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Inns, Guests, and Guest-Chambers — Kata-luma, Kata-lusai, Pan-docheion.

I suppose we all know well the lovely story of Zacchaeus, the Chief Publican of Jericho, told us in Luke 19:1-10. But the full beauty of this scene, it seems to me, does not appear on the surface. The words 'to-be-guest' are only one word in Greek: kata-luo: a verb. From this word we get the word kata-luma: a noun. This is the word used in the story of our Lord's birth, in Luke 2: 7, when "there was no room for them in the inn." Here kata-luma is translated 'inn'. The only other occasion on which this word is used in the New Testament is when the Lord ate the last supper with His disciples in the large upper room: told us by both Mark and Luke. The Lord instructed Peter and John to say to the goodman of the house, "The Master saith unto thee, Where is the guestchamber, where I shall eat the passover with My disciples?" (Luke 22: 11). And in Mark 14: 14 we find the same question, but (in the better reading of the Greek text) one word is changed: "Where is My guestchamber, where I shall eat the passover with My disciples?" Yes, it was His guestchamber; His disciples; and His supper.

Though kata-luma, the inn or guest chamber, is only used these three times, the verb, kata-luo is used some seventeen times; and with the exception of Luke 19: 7 and Luke 9: 12, it always means to 'unloose,' or, 'undo', to 'pull down,' or 'destroy.' See, for example, the Law in Matt. 5: 17; or the Temple in Matt. 27: 40; or its stones, in Matt. 24: 2, etc. In the two exceptions, the word in Luke 19: 7 is translated 'to-be-guest' (as we have seen already), and in Luke 9: 12 it is translated 'lodge.' I think the thought is that when we lodge, or be a guest of someone, we relax, we loosen our clothes, we ungird, both ourselves and our beasts of burden. This gives us the fundamental thought in the noun, translated 'inn' or 'guestchamber.' But our Lord did not come to this world to rest or relax or ungird: He came not to be ministered unto, but to minister: and so it would have been utterly unfitting that He should have been born in an inn that had such a meaning as we have seen. And so He chose the stable. As we follow our Master's footsteps through Luke's Gospel, we find the foxes had holes, the birds of the air had nests, but the Son of man had not where to lay His head.

And now we find, again in Luke's Gospel, that as He entered and passed through Jericho: the very last journey of any length our Lord ever took along these weary paths of earth: a man received Him; Yes, received Him joyfully, to be his guest. The Spirit of God is careful to use the same word (only a verb) as He had used in the second chapter of this Gospel to tell of the place where there was no room for Him, and they sent Him out to the stable. But here, in the house of Zacchaeus the publican, He has found a place where He may ungird, where He may relax, may rest. Full sure I am that in this home there was water for His feet, and oil for His head, and kisses in abundance: all of which were denied in Simon's house in the seventh chapter of Luke. But Zacchaeus is a sinner, and Simon is a Pharisee. To the one much had been forgiven, to the other little: so the one loved much, while the other loved little. And it does not say that He went 'to-be-guest' (this lovely word) with Simon.

But there is another difference between the inn in Bethlehem and the home of Zacchaeus in Jericho. The inn where there was no room for the King of kings was located in Bethlehem, first, by interpretation, 'The House of Bread', the place where there was an abundance: and second, the birthplace of King David; the town foretold by the Prophet where the Messiah must be born. But Zacchaeus lived in Jericho, the 'City of the Curse.' (Joshua 6: 26). Bethlehem's inn had its opportunity to welcome the King of kings, the Lord of Glory, but the inn-keeper, who is not even mentioned, did not know "Jesus, who He was", as Zacchaeus learned that day to know Him. Had he known, he would not have turned the Lord of Glory out to the stable.

In the 10th of Luke a certain woman named Martha received Him into her house, and she was careful and troubled to prepare a great feast for Him: but even that did not warrant the Spirit of God in using this lovely word, gone 'to-be-guest', in describing this visit. That word, kata-luo, is reserved for the home of "a man that is a sinner." He, and he only, supplies to the Son of God what was refused Him at His birth: a loosing-down place: a place where He might ungird, and rest. And what rest and refreshment must that day have been to our Saviour, as He saw something of the travail of His soul, and in part was satisfied.

But there is a little more. The people who watched Him grumbled that He was "gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner." The Greek work is more than just 'gone.' It is rather, "He has entered in to be guest." This seems to me to be much more vivid. I see Him walk up the path, and pass through the doorway, and enter right inside the house. And if there was joy in the presence of the angels that day, as we know there was, we know there was equal, nay, rather, there was greater joy inside that "sinner's" house in Jericho. Joy for the sinner, truly: but joy that exceeded for the sinner's Guest.

