The Washing Of The Feet

Washing Of The Feet

The whole practice of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet has always been intriguing for me. Occasionally, I read about it in the papers where a prominent church leader does the ritual before the watchful eye of the media. I’ve done it a couple of times myself in various church settings. In fact, I was just telling my Muslim friend the other day, while chatting on Facebook, that we would be adapting the foot washing ritual during our Maundy Thursday Meal. First, she asked me what Maundy Thursday is. Then, she asked what I understood by the foot washing practice itself. Here’s our little conversation…..


wats maundy


let me find a link
wiki as usual
shorter one


i’m checking it out


what we r doing is adapting it and we’re having a full meal just like Jesus did with his disciples before his crucifixion




we got lamb, homecooked food and we have some story telling, some toast


sounds real gud!!!


but in our case wine lah
then footwashing


do u hve re-enacment of the washing of the feet?


im adapting it too
trying to get a boss to wash an employee
parent a child
and then vice versa
as a symbol of breaking hierarchy


that wud encourage the break of feudalistic attitudes


jesus did it
so follow lah

At the very least I wanted to show that the whole practice of washing the feet of others is not merely a mindless, meaningless ritual and if I were to take it one step further, I would also want to show that this practice performed by Jesus has tremendous implications for life and leadership today.

I don’t deny that many Christians do things without appreciating its origins but once we heal the disease of historical amnesia then we can rediscover everything we do and practice as followers of Jesus Christ is full of meaning and mystery instead of succumbing to the temptation towards transforming everything into cold tradition.

This is most apparent when it comes to seasons like Christmas, Good Friday and Easter (as well as other Christian festivals), Here on earth, we expertly miss the point in all the adventures that we throw ourselves into. On one hand, we engage in Christian practices with no heart and no understanding. We give bad press to the word ‘ritual’. On the other hand, we start thrashing everything by giving little bits and pieces away, either by reinventing some new ways to do things to or to claim to go back to some former way (usually re-enacting the Old Testament festivals), only to start cluttering the future with our own so-called “better rituals”

I think it is timely for us to draw from the words of Jesus, especially in the Message, from the conversation he had while he was washing his disciples’ feet.

“If you’ve had a bath in the morning, you only need your feet washed now and you’re clean from head to toe. My concern, you understand, is holiness, not hygiene.”
~ Jesus Christ, John 13:10 (The Message)

I wonder, what are our major concerns today? What occupies our minds and our efforts daily? What do we pay attention to in our waking hours (and in some cases even in our dreams or nightmares)? In short, what are the “hygiene” issues bogging us down?

What if, we follow Jesus’ lead and re-frame the whole conversation in terms of the power to serve, to contribute, to let go, to empower, to be holy and to put others above ourselves? With Jesus leading the way, surely we can turn this whole thing around when we pay attention on his “holiness” concerns, can’t we?

And if we take it even further, on Easter, the Resurrection of Jesus, signifying his overturning of the ultimate “dirt” which would be thrown to the son of God – dead and buried, totally changes the way we look at everything he did during his lifetime. It also changes everything we do in our lifetime. It’s a totally re-framing of life’s meaning, life’s practices, life’s past-present-future, as well as our total being as individuals, in community and in relation to the world.

The Resurrection of Jesus shouts loudly at us, calling us to move beyond talking or complaining about whether or not we can be holy, and surrender ourselves to let him make us holy . . . to make us whole … to make us into his new creations . We believe this awesome power that raised him from the dead is available to us … not as a distant memory, but a meaningful mystery brought most clearly during Easter. Everything changes after Easter, every practice Jesus has done in the past then becomes more than an example for us to follow, through the Spirit it comes a reality that we can enter into.

Welcome to the way of Jesus!

Originally published in the Easter 2009 edition of The Mustard Seed, the newsletter of Bangsar Lutheran Church. Original art by John August Swanson.

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