No room in the inn (Christmas)

SERMON TOPIC: No room in the inn (Christmas)

Speaker: Gavin Paynter

Language: ENGLISH

Date: 25 December 2014


Sermon synopsis: Luke 2:7 She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Does our modern world have room for Jesus this Christmas?

Some see Christmas simply as a time to have drunken parties. This is how they honour the birth of the Lord.

Others are caught up in the commercialisation of Christmas and see it just as a time for receiving gifts – forgetting the greatest gift of all – God’s gift of his Son.

Others have allowed the purpose of the day that commemorates the birth of our Lord to be forgotten. Jesus’ place is usurped by other ‘heroes’. Santa, Rudolph the reindeer, Frosty the snowman and Tiny Tim.

So this Christmas and indeed in your life in general: have you made room for Jesus?
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Luke 2: 1-20 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.)

And every- one went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.

While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.

She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.

An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.

Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.

Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God…

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests.

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another…

Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.

When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child…

… and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Luke 2:1-2 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.)


Emperor Augustus (63 BC – 14 AD)

Josephus recorded that Quirinius conducted a census in AD 6/7. As Herod the Great who tried to kill Jesus died in 4 BC this leaves a discrepancy of over 10 years though, causing liberal and secular scholars to claim that Luke made a mistake. However Luke was an educated doctor who consulted widely for his gospel (Luke 1:1-4) and he took great care to reference historical events.


Publius Sulpicius Quirinius (c. 51 BC – AD 21)

Additionally, the census of AD 6 did not include Galilee so it cannot be the census Luke is referring to. The census was only of Judea, Samaria, Idumaea and Syria. 1

We also know that Luke was well aware of the census in AD 6/7. Josephus links this particular census to an uprising led by Judas of Galilee and Luke in the Book of Acts demonstrates his knowledge of both the census and this corresponding uprising.

Acts 5:37 “After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered.”

1 It was prompted by the banishment of Archelaus from the tetrarchy of Judea in AD 6, when Judea (including Samaria and Idumaea) was placed under the general oversight of the Roman governor of the province of Syria.


In his gospel Luke refers to the census when Jesus was born as “the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria”, the word ‘first’ implying that there was more than one census by Quirinius.

In fact Augustus himself notes in his Res Gestae (The Deeds of the Divine Augustus) that he ordered a wide-spread census of Roman citizens in 8/7 BC 1 which would fit in perfectly with Matthew’s timing regarding Herod’s death and the Bethlehem star.

But the problem is that Quirinius (who Luke links to the census) was only appointed legate governor of Syria in AD 6, after the removal of Herod Archelaus from Judea.

1 http:// Augustus/ deeds.html#71 (written 14 AD) 8. “Then again, with consular imperium I conducted a lustrum alone when Gaius Censorinus and Gaius Asinius were consuls (8 BC), in which lustrum were counted 4,233,000 heads of Roman citizens.”

But speaking of Quirinius, Luke doesn’t actually use the political title of ‘governor’ (‘legatus’), but the broader term ‘hegemon’ which is a procurator. So while Saturninus was the official governor (‘legatus’) of Syria at the time of Jesus’ birth, Quirinius may have been in charge of the census because he was the procurator at the time. In fact Justin Martyr supports this, writing in his Apology that Quirinius (Cyrenius) was a ‘procurator’, not a governor.

Now there is a village in the land of the Jews, thirty-five stadia from Jerusalem, in which Jesus Christ was born, as you can ascertain also from the registers of the taxing made under Cyrenius, your first procurator in Judaea. 1

1 “The First Apology Of Justin” Chapter 34 text/justinmartyr-firstapology.html

According to Wikipedia:

A fiscal procurator (procurator Augusti) was the chief financial officer of a province during the Principate (30 BC - 284 AD). A fiscal procurator worked alongside the legatus Augusti pro praetore (imperial governor) of his province but was not subordinate to him, reporting directly to the emperor. The governor headed the civil and judicial administration of the province and was the commander-in-chief of all military units deployed there. The procurator, with his own staff and agents, was in charge of the province’s financial affairs. This included the collection of taxes… 1

1 http:// wiki/ Procurator_(Roman)


The office of fiscal procurator was always held by an equestrian, unlike the office of governor that was reserved for members of the higher senatorial order. The reason for the dual administrative structure was to prevent excessive concentration of power in the hands of the governor, as well as to limit his opportunities for peculation (i.e. to steal or take dishonestly). It was not unknown for friction to arise between governor and procurator over matters of jurisdiction and finance. 1

So it is quite possible that Quirinius was the fiscal procurator at the time Saturninus was the governor. With the collection of taxes as part of his portfolio, the census (normally for taxation purposes) would have been his concern.

