’ So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver. (Mt 26:14-15)

His other disciples would be tempted and one would resort to using the sword to defend Jesus. Jesus’ healing of the injured man served as a model and a reminder of what he had sent them forth to do:

  • vv. 49-51 - When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, ‘Lord, should we strike with our swords?’ And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. But Jesus answered, ‘No more of this!’ And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.

In the third verse, Jesus then spoke about himself in relation to the prophecy of Isaiah:

  • Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. (Is 53:12)
  • v. 37 - 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 fulfilment.

These words can be understood in a number of ways. One way is that Jesus would be counted with the other criminals crucified on Calvary. Another and perhaps the most significant way to understand these words is that Jesus, who alone was without sin, would be numbered among those who sin:

  • God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor 5:21)

Yet another way to interpret Jesus’ words, and one that fits within the context of this passage, is related to his disciples. Some of their actions now conflicted with the principles that they were called to embody and threatened to unravel their message and mission. It is in this sense that they could be the transgressors with whom Jesus was numbered.

Some interpret Jesus’ words about the need for purse and sword as his way of preparing the disciples for the trials that lay ahead. While this may be so, it does not necessarily follow that he was preparing them to battle an external threat. Perhaps what Jesus was really warning them about was the fight that had to be waged within themselves, that is, the battle to remain true to their original purpose and calling.

  • For “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,” just as it is written. (Rom 2:24)
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  • This is a very insightful interpretation. It's a take on this passage I had never considered. I don't know if this is what Jesus meant or not, but your comments are certainly thought-provoking. (+1) – Hold To The Rod Mar 8 at 3:55
  • @HoldToTheRod - It was the way Gremosa worded her question that led me down the path of this interpretation. Personally, I also find it very challenging. – Nhi Mar 11 at 18:58
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[What is] the Meaning of “Transgressors” in Luke 22:37?

Suppose we get to the title question in a moment. First, let us consider the two short queries at the end of the OP:

1.: Does the fulfillment of the prophecy lie in the fact that someone would use the sword to protect Jesus and thus be a “transgressor”?
Answer: Certainly not.

2. Did Jesus mean for His disciples to carry swords moving forward?
Answer: Almost, but let us be careful about what this means.

Shortly before Jesus was to surrender Himself to the authorities, He made the following pronouncement to the disciples as already noted in the OP:

Luke 22:35-38 NAS: “And He said to them, ‘When I sent you out without money belt and bag and sandals, you did not lack anything, did you?’ They said, ‘No, nothing.’ And He said to them, ‘But now, whoever has a money belt is to take it along, likewise also a bag, and whoever has no sword is to sell his coat and buy one. For I tell you that this which is written must be fulfilled in Me, “AND HE WAS NUMBERED WITH TRANSGRESSORS”; for that which refers to Me has its fulfillment.’ They said, ‘Lord, look, here are two swords.’ And He said to them, ‘It is enough.’”

Commentators have expressed various opinions over this rather cryptic exchange. However, these words by Christ are not to be understood literally, that He would have his disciples immediately furnish themselves with swords for battle. It’s absurd to believe that two small swords would be enough for the defense of eleven or more men.

Rather, His meaning appears to be that wherever the disciples had previously enjoyed a friendly welcome, where a door was opened to them for preaching the Gospel of Christ, they would soon face many adversaries from this point forward. Christ was about to be “numbered with transgressors” and his followers would eventually be branded with that same label.


While on this specific subject, suppose we address the primary question with dispatch. This stems from the prophecy regarding the Messiah hundreds of years earlier by Isaiah the prophet. As pointed out by other contributors:

Isaiah 53:12: "Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, And He will divide the booty with the strong; Because He poured out Himself to death, And was numbered with the transgressors; Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, And interceded for the transgressors."

It should be plain enough that Christ would, at the very least, be numbered among two guilty men or "transgressors", during His Crucifixion. On the other hand, the final clause "And interceded for the transgressors" is a reference to Christ taking the penalty for all sinful men and women upon Himself. The first and second references to "transgressor" have different applications, but they are not intended to characterize the disciples and apostles of Christ.


Again, as for the disciples buying swords, resistance would emanate even from the highest domains as, for example, the Caesars (beginning with Nero), and the disciples would encounter great oppression and violence, soon after Christ’s crucifixion.

This would become so intense that they would appear to stand in need of swords to defend themselves; they must therefore seek refuge from the persecutions to come.

The phrase is expressive of the danger they would be exposed to, and of their need for protection. Theirs would represent a terribly forlorn, destitute, and afflicted condition. Indeed, they were about to witness some of this distress beginning with Christ himself as He would soon be led away to death by torture.

Verse 38 of the above passages appears to represent another instance in which the disciples were oblivious to the deeper meanings conveyed so often by Christ:

Luke 22:38: “They said, ‘Lord, look, here are two swords.’ And He said to them, ‘It is enough’” (Lk. 22:38).

Jesus was surely focused on the horrific ordeal that lay immediately before Him. Observing that they missed His point entirely, He puts the matter to rest by simply adding “It is enough,” perhaps the ancient equivalent of the modern expression, “Oh, well, whatever.”

This last comment by the Lord was simply an affirmation that the disciples misunderstood His application to their dismal future without Him. They would require every ounce of strength and determination merely for self-preservation.

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