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No Room for the Savior

“And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7). We often hear this verse around Christmastime, but how often do we consider what it means that there was no room in the inn? Of course, the physical inn in Bethlehem was full, but beyond that, Jesus was brought into a world that had no room for him. The rejection of Jesus by the world and the false church can be seen by the events surrounding his birth and serves as a vital lesson to us today. 

The first rejection of Jesus was by the world. When Herod heard about the birth of Jesus, he “[sought] the young child to destroy him” (Matt. 2:13). Herod had no interest in worshiping Jesus as he had told the wise men; he only had interest in himself. In response to being told that the King of the Jews was born in Bethlehem, Herod wanted to protect his own claim as the leader over the region of Judea. The world does not want any part of the saving grace of God. That would require humility and sacrifice. Instead, the world rejects God to further their own desires. 

Herod’s rejection also shows how little the world cares for Jesus. While he wanted no part of the Savior and desired to destroy him, Herod did not want to take the time to do it himself. Instead, he sent the wise men to report on where to find the child. Herod wanted to protect his own position, but he did not view Jesus as an imminent or important threat. He would let other people deal with his problem. We can also see this in the world today. In America, we are not under active persecution in the sense that the world is attacking the church openly and thereby actively rejecting Jesus by persecuting his body, the church. Instead, we see a more passive rejection in that the people of this world do what they want with little interest in Christianity. Like Herod, they don’t like what they hear, but it does not seem to have direct implications for their lives. They can deal with it later.  

There will come a time, however, when the world actively rejects Jesus. When Herod saw that the wise men did not tell him where Jesus was located, he commanded all the children two years and under to be killed (Matt. 2:16). He went from passively rejecting Jesus to actively seeking his destruction at all costs. Similarly, we can expect that one day the world will begin to actively persecute the church in their broader rejection of Christ. 

While it is important to see the rejection of Jesus by the world, it is also important to recognize that he was rejected not only by the world but also by the visible church. Jesus was not born in Athens or Rome. He was born in Bethlehem, the city of David. At the heart of it, there was no room for him in the church. And unlike Herod’s initial reaction, this would have been an active rejection. I find it unlikely that Joseph would have talked to only one or two people to find a place to stay. He likely went to as many people as possible to find a place other than the stables for his wife to deliver a child. The people of Bethlehem would have had to individually say that there was no room for Jesus with them. The only people who had any interest were a few lowly shepherds near the town (Luke 2:15). All others had ignored Jesus. 

This rejection by the church is underscored by the fact that they ought to have been watching for the coming of Jesus. They had forgotten the prophecies of a Savior who would be born in Bethlehem (Mic. 5:2). They no longer cared about the line of David from which Jesus would descend (Isa. 11:1). Israel was more interested in the issues of their time than in the word of God that was prophesied to them. We can see this in our time as well where churches are disregarding parts of God’s word by accepting sinful ideologies. As in the church at the time of Jesus, the word is forgotten or, in some cases, completely ignored as an outdated and bigoted message. The failure to listen to the word of God represents a rejection of Jesus. 

It is easy to criticize others for their sinful actions, but how does the story of Jesus’ rejection apply to us today? First, we must recognize that by nature we are no better than Herod who sought to destroy him. We would only care about ourselves and our status in this world without God’s grace. In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul lists a variety of sins and ends with “and such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus” (v. 11). We cannot view ourselves as better than those around us because by nature we are no better. 

Similarly, we must learn from Israel’s rejection of Jesus. There is no excuse for us to forget God’s word. We must study it regularly and actively seek to understand it. This is especially important considering that Jesus is coming again. We are called to “not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober” (1 Thess. 5:6). The church visible at Jesus’ birth was not anticipating his coming; we must not make the same mistake by failing to vigilantly study the word of God.  

In summary, we can see that Jesus was rejected by all: both by the world and by the church. We can learn from this by seeing that total depravity means we are no better than the world without Christ and that it is easy to become like the church of his time by not being mindful of his imminent return. Praise God that he has chosen to save us through Jesus who was rejected! 

 

Jeremy is a recent graduate of Calvin University and now works as an electrical engineer at Flexco in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He is a member of First Protestant Reformed Church.