1 http:// wiki/ Procurator_(Roman)


Gleason Archer writes, “In order to secure efficiency and dispatch, it may well have been that Augustus put Quirinius in charge of the census-enrolment in Syria between the close of Saturninus’ administration and the beginning of Varus’ term of service in 7 BC It was doubtless because of his competent handling of the 7 BC census that Augustus later put him in charge of the 7 AD census.” 1

Archer also says that Roman history records Quirinius leading the effort to quell rebels in that area at exactly that time, so such a political arrangement is not a stretch. 2

1 Archer, Gleason L. Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties. Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI 1982 p.366 2 roman-census.asp#2


In 1912… the discovery by W. M. Ramsey of a fragmentary inscription at Antioch of Pisidia arguably established Quirinius was in Syria on a previous occasion… His role was more military to lead a campaign against the Homanadenses, a tribe in the Taurus Mountains. This is confirmed by Tacitus. This means that Quirinius would have established a seat of government in Syria, including Palestine, from the years 10 to 7 BC. In this position he would have been responsible for the census mentioned by Luke. This census of 7 BC would therefore have been the ‘first’ census taken when Cyrenius was governor (Luke 2:2) and the historically documented census of 6/7 AD was really the second. 1

1 NTHX.html


This timescale is corroborated by the 2nd century Christian lawyer Tertullian who ascribes the census taken at the time of Jesus’ birth to the era when Saturninus was governor of Syria. Writing about the heretic Gnostic Marcionites who didn’t believe that Jesus was a man, but was rather a spirit, he says:

But there is historical proof that at this very time a census had been taken in Judaea by Sentius Saturninus, which might have satisfied their inquiry respecting the family and descent of Christ. 1

Sentius Saturninus was propraetorial imperial legate of Syria from 9 to 6 BC.

1 Adversus Marcionem (Against Marcion) Book 4, ch 19, v.10 anf/ anf03/ anf03-31.htm#19_10


Another inscription, the Lapis Tiburtinus, was found in 1764 near Tivoli (Tibur). Composed after 14 AD, the inscription names an unknown personage who was legate of Syria twice. The man is described as having been victorious in war. 1 Quirinius was a Roman soldier so it is not impossible that he is this unnamed person.

A totally different take on the issue is presented in a recent article by John Rhoads, who argues that Josephus misdated Quirinius’ census. 2 If he’s correct, then the attempts to exonerate Luke are largely unnecessary, as the criticism is based on trying to harmonize Luke with Josephus (and when there’s a discrepancy liberal scholars automatically attribute the error to the gospel author).

1 2 files/JETS-PDFs/54/54-1/JETS_54-1_65-87_Rhoads.pdf


Despite his humble birth in terms of human standards, God’s very angels celebrate Jesus’ arrival. They do this to announce that he is the Son of God.

Heb 1:5-6 For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father”? Or again, “I will be his Father, and he will be my Son”? And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.”

So the Son of God was taking on flesh to also become the Son of Man.

John 1:1, 14 … the Word was God… The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.


The OT prophet Micah prophesied that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem:

Micah 5:2 But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”

But Mary, pregnant with Jesus, lived not in Bethlehem, but in Nazareth.

Luke 1:26-27 In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.

So how would God effect the fulfilment of Micah’s prophecy? The answer was the census of Augustus.


Octavian was the adopted son of Julius Caesar. The Roman Senate formally deified Julius Caesar in 42 BC, and Caesar Octavian (later called ‘Augustus’) henceforth became Divi filius (“son of a god”).

Jesus of course is known as the “Son of God”.

Mark 1:1 The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

So twice within the span of about 70 years two men would be acclaimed first as the “son of a god”, and then as “Son of God”. But Augustus Caesar, the man the Romans claimed as the “son of a god”, imposes a census along with all the associated bureaucracy, that will force Joseph and Mary to return to their home town of Bethlehem.


So God uses the rival “son of a god” as the very instrument to ensure that the true “Son of God” is born in Bethlehem in order to fulfil prophecy. So the census reminds us that Jesus is the SON OF GOD.

son of a god

Son of God

But the census also shows us that Jesus was the SON OF MAN. He shared in our humanity and was numbered and counted with men.

Philippians 2:5-7… Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.


