Shim‘on, Shim‘on, listen! The Adversary demanded to have you people for himself, to sift you like wheat! 32 But I prayed for you, Shim‘on, that your trust might not fail. And you, once you have turned back in repentance, strengthen your brothers!” 33 Shim‘on said to him, “Lord, I am prepared to go with you both to prison and to death!” 34 Yeshua replied, “I tell you, Kefa, the rooster will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know me.”
35 He said to them, “When I sent you out without wallet, pack or shoes, were you ever short of anything?” “Not a thing,” they answered. 36 “But now,” he said, if you have a wallet or a pack, take it; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your robe to buy one. 37 For I tell you this: the passage from the Bible that says, ‘He was counted with transgressors,’ has to be fulfilled in me; since what is happening to me has a purpose.” 38 They said, “Look, Lord, there are two swords right here!” “Enough!” he replied.
Luke has been able to add words of Jesus, as in verses 31,32 to the account of this incident in Mark’s Gospel which is his main source. This gives his account a dramatic edge. Jesus is praying for Shimon that his trust may not fail, not in the sense that he will stand with Jesus in his arrest, but that, after he has denied him, his trust may bring him back to encourage his fellow disciples. The trust that is active even after its denial, may be the most important sort.
Shimon is singled out in the Gospel tradition as the one who denied Jesus, but in this he represents the others who abandoned Jesus and ran away. As all the accounts tell us that the women disciples did not forsake him, this concentration on the men shows the male bias of the tradition. The words that Luke gives to Shimon about prison and death may indicate Luke’s knowledge of Shimon’s imprisonment and death in Rome around 63 CE. Jesus’ warning about the rooster is found in all gospels. It is a folk tale motif which probably arose from the storytelling skills of the first believers. It adds great poignancy to the story of Shimon’s betrayal, which functions in the gospels as a mirror of the believer’s vulnerability to pressure, especially to the threats of real harm. People may protest that they will never betray but the next day often reveals their fragility. Shimon’s denial that he knows Jesus is the language of personal denial that turns a friend into a stranger in his time of need.
Luke then has Jesus remind his disciples of a better time when he sent them out with no equipment or baggage to announce the Rule of God. He tells them that this is a different time, when defensive resources might be needed. He defines this as the time when he will be “counted with transgressors,” a phrase from Isaiah chapter 53, which is the song of God’s servant who is “wounded for our transgressions.” Jesus, or Luke through Jesus, is reminding the reader of the meaning of his suffering; he is the innocent victim through whom God’s goodness is revealed even to enemies and betrayers. There is a purpose in the seemingly random suffering of Jesus, which has been identified in prophecy as the purpose of God.
The disciples do not understand Jesus’ reference nor his hint that they may need (spiritual) weapons of defence, so they reassure him that they have two swords. Jesus last word, “enough” is a mixture of resignation, exasperation and affection.
Throughout his journey to Jerusalem and his ministry in the city, Luke has depicted Jesus losing support because he takes the side of poor and rejected in society. Now he shows that the one who represents the humane Rule of God is abandoned even by his disciples. He will continue to represent it, alone. What none has dared, he will do.
People who have suffered betrayal will recognise the experience of Jesus as their own, and know him as their companion. People who have betrayed someone will know him as the one they’ve hurt.