(This year Hanukkah begins at local sunset on December 20th. The following is an excerpt from our book "Reasons For Christians To Celebrate The Biblical Feasts". The book is available from www.amazon.com and through the bookstore at www.moedministries.com)
The first reason to celebrate Hanukkah is that Jesus celebrated Hanukkah. His observance is recorded in the book of John. The word Hanukkah means dedication and its observance is in the winter.
John 10:22-23 KJV 22 And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter. 23 And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon's porch.
Much of Jesus’ ministry was in the area around the Sea of Galilee with only occasional visits to Jerusalem. John records Jesus in Jerusalem only at the Feasts of the LORD. Yet John records this visit to Jerusalem that is not on one of the Feasts ordained by God in Leviticus 23. What is special about this particular Hanukkah?
First, it follows the very eventful Feast of Tabernacles during which Jesus stood in the middle of the Ceremony of Water Pouring and declared that He was the Living Water. (John 7:37-38) The temple guards who were appointed to arrest Him came back empty-handed declaring that no one ever spoke the way He did (John 7:45-46). He said He was the Light of the World (John 8:12), declared that He existed before Abraham (John 8:58), and healed a man born blind (John 9:1-12). He said He was the Good Shepherd spoken of by Isaiah (Isaiah 40:11) and Ezekiel (Ezekiel 34). As a result, many believed He was the Messiah and many did not (John 10:19-21).
The following spring, Jesus would again go to Jerusalem; this time to die as the Passover Lamb that would take away the sins of the world. He would fulfill His words spoken during that eventful Feast of Tabernacles that He was indeed the Good Shepherd who would lay down His life for His sheep (John 10:14-18).
So, what is Jesus teaching during Hanukkah? What message is He trying to communicate? The Jewish people of Jerusalem come to Him and ask, “Are you the one?” Since this is Hanukkah, thoughts of the great hero Judah Maccabeus must have been foremost on their minds. “Are you the Messiah who will deliver us from Rome like Judah Maccabeus delivered us from Antiochus Epiphanes?” Jesus continues His teaching from the Feast of Tabernacles, “I am the Good Shepherd.” He is not coming at this time in the manner of a Judah Maccabeus.
John 10:25-29 MKJV 25 Jesus answered them, I told you and you did not believe.
The works that I do in My Father's name, they bear witness of Me. 26 But you did not believe because you are not of My sheep. As I said to you, 27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give to them eternal life, and they shall never ever perish, and not anyone shall pluck them out of My hand. 29 My Father who gave them to me is greater than all, and no one is able to pluck them out of My Father's hand.
Sadly, many of Jesus’ questioners reject His words and conclude that He is not the Messiah.
John 10:31-33 MKJV 31 Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him. 32 Jesus answered them, I have shown you many good works from My Father; for which of these do you stone Me? 33 The Jews answered Him, saying, We do not stone you for a good work, but for blasphemy, and because you, being a man, make yourself God.
But Jesus is reaching out one last time to those who will hear His voice and come to Him for everlasting life.
John 10:37-38 MKJV 37 If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me. 38 But if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works so that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him.
Afterwards, Jesus leaves Jerusalem and goes to the same place where John baptized across the Jordan. Jesus goes back to where His ministry began and many came to Him there.
John 10:40-42 MKJV 40 And He went away again beyond Jordan into the place where John baptized at the first, and He stayed there. 41 And many came to Him and said, John indeed did no miracle, but all things that John said concerning this One were true. 42 And many believed on Him there.
Their belief in Him would be tested that very spring at Passover. Who will they say He is then?
Hanukah celebrates the rededication of the temple after it was desecrated by Antiochus Epiphanes. Jewish tradition says that there was not enough holy oil to keep the temple menorah lit for the eight days needed for the rededication of the temple. They lit the menorah anyway and the oil lasted through all eight days until new oil could be made and consecrated. The special nine-branched hanukkiah is lit to declare the miracles of Hanukah—both the miraculous victories through Judah Maccabeus and of the oil.
Christians can light the Hanukkiah as a rededication of their own lives as the living temple of God, to live a life of holiness.
1 Corinthians 3:16-17 MKJV 16 Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17 If anyone defiles the temple of God, God shall destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which you are.
Christians can light the Hanukkiah to celebrate the miracle of new birth displaying the light for all to see. Just like Jesus told his questioners to examine the works He does and see if they are from the father, we too need to do the good works the father gives us to do.
Matthew 5:16 MKJV 16 Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in Heaven.
As we celebrate Hanukkah, who do you say He is?
Shalom and Be Blessed
Dan and Brenda Cathcart
Please visit our website at www.moedministries.com