So Jesus identified with humans:

IN HIS BIRTH – Some census form in the first century Roman archives recorded the fact that a Jewish boy called Yeshua (Jesus) was born in Bethlehem.

Tertullian writes, “… and lastly, His enrolment in the census of Augustus - that most faithful witness of the Lord’s nativity, kept in the archives of Rome?” 1

And we saw that Justin Martyr wrote to the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius: “Now there is a village in the land of the Jews, thirty-five stadia from Jerusalem, in which Jesus Christ was born, as you can ascertain also from the registers of the taxing made under Cyrenius, your first procurator in Judaea.” 2

1 Tertullian, Against Marcion, 4:7 2 Justin Martyr, First Apology, 34


IN HIS BAPTISM – As the sinless Son of God, Jesus had no need to be baptised for repentance. But as the Son of Man he would identify with sinful man in order “to fulfil all righteousness”. (Matt 3:13-15)

I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?

Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfil all righteousness.

IN HIS SUFFERING - Just as all men suffer, so too Jesus shared in the human experience. He knew what it was like to stand beside a father’s grave. And he wept when he saw the sorrow of his friends Mary and Martha upon the death of their brother Lazarus:

John 11:33-35 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubledJesus wept.

saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

He knew the burden of supporting a family and worrying about his mother’s provision.

John 19:25-27 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother… When Jesus

He what it was like to have a ministry without the support of his family.

John 7:5 For even his own brothers did not believe in him.

Mark 3:20-21 Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”

He understood what it felt like to be rejected by his hometown.

Mark 6:3 “Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him

And he wept over his beloved city Jerusalem when they rejected him.

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. (Matt 23:37)

He knew what it was like to be betrayed by a friend.

Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss? (Luke 22:48)

IN HIS DEATH - Just as all men die, Jesus too identified with humans in succumbing to death. And his death was unfair – he died like a common criminal though he was neither violent nor deceitful.

Isa 53:9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.

He was born. 1

He got tired. 2

He got thirsty 3 and hungry. 4

His knowledge was limited. 5

He had flesh, bones 6 and blood. 7

He could suffer and die. 8

1 Matt 1:18 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about… 2 Matt 8:24 … But Jesus was sleeping. 3 John 19:28 … Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” 4 Matt 4:2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 5 Matt 24:36 No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son… 6 Lk 24:39 … Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have. 7 Lk 22:20 … This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. 8 Matt 16:21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things… and that he must be killed …


Why did Jesus become a man? He was born to die. He became a man so that he “might taste death for everyone.”

Heb 2:9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honour because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

He bore our pain, sorrow and sin so that we could experience peace and healing.

Isa 53:4-5 Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.


In order to save us, Jesus had to be part of the same family:

Heb 2:11-12 Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers. He says, “I will declare your name to my brothers; in the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises.”

Now maybe you have some family members you are ashamed of? But Jesus is not ashamed to call us his brothers.

In the NT Jesus is referred to as Son of God 38 times (most of these references by others) and Son of Man 84 times (most of these references by himself).


If Jesus is not ashamed to call us his brothers, how then can we be ashamed to call him our brother and Saviour? And so Jesus said:

“Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.” (Matt 10:32-33)


Jesus existed before his birth and was the only one who could have chosen the circumstances of his birth. Yet:

His birth is announced to shepherds, men of a humble profession.

He is born not in a palace, but rather in a humble manager, the feeding trough for animals.

He is born in the insignificant town of Bethlehem, not in a prominent city like Jerusalem.

There is no room for him in the inn (or guest room).


He is born in a lowly manager to show that:

He is the king of the humble. By being laid in a manger Jesus invites the most humble to approach him. While they might tremble to come before a throne, they are not afraid to come to a manger.

The poor feel an immediate affinity for him because of the circumstances in which they find him. And so the humble shepherds are not afraid to seek out the king because the angel tells them:

“This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:12)


He is born in a lowly manager to show that:

He is the king of the poor

Luke 4:8 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.”

He did not exempt himself from suffering:

Isa 53:3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.


Maybe you’re lonely this Christmas? Everyone else seems to have somewhere to go, but you’re not invited. Everyone has a house full of friends and family, but you’re alone. Jesus knows and identifies with your pain and loneliness. He knew what it was like to be “despised and rejected by men” and not to fit in. There was “no room” for him on that first Christmas.

Maybe you have plenty and you have a family and friends that love you, but you know others who are poor or lonely? Why not use this as a time to show God’s love to them?

