A thought on Luke 2:1-7.
I have heard many 'Christmas sermons' in the time I have been following Christ. One of the people that seems to come back over and over again is the innkeeper in Luke 2. Was he a cold hearted man who turned out a young, pregnant woman and her fiance? Did he sincerely want to help young Mary and Joseph but had simply run out of room, so the best he could do was show them to a stable? Questions like these are often asked and answered by those seeking to lead their people to make room in their hearts for the Lord Jesus.
In fact, this last Sunday, I heard just such a message. The preacher spoke about the innkeeper being preoccupied. The influx of all the travelers for the census was most likely an overwhelming experience, and he was so preoccupied with doing business and taking care of his inn that he missed Christ. The preacher went on to make some wonderful and challenging statements about how preoccupied we are as a society and how preoccupied we get as Christians in the things of life and the world. Preoccupation with temporal things is like a cancer that blinds the eyes of the heart from looking on the glory of God in the face of Christ, and though it wasn't worded quite in this way, I was thankful for the reminder to keep my eyes on Jesus.
It is true, isn't it, that we get easily preoccupied with things in this life. Jesus said that we shouldn't. He warned us against worry in Matthew 6, reminding us that God is the provider for all creation, so we, who are more valuable than the rest of creation, should not be consumed with what we eat and drink and wear. Jesus also reminds us that preoccupation often gets in the way of the gospel's taking root in a person's heart and life. In the parable of the sower (Mt. 13), tribulation and persecution (definitely things in this life) causes one to fall away from truly and fully embracing the seed of the word. He also says that "the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful" (v. 22). It is so true that we must not get caught up in the things that are seen and temporal but must stay focused on the things that are unseen and eternal (2 Cor. 4:18).
So, as I make my comments about this verse, please do not see it as any kind of subtle rebuke of my preacher. I would not take blog space to do such a thing...it's inappropriate, unhelpful, and wrong. I rejoice in the truth he spoke and the way he pointed people to Jesus as the only Christ and the only Savior. However, in the days following Sunday, I asked myself, does the innkeeper matter? Not, does preaching against preoccupation matter...because it does! But, this person of the innkeeper...does he matter? I actually think this is an important question, which is why I have chosen to write about it today.
My proposal is for us to believe that the innkeeper does not matter and should not be the subject of any kind of serious consideration of Luke 2. Why would I say this? It says there was no room in the inn...should we not consider the innkeeper and his attitude toward Mary, Joseph, and the Christ child? My thought is that we should not, and let me explain why.
It actually goes to something that Paul said in his second letter to Timothy: "All Scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work" (2 Tim. 3:16-17). This passage will be familiar to many of you, especially if you are a teacher or preacher of God's Word. You have studied it and perhaps memorized it...today, I hope to reapply it to the contemplation of my heart.
If all Scripture is breathed out by God (I think the NAS says "inspired by God"), then it would stand to reason that everything that is in the Scripture has been placed there by God. After all, the writers did not just pick up a pen one day and think, "I wonder what I'll write about faith for generations to study and live their life by." No, they were prompted and carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:19-21). So, every word and phrase that the original authors wrote was supervised by the Holy Spirit Himself...so that their personalities are not lost, but God's truth is written with no error.
If it is purposeful that every word appears where it appears, then it is safe to believe that those things which do not appear in the Scripture are NOT there for purposeful reasons. God has left nothing out. There is no great spiritual truth that we must learn that does not appear in the Scripture. God has given us everything that pertains to life and godliness (2 Pt. 1:3), which means that Scripture, as it appears, is completely sufficient for all things...including the warning against preoccupation with the things of the world.
There are things that we do not have in the Scripture. We do not have any real record of Jesus growing up as a child, apart from His going to the temple at the age of twelve and the events that occurred then. What we do know is what is written...he was like us in all ways, except without sin (Heb. 4:15). He didn't disobey or dishonor his parents, which is enough to contemplate for anyone who remembers their own childhood. However, what does this mean about Jesus' childhood? It means that apart from general statements like that of Heb. 4:15, we do not need to know about it for life and for godliness.
I believe this same thing applies to the innkeeper. For those who have their Bible open looking for this man, you'll find that he's not actually there. We could assume there's an innkeeper because there's an inn, but should we? Must we? Is it necessary? No...because it is not necessary to understand the passage nor is it necessary for life and godliness. If God wanted us to learn from this supposed man (whether positive or negative lessons), He would have included Him in the story. However, he did not.
What we must know from verse 7 is that Jesus was laid in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn. What does this teach us? I'll quote a well-known preacher...John Piper (but it's from memory, so this may not be exact): "He was born in a stable so that no innkeeper could boast, 'He chose the comfort of my inn.' He was laid in a manger so that no woodworker could boast, 'He chose the design of my bed.' He was born in Bethlehem so that no one could boast, 'The greatness of our city constrained the divine choice.'" The point of the "where" seems to be that is was a nowhere place for nobodies...certainly not a well-known king's entrance into the world. However, God chooses the weak and foolish things of the world (like stables and mangers and small towns) for His glorious purposes.
So, does the innkeeper mater? I'm sure he mattered to his wife and children, if he existed and had them. However, in the scheme of eternity...and in the scope of things which we must learn and love and obey as believers in the Lord Jesus, he does not matter. May we always be mindful that the main things are the plain things and that the plain things are the main things, to paraphrase another preacher. Let us all avoid looking to statements, motives, emotions, and people that are not in the Scripture to learn truths on which we will base our lives. God has not short-changed us...He has tucked nothing away that we must "read between the lines" to find.
Read His Word...love His Word...obey His Word...be satisfied with what He has written in His Word. And keep your eyes on Jesus.