Thrust Statement: No vacancy in the inn set the tone for what Jesus experienced during His ministry in reaching out to the nation of Israel.
Scripture Reading: Luke 2:7
“No room in the inn” (Luke 2:7, NKJV) sets the tone from the early life of Jesus to His death at Calvary. Even though there was no room for Him in the inn, nevertheless, there was room for Him, in one sense, on Calvary. Although the phrase, “no room in the inn,” is frequently understood with negative overtones, the truth of the matter is that this simple phrase simply means that there was “no vacancy”—all rooms were filled. Nevertheless, this phrase, so it appears, is symbolic of the life of Jesus—from the manger to the cross. One can feel the depth of this phrase as one examines the life of Christ. This short terse phrase appears to be a prophecy concerning the rejection of Jesus as the Savior of the world. Did Luke have this in mind? One cannot say for sure, but one does wonder why Luke would have dropped such a pregnant phrase in His account to Theophilus—a phrase weighed down with concentrated meaning throughout Jesus’ earthly ministry.
If the inn keeper(s) had known that this One about to be born was the Lord of glory, one cannot help but wonder if he/she would have made room for Him in the inn. It is this same vein of thought that Paul wrote about the crucifixion of the “Lord of glory”: “None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Corinthians 2:8). This birth of Jesus was just the beginning of the unfolding of the “mystery of God” that had been hidden from eternity. Paul calls attention to this birth in his epistle to the churches in the southern part of Galatia: “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, 5 to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons” (Galatians 4:5).
For Paul, this birth is just the beginning of the “mystery of God” as it unfolds the “unsearchable riches of Christ.” Thus, Paul, in writing to the Christians at Ephesus, zeros in on this mystery of God:
I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. 8 Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things (Ephesians 3:7-9).
The mystery of God is equivalent to the Gospel of Jesus. Paul, in writing his farewell letter to Timothy, defines his gospel: “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel (2 Timothy 2:8). “Descended from David” reflects back upon the virgin birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.
As stated above, this sermon wishes to stress the phrase—“no room in the inn”—in the sense that in this deep expression one finds an ill-fated saying, as it were, that captures the overtone of Jesus’ entire life. He sought to gain entrance into the overcrowded hearts of men and women. On one occasion, shortly before His crucifixion, Jesus bemoans the rejection of Jerusalem: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing” (Matthew 23:37). Israel had “no room” for Jesus.
He could not find room in their hearts; nevertheless, the search still goes on and the rejection of Him still continues into the present era. Jesus wants to come into your life. He stands at the door of your heart knocking: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20). In spite of Jesus’ invitation many did not accept Jesus’ offer of salvation through faith. John, in his prologue to his Gospel, states emphatically that
10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God (John 1:10-13).
Many in Israel, especially the religious leaders, did not receive Him. Immediately after His temptation in the wilderness, Luke tells about Jesus’ return to Galilee and His teaching in the synagogues and the people praising Him (Luke 4:14-15). Then He went specifically to Nazareth where He had been brought up (4:16). On one occasion, He read from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 61:1-2; Luke 4:17) on the Sabbath day. This visiting of the synagogues was not an occasional visit, but Luke informs his reader that this was the custom of Jesus (4:16). After the reading of Isaiah 61:1-2, Jesus informed his listeners: “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). This encounter resulted in a conversation (4:23-27) that degenerated into a showdown between the people and Jesus. In fact, this episode caused the people to drive Him out of town with a desire to throw Him down the cliff (4:28-29). Again, one can almost hear the phrase, “no room for them in the inn.” The undertone to this phrase almost staggers the imagination.
Following Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, He entered Decapolis and found two demon-possessed men (Matthew 8:28). In His encounter with the demons, He allowed them to enter into a herd of pigs (8:29-32). Once the town learned of this event, Luke says, “Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region” (8:34). How do you react to the rejection of Jesus in Jerusalem? How do you react to the rejection of Jesus in Nazareth? How do you react to the rejection of Jesus in Decapolis? Would there be a different mindset if Jesus were to visit you personally? How does the church today react to Jesus? Does the church want Him? Do you want Him? Are you willing to make room for Jesus in your life? Have you adopted the now famous statement of the innkeepers: “for there was not for them a place in the inn” (Luke 2:7)? One can talk about God, about Christ, about the Holy Spirit, about the church, and so on; but when you confront Christ, Do you want Christ in your heart? Is there any room for Him in your life? God has not shut you out! He sent His Son to save you. Have you shut God out of your life?
