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Hanukkah, the Festival of Dedication

December 5th, 2012

It was now winter, and Jesus was in Jerusalem at the time of Hanukkah, the Festival of Dedication. He was in the Temple, walking through the section known as Solomon’s Colonnade. The people surrounded him and asked, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”

 Jesus replied, “I have already told you, and you don’t believe me. The proof is the work I do in my Father’s name. But you don’t believe me because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”
(John 10:22-30)

We are approaching the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, or the Festival of Dedication. This holiday commemorates the events of 165 BC, at a time when Israel was ruled by the Seleucid empire. The Syrian king, Antiochus Epiphanes, had conquered Jerusalem and desecrated the Temple, sacrificing pigs on the altar. This sparked a revolt by the Jews, led by Judah Maccabee, ultimately leading to the overthrow of Antiochus’ rule and reclaiming the Jewish state. In rededicating the Temple to God, there was only enough oil to light the Menorah for one day. Miraculously, it lasted the eight days necessary to create a new batch, which we commemorate now in the eight days of Hanukkah.

Interestingly, the only place the Hanukkah appears in the Bible is in the B’rit Hadashah (New Testament) book of John. The events of the Maccabean revolt took place between the end of the Tanakh (Hebrew Scriptures, which ends with the book of the prophet Malachi) and the birth of Jesus Christ (Yeshua HaMashiach) which launches the B’rit Hadashah. The original account of Hanukkah is recorded in the non-Biblical books of 1 and 2 Maccabees, but in John we learn that Jesus, an observant Jewish man, was in Jerusalem to celebrate the holiday. During this celebration of the miracle of God, Jesus is again challenged by the Jewish leaders about His identity. Referring to the miracles they have seen Him perform as evidence, He repeats His claim that He is one with the Father, that He is God.

God’s timing is never accidental. Jesus chooses a festival that celebrates a miracle to remind the Jews about the miracles He has performed in His Father’s name. He leaves no doubt as to the inevitable conclusion about His identity.

There is another important connection between Jesus and Hanukkah, and that is in the theme of rededication. When Jerusalem is reclaimed from Antiochus, the Maccabees know that they must purify and sanctify the Temple, which has been defiled by pagan worship and sacrifice, before the Lord can return to dwell among His people. The miracle of the oil for the Menorah was only the final step in the process that was necessary for the Jews to live in the presence of their God.

Jesus came among us for the same purpose. Through His sacrifice, our sins are cleansed and we are purified and sanctified. Only in this way are we able to come into the presence of God and live in relationship with Him. When we accept His sacrifice for us on the cross, surrendering our lives to His glory, then we are rededicated as the Temple of God and the Ruach ha’Kodesh (Holy Spirit) can dwell within us.

Hanukkah celebrates the rededication of the Temple. This happened first through the heroic battles of the Maccabees and God’s miraculous provision of oil. It happens again through the heroic sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the miraculous indwelling of the Ruach ha’Kodesh. While the first rededication happened over two millennia ago, the second remains available even today. As my Jewish family and friends prepare to light the Hanukkah lights, I pray that this can be the beginning of a new season of dedication.

If you would like to know more about how to dedicate your life to God through Messiah Yeshua, please contact us.

Contributed by Dr. Jayson Stoffman, a Jewish believer in Jesus and publisher of the blog site, “I Am Ministry.”

Posted in Dr. Jayson Stoffman, Jesus and Israel, Jesus and Jews, Jewish festivals, Jewish holidays, Jews and Jesus, Messiah | No Comments »

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