Have you ever seen something in the physical context and it totally changed what you understood? A light bulb flash! The experience forever rearranges your thoughts.
That was this experience.
We were in Turkey touring ancient Ephesus. Our tour guide walked us through a doorway…
This is what we saw…
What were we looking at from Biblical Times?
A Public Restroom!!!
What?? Are you kidding???
Nope!! There would have been a roof and walls, of course:
these public restrooms were here when Paul visited Ephesus!!
This was way more sophisticated than I had ever imagined. It would have only been for men, the guide reminded us, but, mostly men came to the marketplace. Few women would have been in places of business.
If you were wealthy enough, you could buy your own seat. When you were “in the house”, it was your spot. Your initial marked it, chiseled in stone.
The guide continued to educate us on “Ephesian etiquette”. He told us, many types of “business” transpired here. He said the phrase “taking care of business” originated from these ancient public restrooms, where businessmen actually transacted business. (Ew!)
He pointed out a narrow gully running at the feet of anyone using the public seat. There would have been a small stream of water running down this gully. Pictured below:
After using the toilet, they would have taken a sponge stuck on the end of a stick, dipped it in the gully of water, and cleansed their privates.
Ummmmm, this sounded familiar…
One of them ran and grabbed a sponge. After he had soaked it in vinegar, he put it on a stick and held it up to Jesus…”
The Roman Soldiers offering Jesus, on the cross, a drink with a sponge and a stick was not a missed cue to Jesus and those watching. It was a cruel, humiliating, degrading innuendo. It was a bathroom reference of the most nasty and visceral kind; gross, dehumanizing, involving human excrement.
That little verse about a stick, sponge and vinegar will never read the same
for me! There was a lot more behind what, my whole life,
appeared as just a mean-gesture.
It makes my stomach sick, the thought of Jesus hanging there beaten, bleeding, broken and dying. Couldn’t the guards just tend him in peace? Did they need to kick a downed man? Wasn’t enough, enough? Oh, the vivid picture of this defiled action! I can hear their snickers, chides and belly laughter, as they responded to his cry, “I thirst!” Their horrible jesting and response, signifies the darkness of human souls: despicable and disgraceful.
The Ephesians were far more sophisticated than I imagined.
The Roman Guards; far more calculating, insulting and ruthless than
any depiction I visualized.
This ten minute visitation to the public restrooms in Ephesus rang through me two thousand and nineteen years … back to the cross on Golgotha.
It will not leave me, as long as I live. A Simple action … so much intention. So cruel and tormented.
I am so deeply sorrowful, Precious Savior, for the agony you endured for me.
I thought I knew about it all, but I didn’t!!!
There was more …
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