Image via Wikipedia
Sun down this evening begins the Jewish celebration of Hanukkah, or Chanukah for the Jewish among us. It is a celebration in commemoration of the re-dedication of the Temple by the victorious armies of Judas Maccabeus, who had led the armies of Israel against the Hellenizing forces of Antiochus.
Early in the morning on the twenty-fifth day of the ninth month, which is the month of Chislev, in the one hundred and forty-eighth year, they rose and offered sacrifice, as the law directs, on the new altar of burnt offering which they had built. At the very season and on the very day that the Gentiles had profaned it, it was dedicated with songs and harps and lutes and cymbals. All the people fell on their faces and worshiped and blessed Heaven, who had prospered them. So they celebrated the dedication of the altar for eight days, and offered burnt offerings with gladness; they offered a sacrifice of deliverance and praise. They decorated the front of the temple with golden crowns and small shields; they restored the gates and the chambers for the priests, and furnished them with doors. There was very great gladness among the people, and the reproach of the Gentiles was removed. Then Judas and his brothers and all the assembly of Israel determined that every year at that season the days of dedication of the altar should be observed with gladness and joy for eight days, beginning with the twenty-fifth day of the month of Chislev. (1 Maccabees 4:52-59 RSVA)
Christ took this time (not to celebrate His birth, mind you) to attend the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem that year, and while spoke of His divinity,
It was now winter, and Jesus was in Jerusalem at the time of Hanukkah, the Festival of Dedication. He was in the Temple, walking through the section known as Solomon’s Colonnade. The people surrounded him and asked, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”
Jesus replied, “I have already told you, and you don’t believe me. The proof is the work I do in my Father’s name. But you don’t believe me because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.” (Joh 10:22-30 NLT)
It was here at the Feast of Dedication, or Hanukkah, which Christ faced the question – are you Christ? Are the Messiah that would restore Israel to her Kingdom? It was no doubt on the minds of the Jews in attendance (and perhaps some of the Romans) as it was the celebration which celebrated a restored sovereignty – but not complete because it was not David’s line that sat upon the throne – to Israel and a restoration of the Temple to the Holy One of Israel.
Early in the morning, as the congregation gather to hear the Reader, they would hear
Then this message came to me from the LORD:
“Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds, the leaders of Israel. Give them this message from the Sovereign LORD: What sorrow awaits you shepherds who feed yourselves instead of your flocks. Shouldn’t shepherds feed their sheep? You drink the milk, wear the wool, and butcher the best animals, but you let your flocks starve. You have not taken care of the weak. You have not tended the sick or bound up the injured. You have not gone looking for those who have wandered away and are lost. Instead, you have ruled them with harshness and cruelty. So my sheep have been scattered without a shepherd, and they are easy prey for any wild animal. They have wandered through all the mountains and all the hills, across the face of the earth, yet no one has gone to search for them.
“Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD:
As surely as I live, says the Sovereign LORD, you abandoned my flock and left them to be attacked by every wild animal. And though you were my shepherds, you didn’t search for my sheep when they were lost. You took care of yourselves and left the sheep to starve. Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD. This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I now consider these shepherds my enemies, and I will hold them responsible for what has happened to my flock. I will take away their right to feed the flock, and I will stop them from feeding themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths; the sheep will no longer be their prey.
“For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will search and find my sheep. (Eze 34:1-11 NLT)
Just prior to this account, two “illustrations” (10:6) of Jesus as the Good Shepherd (10:1-5 and 10:7-10) were given and then the Lord’s interpretation of these parables (10:11-18) The Jewish reader would immediately pick up the messianic connotation of this discourse. The Davidic Messiah would be a Shepherd and here was Christ claiming to be the Good Shepard – on Hanukkah no less. The questions posed to Christ by the Jewish leaders reflected the expectation that was running high in Palestine during that time of the year – they were waiting for the Messiah.
In looking for another Judah Maccabeus – one which would take away again the reproach of the Gentiles (Rome) – they missed Jesus Christ would would take away the sins of the world which is the separation between God and all of humanity. It is at Hanukkah that Christians can find Christ as well – in that He is the Good Shepherd that has taken away the sins of the world. Truly, if there is a holiday in which to celebrate Christ during this time of the year, it is this one.