Luke 14:13-14 “But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”


Luke 2:7 She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

The word translated here as “the inn” in the NIV 1984 edition and in many English versions is the Greek word ‘katalymati’. Now although ‘katalyma’ may be translated as ‘inn’, Luke uses the more common Greek word for inn (pandocheion) in the parable of the Good Samaritan.

Luke 10:34 … he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn (pandocheion) and took care of him.

The word Luke uses here (katalyma) in Luke 2:7 is the same word he later uses to describe the guest room of the house in which Jesus ate the Last Supper with his disciples.

Luke 22:11 and say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room (katalyma), where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’


The passage in Luke 22 goes on to indicate that the “guest room” was also an “upper room”:

Luke 22:12 He will show you a large upper room, all furnished. Make preparations there.”

So the use of the word ‘katalyma’ (‘guestroom’ or ‘inn’) rather than the more common ‘pandocheion’ (‘inn’) seems to better fit what is known of peasant houses from this period. They typically had an upper room for eating and sleeping, with a lower room for animals. This room for animals could even be an adjoining cave. Mangers were often cut into the floor of this room.

In some homes, a ‘guest room’ was built on the flat roof or at the end of the house. It might have been this family guest room that Luke was referring to.


In fact the updated NIV 2011 version now renders Luke 2:7 as follows:

… and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And the Expanded Bible renders it:

… and laid him in a ·feeding trough [manger], because there ·were no rooms [was no space/room] left in the ·inn [or guest room (of a private residence); or caravan shelter].

And the International Standard Version:

… and laid him in a feeding trough, because there was no place for them in the guest quarters.


Being a small town Bethlehem may not have even had an inn. And as Bethlehem was the town of Joseph’s ancestors, he most likely had relatives there, so it’s not impossible that he may have tried to stay with relatives, rather than a public inn. On finding the house full, they might have resorted to the shelter of the room used for housing animals, complete with the manger.

So Jesus wasn’t necessarily born in a stable as we understand the term today, or at the back of a public inn. In fact Luke makes no mention of either an innkeeper or a stable.

Nevertheless the point remains that despite being the Son of God, there had been “no room” in either a family guest room or a public inn for Jesus at his birth.


So there was no room for Jesus at his birth.

There was no room for him even in his death - and so he was buried in a borrowed tomb:

Matt 27:57-60 As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus… Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock…

And there had been no room for him in his ministry:

Luke 9:58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”


In fact when Jesus visited Jerusalem he and his disciples slept on the Mount of Olives, most likely in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Luke 21:37 Each day Jesus was teaching at the temple, and each evening he went out to spend the night on the hill called the Mount of Olives

John 18:1-2 When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was an olive grove, and he and his disciples went into it. Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples.

Sadly the only room Jerusalem had for Jesus was on a cross.


Does our modern world have room for Jesus this Christmas?

Some see Christmas simply as a time to have drunken parties. This is how they honour the birth of the Lord.


Others are caught up in the commercialisation of Christmas and see it just as a time for receiving gifts – forgetting the greatest gift of all – God’s gift of his Son.


Others have allowed the purpose of the day that commemorates the birth of our Lord to be forgotten. Jesus’ is usurped by other ‘heroes’. Santa, Rudolph the reindeer, Frosty the snowman and Tiny Tim.


Why was there no room for Jesus on that first Christmas?

Was it because of ignorance? If the innkeeper or the family who had the guestroom knew that the baby was the Son of God, would they have made space?

Was it indifference to the plight of a young woman about to give birth in a room where animals were housed? Was there simply no concern?

If this was a common practice as some suggest, why would Luke bother to mention it?

And why would the angel give the fact that he is in a manger as “a sign” to the shepherds, if this were the norm even for peasant children?


Was the innkeeper or family simply too busy attending to other things that seemed more important?

So this Christmas and indeed in your life in general:

Are you too busy to make room for Jesus?

Or are you indifferent to his claims?

Or are you perhaps ignorant as to how important he really is?


Matt 1:23 “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” —which means, “God with us.”

Jesus came to our world as a poor peasant baby born in the most humble circumstances. But his prophesied title was ‘Immanuel’ meaning “God with us”. Are you like those who were unaware of God’s visitation – or do you like the Magi and the shepherds use this as a time to pay homage to your king and redeemer?

Jesus came as our Saviour. One day he will return as judge and the world will have to make room for him whether they want to or not. If you haven’t done so already, why not make room for him in your life now, while the open invitation is extended by the coming king?



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