Verse 7 The background to this story starts in the earlier call of the first disciples in Mark 1:16-21 and continues in the sending out in Mark 3:3-19. The specific instructions here are an empowerment to share in the ministry of Jesus himself and to do the things which he was doing. They participate in his authority in word and in power. Two by two—as mutual support. The unclean spirits represent the world of evil which is in opposition to the salvation offered in Jesus. The spirits have a relatively high profile in Mark. The Greek verb “to send” is apostellō from which we get our word apostle.
Verse 8 Mark permits a walking stick in v. 8. Contemporary readers would see here some similarity with Cynic philosophers, who were allowed to carry bread and a staff. A key word in Mark is “the way”. Depending on the context, it is variously translated—here for instance by “journey.” It can mean simply a road or path (2:23; 4:4, 15; 10:46; 11:8). However, Mark often has in mind the deeper meaning of the Christian Way, as here and in Mark 1:2–3; 6:8; 8:3, 27; 9:33–34; 10:17, 32, 52; 12:14. Compare the early Christian usage in Acts: Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. (Acts 9:1–2)
Verse 9 Sandals are permitted in v. 9. Both a staff and sandals are forbidden in the corresponding stories in Matthew and Luke. Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for labourers deserve their food. (Matt 10:9–11) Mark may well be creating a contrast with popular preachers of Cynic philosophers. They went totally barefoot.
On the other hand, Mark contains no prohibition on entering non-Jewish territory – a signal perhaps that even Mark is updated to take account of different conditions outside of Palestine. A real dependence on God remains a requirement as we see in Mark 6:35-44 and 8:1-9.
Verse 10 Remaining in the same house seems strange—there is not yet any evidence of the contrary, unless it reflects later missionary abuse when those sent chose better lodgings when they could. Something of the sort is behind the text from the Didache, a first-century Christian document, which reads:
Now concerning the apostles and prophets, deal with them as follows in accordance with the rule of the Gospel. Let every apostle who comes to you be welcomed as if he were the Lord. But he is not to stay for more than one day, unless there is need, in which case he may stay another. But if he stays three days, he is a false prophet. And when the apostle leaves, he is to take nothing except bread until he finds his next night’s lodging. But if he asks for money, he is a false prophet. (Did 11:3-6)
Verse 11 This is a prophetic gesture and reflects the later church mission (the Twelve meet no opposition in Mark’s narrative). The meaning is not altogether clear, but it may have something to do with the practice of Jews on crossing into the Holy Land, who would take the trouble to shake Gentile dust from their feet. Compare Acts 13:51 and 18:6.
Verse 12 “Proclaimed” = effective proclamation. Repent = conversion, in the sense of a change of world-view. As always, it means much more than sorrow for past sin etc. It is a reorienting of your life in view of the coming kingdom of God. Cf. Mk 1:14-15. Notice that within the ministry, the Twelve proclaim God and his kingdom, whereas in the post-Easter context, they will proclaim Jesus.
Verse 13 In this way, the disciples share in the ministry of Jesus. The detail of anointing with oil, not typical of Jesus, may reflect early Church practice. It was a common remedy in the society of the time.