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 is Hanukkah, a time when the Jews celebrate the great deliverance that God gave them from the Greeks who were out to destroy them all. On each day of the eight-day Feast, another lamp was lit on the special 9-branched menorah called a hanukkiah. (This special menorah was created for this feast, the traditional menorah has 7 branches.) The significance of the hanukkiah represents another miracle that was given during this time of deliverance. After the Greek army had been defeated, the Jews had much work to do to restore the Temple from desecration and defilement. After cleansing the Temple, they wanted to rededicate it to God and part of that process involved lighting the menorah. Unfortunately, only one vial of oil was found. Rather than wait eight days until more oil could be obtained, they decided to light the lamp anyway. The lamp remained lit for eight days with only a one day supply. The theme of this feast is God’s salvation of the Jews and His Presence seen through the miracle of the light as the Jews dedicated themselves back to Him.
This historical event took place during the time between the Old and New Testaments. The only place it is mentioned in the Bible is in John chapter 10. Since the verse doesn’t expound on the significance of the Feast, we must look at the context to determine why it is mentioned at all. What we know is that Jesus was at the Temple observing the Feast. While the people were lighting the lamps and thanking God for preserving them, Jesus (salvation personified) walked among them.
Just prior to this verse, Jesus had been saying, “I am the Door” to the sheepfold and “I am the Good Shepherd.” He was talking about the great care the shepherd provides for his sheep, that he is not like the hired hand that turns and runs when danger comes. He was painting a familiar picture for people who had intimate knowledge of shepherds and sheep. Surely, they could relate to what He was communicating to them. Why then does verse 19 say that His words created a great division among the people. Some were probably hanging on His every word, touched by the deep love that was emanating from Him. They were being drawn toward Him. Others were infuriated, calling Him demon-possessed and insane. How could this Man’s words create such opposite reactions?
In the chaos of this divided group, they huddled around Jesus and begged Him to tell them if He was the Christ, the anointed One that was to come. Jesus’ response was not a direct answer to their question, but it did provide the answer they were seeking. He said, “I told you, and you do not believe, the works I do in my Father’s name, these testify of Me.” He was directing them to not only listen to His Words, but to see His works. His works were fulfilling prophecy that had been passed down through the ages. So how could they miss it, why couldn’t they see?
This is a question we must all ask ourselves. There are times in life when we just “can’t see” an answer for our questions. The problem could be our expectations. What are we looking for? We expect the answer to come in one way, but if it doesn’t appear in that form, we don’t recognize it as the answer. That’s what these people did. They expected the Messiah to look differently, to act differently, to do different works. Yet, here He was in the Temple, while they were celebrating the Lights of Hanukkah, walking and talking among them, testifying to the fact that He was the very Light they were celebrating. He was not trying to hide His identity. Those who were truly seeking Him had eyes to see and ears to hear His Voice, the True Shepherd. These people heard the words of prophecy and kept their eyes of faith open, expecting that God would reveal Truth to them. The others were seeking their own man-made image of Messiah, one that would satisfy their expectations. They weren’t willing to change their minds to align with God; they had their own agenda. The scripture says, “it was the Feast of Dedication and it was winter.” In the midst of the warm glow of the lights, many had cold hearts.
As we celebrate Hanukkah and Christmas together this year, consider the question, “What do you see?” You have heard many words of prophecy about Jesus, about the Kingdom of God, about His Second Coming. What do you believe about these things? What are you looking for? Have you limited the answers to what you can understand with human reason, or are you willing to consider that God can do things any way He likes, even if it doesn’t make sense? Or are you even looking? Have you considered that you might have to be active in seeking to understand the stories (which are prophecies) you’ve read about Jesus’ Second Coming. Headlines will not be written in the sky, but there are signposts everywhere! It takes faith to believe what we don’t fully understand, but that is the exciting journey of walking with God. He will show us as we go. If we’re not willing to go on the journey, we get left behind in a sea of unbelief and disappointment.
What touches the hearts of people so deeply at this time of year? Certainly it is not the chaotic busyness and the draining of the pocketbook. It is a longing for the magic, the wonder, the awe that surrounds this season. Whether you understand it or not, that wonder comes from the Glory of God. When the Christmas story of Jesus’ birth is told, it stirs your spirit in a longing to experience this GLORY manifested in Jesus. Take another look at things that are familiar to you and see in a new way. Allow the Lord of Light to give you new vision to see beyond what you’ve been able to see in the past. Listen to the sounds of the season and hear a new sound. The Voice of the Good Shepherd is calling His sheep to come to Him and be saved, to be delivered from the evil that seeks to destroy. He will light a new path for you. He is the Light of Life.
Happy Hanukkah! Merry Christmas!