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But let us look a little at the other kata-luma, the other 'Guestchamber', of which we read in Luke 22: 11. And we have noted that Mark, who so loves to tell us little details of our Lord's path down here, tells us that He called it 'My guestchamber.' I do not remember any other place in this world that He claimed as His own. And in this kata-luma, this 'loosing-down-place', instead of ungirding Himself, as we would have expected: we find He takes a towel and girds Himself, to do the slave's work, of washing His disciples' feet. But then He "took upon Him the form of a slave (doulou)" when He made Himself of no reputation. (Phil. 2: 7). Years later Peter wrote, I doubt not recalling that evening in this Guestchamber, "Gird ye on the slave's apron."* 1 Peter 5: 5. If we have the privilege of being the Lord's guests in His Guestchamber, let us remember what the Lord did there that night, and also the words He added: "I have given you an example that ye should do as I have done to you." But don't forget, to do this we must first gird on the slave's apron of humility.

{* eg-komboomai: from kombos, a knot, whence egkomboma, a garment tied on over others, used especially of a frock or apron worn by slaves. (Abbott-Smith's Manual Greek Lexicon of the N.T.).}

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In Ephesians 3: 17 the Apostle prays that "Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith." The word translated 'dwell' is the same word as in Matt. 2: 23, "He came and dwelt at Nazareth." The Greek word is kat-oikeo. The first part is the same word as is used in kata-luo, — to-be-guest; and the other part is from oikos, 'a house.' The whole word means 'to settle, to dwell.' Some think 'To make one's home' is nearer the true meaning; or, perhaps, 'to settle down.' Either translation seems to bring a lovely thought: "That Christ may make His home in your hearts." When I am in my 'home' every part of the house is open to me: nothing is hidden or closed: all is, in a sense, mine. I doubt not this is the meaning here in Ephesians. But before He can do this we need to receive Him joyfully, like Zacchaeus, and He must be able to claim my heart as His Guestchamber. And not only will He come in and sup with us, and we with Him: but we will find He makes our hearts His very home. In John 14: 23 He tells us much the same: "If a man love Me he will keep my words: and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make Our abode with him." The word for 'abode' is the very same word translated 'mansions' in Verse 2. "In My Father's house are many mansions: . . . I go to prepare a place for you." He is preparing the mansions for us in the Father's House; shall not we prepare a 'home', an 'abode', for Him now, down here? And the secret of preparing that 'mansion' for Him is to keep, not His commandments, as in Verse 21; but His words: which go further. Lord, help us so to do, for Thy Name's sake!

One night, years ago, I was trying to tell a little group of Chinese refugees in Hong Kong about this wondrous promise. They mostly lived in Sik Kiet Mei, at that time one of the most miserable of all the refugee settlements in Hong Kong. Many of the 'homes' there were more miserable shacks than anything, I suppose, my readers have ever seen; just piled up at random on a wild, rough, steep hillside. One I knew well was only a hole in the earth dug under a great boulder, to form a sort of cave. I pointed out that He who was born in a stable was quite willing to make His Home with them at Sik Kiet Mei, if they kept His words. They looked very incredulous, and at last one asked, "Mr. Lee, have you ever seen Sik Kiet Mei on a dark, rainy night?" I had to admit I had not: there were no roads, hardly paths; and it was hard enough to find one's way in the daylight: but yet I could assure them that if they kept His words, their Lord, the Lord of Glory, would gladly make His Home with them, even in Sik Kiet Mei. And another replied, "Yes, in our hearts, and that is the best place."

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But there is one other 'inn' mentioned in the New Testament, and I believe the only other. Once more we find it in Luke, chapter 10: 34. A certain man went down from Jerusalem, the city where the holy Temple of God was built; he was going down to Jericho, the city of the curse: the home of Zacchaeus. But on the way he fell among thieves, who left him naked and wounded and half dead. A priest and a Levite passed by, but did nothing to help the wretched man. Then came 'a certain Samaritan', and as he journeyed, he came where he was; and he had compassion on him, and went right down into the ditch with him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine; I am sure he clothed him with his own clothes, and he put him on his own beast, and he took him to an inn. Ah, but there was no room in the only other inn we read about in the New Testament: will there be room for him in this inn? Yes, Thank God, there is room, abundance of room, for him: for the name of this inn is not kata-luma, but, pan-docheion: the 'place that receives all.' Not one has ever been turned away from this inn. Poverty, wretchedness, sin will never keep a person outside the inn call Pan-docheion.' It is God's own inn. Never yet has an applicant been told there is 'no room.' It 'receives all.' "Him that cometh unto Me, I will in no wise cast out," is, I think, inscribed over that door.

And this inn has a 'Host,' and the Spirit of God tells us His name: His name is 'Pan-docheus': the Person who receives all.' And the Samaritan only stayed a short time, for he went away the next day; but before He left, He promised to come back, and in the meantime, He left orders with the 'Host': the 'pan-docheus', to take care of this poor man. He left Him two pence, but added, "And whatsoever Thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay Thee." (Luke 10: 35). Since He only paid 'two pence' the poor man knew that his good Friend meant to come again soon; and I am sure he kept watching down the road to see if He was coming.


"Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, Come, Lord Jesus."


GC Willis  public domain