Mark 6:7-13 (ESV)
7 And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. 8 He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belts— 9 but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics. 10 And he said to them, “Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you depart from there. 11 And if any place will not receive you and they will not listen to you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” 12 So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent. 13 And they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them.
Jesus disciples are sent out to continue and extend the ministry of Jesus. They are not simply proclaimers of the message of Jesus but bring in their life and ministry an extension of the kingdom. They are to continue the lawbreaking reign of the kingdom of God. At least some 2nd temple Jews saw the defeat of spirits as being integral to the messianic reign.
The Testament of Levi: 18
And he shall open the gates of paradise,
And shall remove the threatening sword against Adam.
11 And he shall give to the saints to eat from the tree of life,
And the spirit of holiness shall be on them.
12 And Beliar shall be bound by him,
And he shall give power to His children to tread upon the evil spirits.
13 And the Lord shall rejoice in His children,
And be well pleased in His beloved ones for ever.
14 Then shall Abraham and Isaac and Jacob exult,
And I will be glad,
And all the saints shall clothe themselves with joy.
Charles, Robert Henry (Hrsg.): Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament. Bellingham, WA : Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2004, S. 2:315
Why are the disciples commanded to take with them a cloak, belt, sandals and a staff? Some scholars argue that they are wandering cynic philosophers. Evidence for this stems from the writings of the philosopher ascetic Musonius Rufus (Ad 30-100) who said
“Wearing one tunic is preferable to needing two, and wearing none but only a cloak is preferable to wearing one. Also going barefoot is better than wearing sandals, if one can do it, for wearing sandals is next to being bound, but going barefoot gives the feet great freedom and grace when they are used to it.”
1) There is no evidence for the presence of cynics in Galilee
2) Cynics philosophers had to carry a bag, staff but no shoes. Whereas the disciples are commanded to wear shoes but not to carry a bag.
So why were the disciples commanded to carry these things? It makes historical sense to see some connection between the ministry of Jesus and the flight from Egypt as portrayed in the book of Exodus.
Exodus 12:11 (ESV)
11 In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord’s Passover.
Jesus disciples then are seen to work in continuity with the mission of Jesus. The slavery from exile has begun, the kingdom has come, the wrath of God in the judgemnt of exile is being exhausted, the eshaton has arrived.
The parallel in dress, in other words, is identical with the Exodus apparel but only loosely similar to Cynic dress. These four items of clothing recall the haste and expectation of the Exodus. They suggest that the mission of the Twelve announces something as foundational and revelatory as the Exodus from Egypt, and that the disciples must be as free from encumbrances as were the Israelites, to serve their God in a new venture.
Edwards, James R.: The Gospel According to Mark. Grand Rapids, Mich; Leicester, England : Eerdmans; Apollos, 2002 (The Pillar New Testament Commentary), S. 180
Guillich fails to mention the symbolism of the exodus in Word Biblical Commentary and actually draws a paralell between the cynic philosophers and the ministry of the early church.
Hengel (Leader, 28) sees here an intentional parody of the frugality demanded by the Cynic itinerant preachers (cf. 1 Thess 2:1–12). Such a reading may reflect conditions in the early Church mission that found itself “competing” with other movements.
Guelich, Robert A.: Word Biblical Commentary : Mark 1-8:26. Dallas : Word, Incorporated, 2002 (Word Biblical Commentary 34A), S. 322
R.T France offers the following,
The travelling religious teacher with staff, sandals, and a single χιτών but with no travelling pack or provision for the journey fits into a recognisable strand which extends from Elijah and John the Baptist through to the mendicant friars of the Middle Ages and several religious orders today. Outside the Judaeo-Christian tradition the Cynic preacher filled a similar role (see note on the πήρα, v. 8). Jesus’ intention in sending them out in this way is not so much to encourage asceticism as such (they are after all to expect and accept hospitality), but to emphasise that loyalty to the kingdom of God leaves no room for a prior attachment to material security.
France, R. T.: The Gospel of Mark : A Commentary on the Greek Text. Grand Rapids, Mich.; Carlisle : W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 2002, S. 249
In defence of the the ‘exodus motif’ I would say that a reading of Marks gospel which brinsg tot he forefront themes of exodus and Deutero Isaiah is more authentic. If you look through previosu posts you will see that the theme of Isaiah/End of Exile returns again and again. The exodus motif is a hypothesis which finds verification from the text and it provides a coherent picture for the historical Jesus. The disciples are to show their loyalty to the kingdom by carrying these simplistic possessions. (as with France)
Application: The church should remember the now and not yet aspect of the kingdom We are are not simply to preach Jesus (although this is crucial and important) but we like the disciples of old are to bring God’s reign into the world. We are, in one sense, to be Jesus to the world. We are a community in the process of returning from exile, we have been released from bondage, but are waiting the arrival of the fullness of the kingdom.