This birth caused quite a stir in Jerusalem (Matthew 2:3). Just as quickly as the news spread about this One born King of the Jews, the sword is unsheathed and follows him to Calvary. Matthew gives the events leading up to the massacre in Bethlehem of all male children under two years of age (2:16-17). Not only was there no room in Bethlehem for his parents, but also there was no room for Jesus in the lives of Herod and the religious leaders. Even today, one is aware of nation after nation that refuses Jesus as the savior of the world—no room for Him. The unsheathed sword followed Him to the very end of His earthly ministry. Matthew gives information as to the arrest of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane that makes one stand almost in disbelief at the people’s reaction to the Son of God who had performed so many, many miracles among them: “While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people” (Matthew 26:47). Just prior to this betrayal in the garden, one gets a glimpse of the psychological turmoil of Jesus’ inner being when Matthew gives the words of Jesus to His disciples: “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me” (26:38). Can one detect a feeling of loneliness in Jesus?
One may ask the question, where is He wanted? Who wants Him? Where is there room for the Son of God? Are you willing to make room for Jesus in your life? Have you ever felt that feeling of abandonment? Do you sense that feeling of desertion by those whom you love? Have you ever experienced loneliness? When individuals believe that they are a burden to their friends and to themselves, this mood can drive one into a state of depression that can be disastrous to one’s well being. Just how does it feel to be lonely? Has anyone ever rejected you to whom you wanted to give your all? John mentions an event that gives some insight as to the psychological feelings that Jesus felt as He witnessed many of His disciples turned from Him and no longer followed Him (John 6:60-66).
As these disciples walked away, one gets a glimpse of Jesus as He turns to the Twelve: “You do not want to leave too, do you?” (6:67). One can almost see the hurt in the eyes of Jesus through the eye of faith. But the Twelve reacted differently. Peter gives his response that has rung a clarion call to all people down through the ages: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God” (6:68-69). Some disciples no longer had any room for Jesus in their lives. Do you have room in your heart for Jesus and His kingdom? Where are your priorities as you reflect upon the kingdom of God? In the very beginning of His ministry, one finds the words of Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount penetrating to the very core of one’s soul:
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 22 The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! 24 No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money (Matthew 6:19-24).
Is there room in your heart for the Lord Jesus? Whom do you serve? Do you serve Jesus or the world? Is it any wonder that John, the one who leaned upon Jesus’ breast at the Passover, cautioned the disciples of Jesus not to love the world? Listen to John as he instructs his readers:
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever (1 John 2:15-17).
Is Jesus saying to you, “Will you go away also?” Surely there must have been, from a human standpoint, a feeling of loneliness. His neighbors did not want Him. The people of Nazareth did not want Him. The people of Capernaum did not want Him. The people in Jerusalem did not want Him? Do you want Him? If so, then you need to make a commitment to Jesus as Lord of your life. If you follow Jesus, there must be some sacrifice on the part of the one who follows. On one occasion, Jesus encountered an individual who said that he would follow Him. Yet, Jesus’ response to this man seems startling: “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20). Again, one must search his/her own heart. Are you willing to forsake all in order to follow Jesus?
The Home of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus
Even though this message has focused on the negative element of “no room for them in the inn,” still one must not forget that many did have room for Jesus in their lives. One cannot read John’s account about the home of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, in the town of Bethlehem, without recognition that these three souls made room for Jesus in their lives. Yes, they received the despised Nazarene. They received the village carpenter into their homes and lives. Luke describes Martha’s acceptance of Jesus: “As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him” (Luke 10:38). While in this home, Martha’s sister, Mary, sat at the feet of Jesus and listened to His every word: “She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said” (10:39). Do you have time to listen to the words of Jesus? Are you willing to invite Him into your heart? Are you willing to invite Him into your home?
Are you like Mary? He wants to bind up your broken heart as he did the hearts of Martha and Mary when their brother Lazarus died. Just as Martha and Mary needed Jesus in their lives, so you need Him. You need to make room for Him in your heart. And, if you make room for Him here, then He will make room for you in Heaven. This message is a plea to everyone to make room for Him in his/her heart. Are you willing to make room for Him? The writer-preacher of Hebrews expresses it forcefully, when he writes:
See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. 14 We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. 15 As has just been said: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion” (Hebrews 3:12-15).
