To fully enjoy sci-fi, fantasy, or high action movies, we generally have to suspend our disbelief. In reading this column, if you have any doubt or disbelief in the person of Jesus being both fully human and divine, I’m asking you to do the same.
If Jesus weren’t divinely God in His nature, His perfect life, death and resurrection wouldn’t count for us. If Jesus weren’t also human in His nature, He couldn’t have done what He did on that cross: die for our sin. But the humanity of Jesus offers another value I think we overlook. That value is foreshadowed at His birth.
“And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” Luke 2:7
There is a lot of speculation about the lodging of Jesus at His birth. Mary & Joseph journey to Joseph’s home town of Bethlehem as required by the census and to pay their taxes; only the town was filled beyond capacity. There was no room for them in the “inn.”
Early church paintings of the “nativity” depict a scene of a barn with fresh straw and animals peacefully surrounding the holy family. Others are pictures of a cave or dug out shelter. The hills of Bethlehem are filled with limestone caves. Justin Martyr in the 2nd Century says Jesus was born in one of those caves. Emperor Constantine later built the Church of the Nativity over that site which you can visit today.
Regardless of how the pictures depict Jesus’ birth, our focus shifts to why Jesus had to be born in a “barn” in the first place. And though his name or occupation is never mentioned, we know who’s to blame for our Savior having to be born in a filthy, stinking animal stall: the innkeeper!
After all, what kind of person would turn away a pregnant young girl about to give birth? Was he so busy he couldn’t be bothered to find something better? Was he so greedy he didn’t want to move out a wealthy guest for the peasant couple?
Many preachers use this verse to address their people in this manner: “So, are you going to miss the meaning of Christmas like this Innkeeper did? Are you too busy to bother? Are you too greedy to care? Or are you going to make room for Jesus this Christmas … in your “inn” (while patting his heart). [gag me]
Rather than blaming the imaginary innkeeper for making such a heartless decision to board this family in a structure for animals, since God either causes or allows all things, isn’t God to be blamed?
I think we could reasonably expect the outcome to have been much different had the innkeeper known with whom he was dealing. It there had been a knock at the door and there stood Gabriel or Michael, the archangel, I’m pretty sure he would have found a room for them … better than a “barn.” But the angel didn’t knock on his door. And for that I say “Thank you, God.”
God had a plan. With His plan came a purpose. Being born in a barn - a cave - a stable - with animals - means that that the King of Kings really did step down from His throne so He could be “one of us.”
Here’s where suspending any disbelief is required.
What if God were one of us? What if this kind of birth in a barn - and life as a carpenter - means Jesus was born and lived - not as a King or Royalty - but as a common man.
Had Jesus displaced a wealthy family in a hotel - had He come as a King or ruler - do you think the disciples would have been able to relate to Him?
As Christians, we talk mostly about the divinity of Jesus and how He defeated eternal death for us so that we can one day live forever with God. While incredibly important, it is also important for us to recognize the humanity of Jesus! Jesus was a common, everyday man who led a sinless life. He also defeated the very things with which you and I struggle. The Bible tells us that because Jesus is victorious over all He faced in His life … so are we!
The feelings of hopelessness you feel? Jesus felt them...and defeated them.
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