If you’re like me then you never really gave much thought to the connection between Jesus and Hanukkah. The Jewish Festival of Lights often seemed to me to be little more than another winter holiday that had no bearing on my own life. However, in recent years I’ve started paying more attention to the Hebrew roots of our Christian faith.
As I mentioned in part 1 of this series, Hanukkah has several names by which it is know: Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, and the Feast of Dedication. This particular holiday is mentioned only one time in the entire Bible but it’s a most curious passage.
“At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon.” -John 10:22-23
When I read this passage, initially I didn’t give it much thought, but later when I read it again I wondered why John would take the time to mention this event when none of the other Gospel writers did?
Portraits of Jesus
The four gospels paint a portrait of who Jesus is and what He did on this earth, but they are all written from different angles. Imagine walking around a statue in a park. As you look at it, it will look slightly different because you are seeing different details, but it is still the same statue. I’ve heard it described this way:
- Matthew is the gospel from the Jewish perspective.
- Luke is the gospel from the Gentile perspective.
- John is the gospel from God’s perspective.
Unlike the three synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, & Luke), John’s gospel begins not with a genealogy or the nativity but with Jesus’ divine nature, His eternal existence, and His role in creation. So an event such as this, which the other gospels do not mention may be of greater significance to Jesus’ role as the God-man than that of Jewish Messiah or Gentile Christ.
Reading the surrounding passages gives us a clearer picture of why the Holy Spirit inspired John to include this section about Hanukkah. The context is that Jesus has just identified himself as “the Good Shepherd”, declaring that He alone has the authority to decide how and when He dies, and He has stated that He knows the Father and the Father knows Him. In our Christianized, post-modern world this may seem commonplace but for 1st century Rabbinical Judaism a statement like this from a backwoods teacher was revolutionary, if not blasphemous. The text continues:
“At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, ‘How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.’ Jesus answered them, ‘I told you, and you did not believe… I and the Father are one.’” -John 10:22-25; 30
The Messianic-Hanukkah Connection
So Jesus was in the temple during Hanukkah to be questioned by the priests about his divinity. What Jesus is doing here is reminding the priests of what happened in the past and making the claim that only He had the right to make.
- Antiochus IV Epiphanes falsely declared himself to be god and outlawed Jewish practices. On the holiday that commemorates this, Jesus enters the temple and rightly declares himself to be God.
- Like the Maccabees who fought to cleansed the temple and re-dedicated a pure offering to God, Jesus came would come and cleanse the temple by driving out the money changers with whips made of cords and would offer the final pure offering to God in His own crucifixion.
Next up- Part III: Hanukkah- Abomination and Dedication