Wash-Hand Theology

Published On: September 6, 2020|Categories: Reflections|

Rev. Samuel Ngun Ling, PhD, DD
President, Myanmar Institute of Theology
July 11, 2020

Old Testament Reading: Exodus 30:17-21;

“Make a bronze basin, with its bronze stand, for washing. Place it between the tent of meeting and the altar, and put water in it. Aaron and his sons are to wash their hands and feet with water from it. Whenever the enter the tent of meeting, they shall wash with water so that they will not die. Also, when they approach the altar to minister by presenting the food offering to the Lord, they shall wash their hands and feet so that they will not die. This is to be a lasting ordinance for Aaron and his descendants for the generations to come”

Based on the above Old Testament reading, one can understand that washing hands with water was a part of the divine ordinance for priest Aaron and his descendants to follow for generations so that they were to be saved and secured from the dangers of death. I have thought over how washing of hands got connected to liberation from death in Biblical time. Why did priest Aaron and his sons need to wash their hands to be liberated from death? Was there any suspicion of the spread of pandemic Corona virus in this Old Testament time? Of course, it was not. But the fact which I would like to point out is that washing hands in Old Testament time was a kind of divine ordinance – the requirement of God for men to do for a certain purpose, although we do not know why God required them to wash their hands . The meaning could be either to prevent any biological virus from infection or to remove all sin-virus polluted mind-sets that could encapsulate human hearts and souls. The later would mean making oneself liberated from pollution of sin and evils.

New Testament Reading: Matt.27:24-25

“When Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all but rather that a tumult was rising, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this just person. You see to it.”

How about the practice of washing hands in the New Testament teaching? Shall one think about what Pilate means when he washed he hands, “…… he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd, and said, “I am innocent of this man’s blood.”.…”It is your responsibility!”. All the people answered shouting, “His blood is on us and on our children.” Here Pilate found out very clearly that Jesus was not guilty and so allowing the crowd to kill him on the cross would be a great danger for his soul. So, in order to free himself from the judgement and condemnation of the people, Pilate washed his hands to liberate himself from the legal judgement of the law. Washing of hands here had a symbolic meaning of standing for the truth and justice. Although no one knows whether God would forgive Pilate for handing over of Jesus the innocent to the crowd to nail him on the cross, we learn that washing hands here means upholding of the truth and justice for one’s liberation of life. In this sense, the spiritual significance of washing hands would be a symbol of spiritual, moral, ethical transformation of life – a life that stands for truth and justice.

About the Author: Having earned Bachelor of Theology & Bachelor of Divinity from Myanmar Institute of Theology in Myanmar; Master of Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary, USA; Master of Arts from University of Dubuque, Iowa, USA, and Ph.D. from International Christian University, Tokyo, Japan, Dr. Rev. Samuel Ngun Ling joined the Faculty of Myanmar Institute of Theology since 1998 as Professor of Systematic Theology until he became the President of the Institute (2010-2022).

About Myanmar Institute of Theology: Established in 1927, the Myanmar Institute of Theology offers not only a post-graduate level theology program but also an undergraduate level liberal arts program since the year 2000, with total student enrollment of more than 1400..


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