Of Passover Costumes and Exodus Motifs
In Exodus 12, the Israelites were given a specific dress code for the Passover. They were to eat the Passover meal dressed wearing a belt, sandals on their feet, and a staff in their hand. Interestingly, The Twelve are sent out by Jesus with similar costumes: “He commanded them to take nothing for the journey except a staff–no bag, no bread, no copper in their money belts–but to wear sandals, and not to put on two tunics.” (Mk. 6:8) Of course it is possible that this was simply the standard garb of travel in the ancient world, but it still seems rather curious that these details are mentioned in these two places and rarely elsewhere.
But given the details of the rest of the chapter, it seems rather likely that this connection is not accidental. The “Pharaoh” Herod hears about The Twelve and assumes John has been raised from the dead. Then, Jesus and his disciples cross the sea (v. 32) and finding a great multitude, he feeds his people (the 5000) in the wilderness v. 32, 35). Finally, He crosses the sea again, walking on water (v. 45ff). The Exodus motif is hard to miss: from Passover to Pharaoh to the sea to bread in the wilderness to crossing the sea. This is also confirmed by the bracketed events of Jesus being rejected at home (vv. 1-6) and welcomed in the land of Gennesaret (vv. 53-56). Jesus is a new Moses rejected at home (Egypt/Israel) and a miracle worker and savior of Israel, as well as a new Joshua leading his people into the land.
Of course if the story of the Sending of The Twelve is indeed some kind of Passover allusion, then the recalling of the martyrdom of John would seem to figure the Baptizer as a sort of “first born” or perhaps the Passover Lamb in some sense. If John represents the “Old Israel” in some sense, then the implication is that Israel must follow Jesus through a new Exodus. But this new Exodus does not merely symbolize death by walking through the paths of the sea. Perhaps the point of bringing up John is the fact that Israel will be asked to follow her new Moses to the death.