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The Day Between

It’s a little late to be posting this, but as I sit here awake in the middle of the night, I find myself wondering about the apostles on this same night some 1,970 years ago. How many of them were having problems sleeping? Jesus had been crucified the day before. He wouldn’t raise agin until tomorrow. In between that was a long and lonely Saturday where it seemed all hope had been lost.

A Fearful Day

Between the gospel accounts, we see that some visited His grave, like Mary and Martha. Others, like the disciples in John 20:19, were in hiding, fearful of what might happen to them. Of course, these things happened after the Sabbath Day, on the Sunday when Jesus would rise from the grave. The Bible is conspicuously silent about Saturday, but based on the events leading up to the cross and what we see after, one thing is clear: many of Jesus’ closest followers had lost hope.

When the mob takes Jesus away from Galilee, His apostles scatter. Peter follows at a distance, but he then goes on to deny any association with Jesus all. The only apostle we see near the cross is John. Even after the apostles reunite and Jesus appears among them, Thomas still doubts — Thomas who once pledged to die alongside Jesus in John 11:16. They had lost sight of Jesus’s promises. They had lost sight of His hope.

Waiting for His Return

We too live in a day between our Savior’s departure and His return. Each of the gospel accounts ends with Christ lifting into the sky. He departs this world to return to Heaven, but we have promises that He will return.

Acts 1:11 (right after Jesus’ ascension):

“Men of Galilee, they said. “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

Acts 3:19–21

“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you — even Jesus. He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets.”

Colossians 3:4

When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Revelation 22:20–21

He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen, Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.

And there are several more passages like these. Our Savior has risen, and we await His return. But the challenge to us is the same as to those first disciples the day before the Resurrection — to not lose faith, hope, or sight while we wait.

Keeping Perspective

When Jesus appeared before the apostles, how foolish do you think they felt for being so fearful the day before? Likewise, how foolish might we feel when the Lord returns, when we realize how much time and energy we’ve spent focusing purely on the things of this world? Sure, we have longer to wait than the apostles, but in the context of eternity, this life will seem no more than a day — a day where we either waited on the Lord or a day where we let the cares and concerns of this world choke Him out of our lives.

Those early disciples were legitimately fearful that the Jewish leaders would have them killed as they had Jesus. Likewise, the concerns of this life can feel equally legitimate and immediate, but they don’t have to rule us. Fears stoked by politicians, by health struggles, by tragedies, by terror — these are all tools of the devil to keep our eyes planted on the here-and-now rather than the hereafter. They can cause us to lock ourselves up spiritually. They can make us forget the promises we have.

Instead, let’s learn from the mistakes of our spiritual forerunners. Let’s keep focused on our hope and faith. Let’s keep our eyes on Christ’s promises. Let’s stay focused on His return. That should then put everything else in perspective. It should break the locks on our hearts. It should drive fear away, and that enables us to then live like Him and for Him. We should be living with a hope that none can take away. We don’t know when our Lord will return, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that we are ready.

Titus 2:11–14

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to the intent that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we would live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world; looking for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of the great God and our Savior, Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify to himself a people for his own possession, zealous for good works.

Link: The Manger and the Inn

The Presbyterian Outlook: The Manger and the Inn: A Middle Eastern View of the Birth Story of Jesus

Is the entire village of Bethlehem so hardhearted that no home is open to a woman about to give birth? Indeed, the “late-night arrival myth” slurs all the inhabitants of Bethlehem, not just the mythological innkeeper! In short, our Western tradition has, across the years, invented details that do not fit our Middle Eastern world as a real story about real people in a real village.

Some interpreters in the modern period consider the entire collection of birth stories as a free intervention by Luke or his sources with little if any history at its core. But, as noted, the material is Palestinian in character. Therefore, Middle Eastern culture must be the starting point of the interpreter, history or no history.

Would it not be unacceptable in any culture for a man with a pregnant wife to reject the hospitality of his wife’s family and opt for a stable as a delivery room? So how are the particularities of the text to be understood?

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In his ministry, we know of Jesus that “the common people heard him gladly.” That same simple welcome is reflected in Bethlehem in the story of his birth.

If the story is seen in this light, the “mean old innkeeper” evaporates, along with his non-existent inn. “No room at the inn” will no longer be adequate for the Christmas sermon. The cold, drafty stable becomes a warm, cozy peasant home which the shepherds find fully adequate, for they go home praising God for all that they had heard and seen (2:20). If they had found the family in a stable, they would have taken them at once to their own homes!

So the inn and the innkeeper evaporate. Yet much is gained. The Incarnation itself becomes more authentic — Jesus was born in and into a simple peasant home as any other village boy. The shepherds, outcasts from their society, were given a sign indicating this simplicity. They thereby discover that this Messiah comes welcoming the poor and the marginalized.

This article contains some interesting information worthy of our consideration when we study the birth of Christ. Understanding Biblical accounts in the context of the time and culture in which they transpired is critical to our being able to apply these accounts to our own spiritual lives.