The Stench and Filth of Maundy Thursday

“…what I lost I think of as sewer trash, so that I might gain Christ”(Philippians 3:8).

Jesus washed his disciple’s feet on Maundy Thursday. There was so much drama around the dinner table that night that we can easily overlook this part of the story. In John’s Gospel, Jesus takes off his robe, wraps himself in a towel like a slave, and washes the feet of his disciples.                                                                           

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Jesus Washing Jesus’ Feet by Seider Koder

Movies and artwork usually do not give an accurate picture of how dirty streets were in the ancient world. People dumped their garbage and human waste in the streets, and people walked through it. When dinner guests arrived they reclined at the table, while the lowliest person in the household washed off the waste and garbage that was on their feet. 

In Philippians 3:8, the verse quoted above, Paul uses the Greek word skubalon – which appears only once in the New Testament. Most modern translations use the word ‘rubbish’ or ‘garbage,’ but I like how the Common English Bible translates the word as ‘sewer trash.’

Jesus didn’t just wash the dust from his disciples’ feet – he washed off the garbage – and perhaps even the human dung. He didn’t shy away from the really disgusting work. While Holy Week is a time for contemplating on the benefits of Christ’s death, let’s not ignore the lessons of his life. 

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About Corey Sharpe

Where do we get our beliefs? Three theological perspectives have significantly shaped my Christian identity: Evangelicalism, the early Methodist tradition and liberation theology. From my coming to faith in a Baptist church and throughout my education in a Baptist school and college, I was nurtured by convictions that emphasized a spiritual rebirth, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and the centrality of the Bible. Even when I disagree with certain aspects of evangelicalism, it has deeply influenced my sense of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. My seminary studies spawned my interest in early Methodism, particularly its approach to spiritual formation. Its leaders were convinced that only a foundation of doctrine and discipline would lead to a meaningful transformation of the heart and mind. In other words, having the mind of Christ enables me to be more like Christ. Life in a suburban culture obscures the increasing gap between the poor and rich, as well as the Bible’s close identification with the poor. My doctoral work in socio-cultural context exposed me to liberation theology, which helps me see redemptive history as a history of oppressed groups, written from the perspective of the powerless, about a God who is actively involved with the poor in their struggles. I am now the pastor at Huntingtown United Methodist Church in Calvert County, Maryland. Together my wife and I are raising 4 young theologians.
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