Hebrews 13:2 (KJV) “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”
Following is a possible “Eternal Reflection” of one who experienced Jesus Christ when He walked on earth.
You ask, “Do I know Jesus of Nazareth?” I do know Jesus of Nazareth. In fact, I probably have been acquainted with Jesus longer than most, except for His parents, Joseph and Mary.
The first time I encountered Jesus was when the crowds of people were pouring into Bethlehem to pay the taxes in obedience to the order of Caesar Augustus. I recall my father saying, “That Augustus is a wise one. He knows when the time is ripe to exact his tax – right after the harvest! That’s when most people have money, or something of value. It’s also a good thing for us because it will mean all our rooms will be filled and the people will have money to pay us!”
I was about 8 years old then. It was my destiny to follow my father in his business of being an innkeeper and livery tradesman. My father was very good at his business. He could make a room that could comfortably accommodate 4 people magically enlarge to accommodate 8! He told me often, “Son, to succeed in this business, you must capitalize on the needs of others and meet their needs in the most advantageous manner. Remember, the advantage must be in your favor!”
Whenever I could sneak away from the inn, I would run down to the City Gate to watch the steady caravans of people entering the city. They came in all shapes and sizes! I was particularly intrigued with the few who came in with an obvious opulence. They had a caravan of their own, complete with professional guards and an entourage of servants. While I would “count” their heads to calculate the possible room fares they presented, I mused that Augustus would be sure to have his tax collectors “count” them in his census and exact a tax accordingly.
My father didn’t really mind if I spent time at the City Gate because I was good at “barking” up some business. I would call out to potential customers about my father’s inn, tell them we had the best rates for overnight stays, and lead them to the inn. Because of this taxation, it was like catching fish placed in a cistern.
Now, back to my encounter with Jesus! It was getting late in the day and the last of the day’s caravans were arriving. As the last group entered the city, I noticed a single man walking next to a small cart. The cart was being pulled by a very young, small donkey. Being trained in the livery business, I was drawn to this donkey. She had a white star-shaped marking between her ears, and she had a smooth gait and gentle manner. I ran over to the man walking beside the cart, and that’s when I first saw His mother! I understood then why the man was directing the donkey to walk slowly, OR was the donkey doing so because she sensed the need?
The woman in the cart was obviously going to give birth soon. The last time I saw a woman so large in her pregnancy was when my older sister gave birth to my nephew last year. Jesus’ mother was lying on a pallet of blankets and she was holding herself, so her Baby wouldn’t be bounced any more than necessary. I decided right then, “I’ve got to help these people. I don’t care if all the rooms in my father’s inn are full, I know my father will work his ‘magic’ and find space for them!”
I introduced myself to the man and invited him to follow me to my father’s inn. The man’s name was Joseph. He told me they had travelled from Nazareth and that both he and his wife, Mary were from my town – Bethlehem. Joseph seemed very grateful for my invitation. Mary looked up to me and smiled.
When we got to my father’s inn, I asked them to stay in place until I returned. Boy! I was so disappointed! My father informed me that there was no more room for them to stay inside the inn. I said, “But father, you have always been able to make room! I don’t mean any disrespect, but those people on the third floor don’t need four rooms for just six people!”
My father informed me that the people on the third floor were “royalty,” and he was not about to ask them to make room for common peasants. “Besides,” my father said, “They are paying triple the price for our hospitality!”
“But, father,” I pleaded, “The woman, Mary, is going to have a baby! I mean, she is as big as my sister was when she gave birth! She needs some privacy!”
My father said, “If you can come up with another plan, have at it. BUT, I’m not going to ask ‘royalty’ to be inconvenienced!”
I said, “Father, they have a very small donkey. Can I place them in the stable with the donkey?”
My father laughed and said, “Now, your thinking! You’ll be an excellent businessman someday after all! Great thinking, son. You are capitalizing on the needs of others, and you are meeting their needs in a most advantageous manner. In fact, you can have all the proceeds from their business!”
I told you that I was particularly interested in their donkey because of her size and coloring. I was also interested because I was studying about raising donkeys to enlarge my “enterprises.” My father encouraged me in this because he said there would always be a need for them.
My father provided stables for the livestock of those who stayed at the inn. His livery business was almost as large as his inn business. I was the one who organized how the livestock was placed and cared for. I had a special area for donkeys and sheep. Donkeys and sheep were very compatible, I discovered.
Joseph and Mary were very grateful to be able to get inside a shelter since darkness was about to set in. My special stable seemed to work out just fine! I had a newly-hewn stone feeding trough (manger) placed in the stable just a few days before they arrived. Mary said that would be an excellent crib for her newborn! Since my father said I could have the proceeds from their business, I decided NOT to charge them anything. “After all,” I thought, “IF ‘royalty’ could stay on the third floor at triple rates, my new friends could stay for free in the stable!!”
I was right! Mary was near the time of giving birth. In fact, she began her labor not long after they got settled in for the night! I asked if they needed anything and Joseph requested if I could bring another pitcher of water. I brought the water, fed the livestock, and left. I really liked their donkey; for, she never took her eyes off Mary. It was as if she knew something special was taking place.
About midnight, Mary’s Baby was born! I settled down outside the stable just in case they needed anything. Suddenly, I saw a star appear in the sky that shined most brightly! Its aura seemed to settle on my stable, then Jesus cried out! His cry was different than my nephew’s. His cry brought tears to my eyes and a joy in my heart at the same time!
I didn’t go into the stable right away. Suddenly, a group of shepherds approached my stable and said that some angels told them to come see Mary’s Baby. I went in to make sure it was okay with Joseph before I let them in. Joseph and Mary both gave their permission. Joseph had to move the donkey out of the way – it seemed she was protecting Jesus. The shepherds’ appearance made me think of how folks go out of their way to visit royalty.
After the shepherds left, I asked Joseph what he was going to name his son. I am still moved at the mention of His name! Joseph said, “His name is Jesus. He will be our Savior!” I’ll never forget the look in the Baby’s eyes as His gaze brought such peace and hope to my soul!
When Joseph and Mary left, I informed them that I was not going to charge them anything. I’ll always remember what Joseph said, “Thank you! We will never allow anyone to do anything without being rewarded; and, I will make sure that Jesus practices the same principle.”
I respectfully refused to take any money. Joseph gave me his donkey as a “first-fruit” of my donkey enterprise. Joseph said he was joining some of his kinsmen in their journey back to Nazareth; therefore, he would not need his donkey for the trip home. As they walked away, all I could do was shake my head in wondering thought, “Hmm. Joseph didn’t let me out-give him after-all!”