This week, if you contact any synagogue and ask what the “Feast of Dedication” is, they may invite you to their Hanukkah celebration. They would encourage you to experience it firsthand.
Hanukkah is also called the Festival of Lights. Although it may be a surprise to some, Jesus celebrated Hanukkah in the Temple. But why?
The Story of the Holiday
The holiday of Hanukkah is, at its core, a celebration of casting Greek influences out of Jewish life and returning to God’s instructions for life and worship. In a word, it is re-dedication. Celebrating this feast is not directly commanded in Scripture. That is because it occurred in the 400 years between the book of Malachi and the birth of John the Baptist.
Hanukkah commemorates the Temple rededication at the end of the Maccabean revolt against the Greeks in the 2nd Century BC. This war was led by a family of priests and ignited by the forced sacrifice of pigs on God’s altar, a repulsive action according to the Torah. After a few years of battle, the Greek occupiers were thrown out and the work of restoring the Temple began.
During the Temple’s restoration, enough oil was found to light the Menorah and give light for one day although it would another seven days until more oil could be made. The lamp needed to be lit during the process of oil purification. The miracle of Hanukkah or the Festival of Lights was that the lamp stayed lit for eight days until more oil was ready.
Hanukkah and Jesus
It was the season of remembering a victory of a righteous priestly deliverer. In the context of another occupation, this time Roman, the Jews come to Jesus and said: “if you are the Christ (Messiah), tell us plainly.”
At that time the Feast of the Dedication took place at Jerusalem; it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon. The Jews then gathered around Him, and were saying to Him, “How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.” John 10:22-24
His response was beyond what they expected. They were looking for salvation by an earthly deliverer from earthly problems. Jesus talked to them about eternal life and not being snatched from the Father’s hand. And then, He stated, “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30).
He was the Deliverer they were looking for, but for a life far beyond the earthly troubles. While being fully engaged in this world, there is another world that we are a part of. Jesus was celebrating with Israel the rededication of Temple. He encouraged returning to God. He spoke of knowing His sheep and following His voice on a day that celebrated the return to the Torah. From its inception, the “feast of dedication” is a time and season for rededication to God.
The Season of Light
In this season, we speak of the miracle of lights. May the Light of the World ignite our hearts again! May His miracle be in us as He keeps our light ablaze for Him. We can be sure that Jesus will be at any celebration that ignites our hearts and focuses on rededication to God.