Jesus Would Have Picked Up a Toilet Brush

The toilet brush. It’s a disgusting but necessary tool in every home. No one likes to use it, but it’s a necessary part of life if you want to have a clean toilet and have visitors over! I must confess, I am a recovering ‘germaphobe’ so maybe it’s worse in my mind. I remember a good toilet brush story from when I used to work as a removalist. Most of the homes we moved were high-end homes and quite clean. But I remember one job where the house was very off-putting. Things were pretty disgusting and icky to handle. And to top it off, the client actually asked me to pack their toilet brush into the back of our truck! I was polite, so, reluctantly, I picked up their toilet brush and cautiously took it out to the truck – being careful not to spill any of its… contents. I was almost about to walk up the ramp into the truck when my boss shouted at me (this is the G-rated version). “Ben, what the heck are you doing?! That’s extremely unhygienic; put that back, we don’t move toilet brushes!” We laughed about it later.

I don’t think they had toilet brushes in 1st Century Israel, but they did have other degrading tasks. One of the most degrading was the task of washing feet. This was usually done by the household servant. People’s feet were filthy when they returned home. They didn’t have bitumen roads, they didn’t have proper sewerage systems, they didn’t have separate roads for animals, and they usually wore open shoes like sandals. So, foot washing was a disgusting but necessary part of life in 1st Century Israel. And this is what makes Jesus’ actions in John 13 so shocking. In fact, add verse 3 to that context and it is beyond shocking! Verse 3 says, “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God”. He knew his divine identity; he knew all things were under his authority, and what did he do with this knowledge of his own power? He didn’t walk over to a throne and tell the disciples to bow down (although he could have). Instead, he took on the role of a servant. Perhaps no one had washed their feet yet, perhaps no one wanted to lower themselves to that task. But Jesus, God-in-the-flesh, the one who had all the power, got down on his knees, and washed the muck from each person’s feet. In our day, it would be like Jesus picking up the toilet brush and cleaning the church toilets after a busy Sunday. I believe Jesus would have picked up the toilet brush.

Verses 12-17 explain that Jesus did the foot washing as an example for his followers. We’re called to take the low place, to value others above ourselves (Philippians 2:3) and serve each other. This is why one of our values as a church is to be ‘servant-hearted’. Our Lord and Teacher was servant-hearted and so should we be as his people. Aren’t we fortunate that Jesus did not avoid dealing with the mess and filth of our sin? Aren’t we fortunate that he did not avoid representing unclean sinners at the cross? Aren’t we fortunate?

God served us and loved us before we even had a chance to serve him back. That’s grace. Wherever you are on the journey of becoming servant-hearted like Jesus, here are some questions you can ask yourself. Do I value others in my church above myself? Do I really believe it is a ‘blessed’ thing to lower myself and serve others like Jesus (John 13:17)? Do I believe I am greater than Jesus (John 13:16)? If not, then why don’t I lower myself as much as Jesus did? As a church this Sunday we are holding a sign-up to give opportunities for you to serve your brothers and sisters here. We don’t have a toilet-brush or foot-washing role on the list, but whatever you do for your brothers and sisters, know that is very much like our Lord Jesus to serve. I really do believe that he would have picked up a toilet brush and served us if he was here today. Now, that’s a pretty amazing thought. How humble and loving he is.

With you on the journey,