Over the last couple of weeks we’ve been taking a look at the stories surrounding the birth of Jesus, the Savior. We’ve noted that a lot of fundamental things about humanity haven’t changed, since that time: “Wise men still seek Him”, “Evil men are still troubled by Him”, and (today) “The world still doesn’t recognize Him”.
One of the more famous parts of the story of Christ’s birth is when Joseph and Mary came to Bethlehem and found no room at the inn. I’ve noted in some of my articles from years past that we often fill our lives up with lesser things, so that there continues to be “no room left in the inn” of our hearts for Jesus. I still think that this is a valid point to ponder, but I think there’s more to this story. In a couple of ways you really can’t blame the innkeeper. Joseph, Mary, and the unborn Jesus arrived at the Bethlehem inn without reservations, and neither did they carry any credentials as the “holy family”. Mary and Joseph came looking poor, common, road-weary, and a little bit desperate. They didn’t look the way you would expect the parents of the Messiah of the world to look — no halos, no royal robes, no tiara, no soft hands, not even a secret service detail (at least, not one you could see). It is no wonder that the innkeeper found no room for such ordinary-looking people.
The Jews who were certainly looking with great anticipation for the Messiah in the first century, like the innkeeper, also had expectations that had nothing to do with God’s reality. One of the major reasons that Jesus was rejected in His day was that He didn’t look like the Messiah that they expected or (more to the point) wanted — a regal looking king, a steely-eyed military commander bent on restoring a united Israelite empire of David and Solomon, defeating all the enemies of the Jews, and ushering in an unprecedented age of peace. Jesus, on the other hand, came looking like a common, working-class fellow, who associated with fishermen, tax-gatherers, and other peasantry. He came gathering no armies, defeating no Romans, and He mostly just taught about the Kingdom and righteousness like a poor, itinerant rabbi. What the Jews of Jesus’ day should have been looking for (but didn’t) was “the times” (Matt. 16:3), the “forerunner” (Lk. 1:17), the miraculous signs (Matt. 11:5), the prophetic fulfillments (Matt. 1:22), the message, and the resurrection (Acts 2:27). Instead, looking for all the things He wasn’t, they overlooked the King of kings. You usually find only what you’re looking for.
Interestingly enough, people still don’t recognize Him. People may not have the exact same misconceptions of the Messiah as the first century Jews, but the misconceptions they do have still hide Him from their eyes — they see only what they’re looking for. For example, the world looks for a god and messiah of only undiluted love and grace. They seek a god and messiah who isn’t really interested in things like morality and holiness, who will accept and smile down upon anything offered in worship, for whom doctrine and unity are irrelevant, for whom diversity and inclusion are the greatest good, and who — although full of bluster and empty threats — wouldn’t hurt a fly. And since that’s the sort of “jesus” that they’re looking for, that’s the sort of “jesus” that they find. So, when the real Jesus comes to men of today in the Gospel as the real God and Messiah that He is — rightfully expecting obedience; full of love and grace, but also full of justice and judgment,; concerned with holiness, righteousness, doctrine, truth, unity, and worship as He has commanded; who originated the idea of “the chosen”; and who simply never issues an empty threat — such a Jesus is not recognized as the real God or Messiah. Modern men think, “He just couldn’t be.” So, they reject the real Jesus — the Jesus they need to save them — and seek for and worship a “jesus” of their desires who will do them no good.
It would seem that we human beings always want the messiah that we want, not the Messiah that He is — the One we need. We want a god that can be modified and customized to meet our tastes and desires, but the God of the Bible remains exactly who He always was, is, and will be — immutable. The Hebrew writer tells us, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
Finding “room in the inn” only for a messiah that they wanted was cataclysmic for many of the Jews of the first century — they rebelled against Rome twice, and were crushed twice. Finding room in the inn of our hearts for the “jesus” we want will inevitably be even more cataclysmic for us than for the first century Jews — the consequence is eternal separation from God. Recognize and accept Him as the God, Lord, and Messiah that He is, and the outcome is life.
Do you have “room in the inn” for the real Jesus?