“Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon’s porch.” – John 10:22-23
The Feast of Dedication occurs about two months after the Feast of the Tabernacles ‘Sukkot’ and is also known as the ‘Festival of Lights’ or ‘Hanukkah’.
The first Feast of Dedication occurred in the era of the Maccabees and celebrated the cleaning of the Temple after its desecration by Antiochus Epiphanies. The feast of Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days, from the 25 of Kislev to 2 of Tevet (or 3 of Tevet, when Kislev has 29 days only). During this feast the hanukkiyah is lit, which is a 9 arm menorah (including the central and largest, called the Shamash, or servant). On the first night only the largest arm and a candle are lighted, and each night and additional light is lit, until on the eighth day the candelabrum is completely illuminated. This ritual celebrates the miracle of the oil that burned for eight days in the menorah of the Temple of Jerusalem.
During this time, the stories of the Maccabees brave fighting were recounted and the feast was a time for praising God for once again marvelously delivering the Israelites from their enemies.
Almost two hundred years after the re-dedication of the Temple, near the very spot where these events took place, Jesus of Nazareth visited Jerusalem during the Feast of Dedication. He was walking in the same Temple, near the very spot where these events took place. Some Jews came to Him, wanting to know if He really was the Christ, the Messiah: “Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, “How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly” (John 10:24).
Would Jesus be for the Jews of His day what Judas Maccabee had been for a previous generation? Would Jesus stand up against the oppressive pagan power and be the fulfillment of Israel’s expectation, re-establishing the Davidic monarchy in Jerusalem and ruling there forever?
Although Jesus was the promised Messiah of Israel, He would not provide liberation from the Romans, but He would provide liberation from sin and death through His death and resurrection (Romans 5:6-11; Romans 8:1-3). Jesus did not set up a throne in Jerusalem at that time, but beginning in Jerusalem His Lordship and Kingdom was proclaimed, and the message would spread to all nations throughout all time: “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
The Feast of Dedication was of great importance for the Israelites of Jesus’ day. It was the story of deliverance from oppression and dedication to God, just like Jesus is our Deliverer from the oppression of sin.
The Temple in Jerusalem no longer stands; however, the heart of each true believer in Jesus the Messiah and Savior is the temple where the Spirit of God dwells today. Too often believers endanger the cleanliness of this Temple by allowing idolatry and pagan practices into their lives. Hence the timeless exhortation from Scripture: “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.” (Colossians 2:8)
As many celebrate this season let us remember that the hanukkiyah is traditionally lit by a special candle called the shammash. Shammash in Hebrew is the word for “servant.” In the shammash candle, we can see a symbol of our Messiah Y’shua, for as the Gospel of Matthew says, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)
The shammash serves the other candles by bringing light to them. In the New Testament, Jesus is frequently referred to as “the Light,” and Jesus Himself once said, “I am the Light of the World. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
Just as the shammash gives light to the other candles, Jesus came to give the world His light. The miracle celebrated during this time of year shows how God keeps His light burning in the hearts of His people, even when they face what seem to be impossible odds or situations. With God, all things are possible and His light will never fail, or go out.
May you be blessed this season and all year long, as you keep your eyes focused on Jesus the most precious gift humanity has ever received.
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”