The Twelve Disciples
Matthew says that He called His twelve disciples and sent them out to preach the good news about the kingdom of God (Matthew 10:1-10). They left all to follow Him (19:27). Did He promise them a “rose garden” on earth? No! Neither has God promised His believers today a “rose garden,” that is to say, a life free from troubles. Listen to Jesus as He warns those who made room for Him in their hearts:
I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. 17 “Be on your guard against men; they will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in their synagogues. 18 On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. 19 But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, 20 for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you (10:16-20).
As one peruses the Book of Matthew, one quickly discovers that many did make room for Him in their lives. Following this appointment of the twelve, one discovers that the followers of Jesus had multiplied as a result of His preaching. Luke says,
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. 2 He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. 3 Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves (Luke 10:1-3).
In addition to this large number that had made room for Jesus in their hearts, one is also impressed with the number of disciples that Jesus met with after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Paul informs the Corinthians that Jesus met with over five hundred of His disciples at one time (1 Corinthians 15:6). Where does Jesus stand in your life? Are you committed to Jesus as Lord? Is there a Mary listening to this message? Is there a Mary reading this message? Are you willing to sacrifice the pleasures of life in order to serve Him who is King of kings and Lord of lords? Do you have the mind of Christ? What does this question mean to you? In order to understand more fully the commitment that one should have, perhaps it would be helpful to reflect back upon Jesus before the creation of the world.
For about ten thousand years, God’s people knew that the savior of the world would come. This announcement was first made to Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:15). The prophets prophesied concerning the Messiah. Mothers looked for the birth of the Messiah. No doubt, many mothers wondered as to whether they would be the one through whom the Messiah would be born. Then, it happened (Luke 2:1-7). In this account of the birth of Christ, one, once more, is reminded of the humility in His birth—a borrowed cradle (stall). He was born into poverty for your sake and mine. He did not descend into mansions, thrones, or dominions, but rather, He went down into the manger. As one reflects upon the humbleness of this birth of the Son of God, one can hardly fail to reflect upon the words of Paul to the Philippians:
If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:1-11).
As one thinks upon this exhilarating explanation of Christ’s humility, it is difficult for one not to reflect upon the words of Isaiah 53 (740 BC) concerning the coming of this One that emptied Himself, as it were, of equality with God in order to become flesh.
Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? 2He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not (Isaiah 53:1-3).
One witnesses two extremes in the life of Christ—the manger and the cross. Jesus laid aside His glory in order to be identified with humanity. In His birth one sees a borrowed stall, and in His death, one also sees a borrowed tomb. During His life, He wore, as it were, the peasant’s garb for the sake of every individual. Paul, in his second correspondence with Corinth, calls attention to Christ’s humility for our sake:
I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich (2 Corinthians 8:8-9).
Can you read this passage that graphically details the love of Christ and still refuse Him room in your hearts. He laid aside all His glory; He assumed the form of a servant; He condescended to become man; He allowed Himself to be born in a manger; and He allowed Himself to die, even upon the cross. What does all this have to do with your opening your heart to Christ? Listen to Paul as he writes to Titus:
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good (Titus 2:11-14).
This message began with the concept of “no vacancy in the inn” for the parents of the One about to be born—the Lord of glory. Even though this phrase is frequently employed, perhaps, in a way that Luke did not intend, nevertheless, one does find some justification for developing this theme in a negative sense—“no room in the inn”—as a jumping off point to launch a message that is relevant to every individual today. There was no room for Joseph and Mary. There was no room for the babe. One cannot say with a degree of certainty that this particular phrase employed by Luke did not carry a prophetic overtone of what lay before Him. Christ’s earthly life was one of reception and rejection. This is still true in the twenty-first century.
Hopefully, this examination of this phrase is sufficiently clear to cause everyone to reexamine his/her own life concerning the place of Christ in his/her heart. Is there room for Christ and His Gospel in your life? Is there room for Christ in your day-to-day conversations? Is there room for Christ in your business? How much of the Holy Spirit can one find in your way of life? How much of the Father can one find in your way of life? How much of Christ can one find in your way of life? Do you have room for Christ in your heart? It is not uncommon for believers to have room for everything in their lives except Christ and His kingdom. Are you willing to open your heart to allow the Son of God to come in? Jesus wants room! Have you room for Him? Remember the words of Jesus to the church in Laodicea: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20).
 All Scripture citations are from The New International Version, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House) 1984, unless stated otherwise.