“traveler’s bag.” See commentary on Mark 6:8.
“two tunics.” The tunic was the long shirt, like a long undershirt, that was against the skin. See commentary on Mark 6:8.
“nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor staff.” This phrase catches our attention because, although it agrees with the Gospel of Luke (Luke 9:3), it seems to contradict what Jesus told his disciples according to the Gospel of Mark (Mark 6:8-9). A quick reading of Matthew and Luke, makes it seem like in those Gospels Jesus told his disciples to take no staff, while in Mark, Jesus told them to take a staff. Also, in Mark, Jesus told the disciples to “tie on” sandals (Greek text), that is, wear them, but in Matthew, Jesus seemingly says to not take sandals (Luke says nothing about sandals). How do we resolve this problem?
Mark gives the essentials of the record, which make perfect sense in the culture: the disciples were to rely on help from people they met for their food and protection from the elements (hence, no need for money, food, or two tunics, which might be needed if they were going to sleep outdoors). However, they would need sandals if for no other reason than any extended journey that involved walking in unfamiliar territory, and in cities would require sandals. But they would not need two pairs of sandals, and in Matthew, the word “two” before “tunics,” immediately before “sandals” in the list must also refer to sandals, which is also plural, like “tunics.” Of course, “sandals” is always plural, but since the Gospel of Mark says take “sandals” and Matthew says not to, the most obvious way to explain the situation is that Jesus was saying not to take two pairs of sandals—if anything happened to the one pair, they would be helped to get another pair by people who were caring for them.
Like sandals, a staff was a necessity when traveling. It provided protection and support, so it makes perfect sense that Jesus would say to take the staff along, as the Gospel of Mark says. However, Matthew and Luke seem to say not to take a staff. Two ways to explain the apparent contradiction seem to be the most likely. One is that the word “two” in Matthew also governs the word staff, and that Jesus told the apostles not to take two staffs, as if they might break or lose one. Although that is possible, it is not easy to make Luke read that way, and the chances of losing or breaking a staff are slim. Furthermore, if one was lost or broken, a new one could be acquired the same way new sandals could be.
The more likely explanation for the difference Matthew and Luke have with the Gospel of Mark is that the list in Matthew starts with the word “acquire,” (ktaomai; #2932 κτάομαι), which the KJV translates as “provide,” and the ESV translates as “acquire.” However, there are many English versions that start Matthew 10:9 with “take” or “take along,” which clouds the issue and makes the apparent contradiction between Matthew and Mark very difficult. Jesus was telling his disciples not to “acquire” things for their journey (which they would then “take” with them, as Mark and Luke say). One of the things that the apostles might want to “acquire” would be a walking stick that was more appropriate for someone who traveled a lot than the walking sticks they already owned. They were fishermen and would not have traveled much, and when they did travel it would have been in familiar places, so it is likely that they did not have a staff that they thought was the best choice for travel in areas where they had never been before.
In summary, Jesus told the apostles not to take with them things that a host family would provide: money, food, and shelter. However, they did need their sandals and walking stick. However, they were to guard against acquiring things they thought they might need, such as a new walking stick. If it turned out on the journey that something was needed, the same people who welcomed them into their houses would no doubt provide it or help them acquire it, and be glad to do so.