Today I want to talk about Jesus in Hanukkah. This is the season of Christmas for Christians, but for the Jews it is the season of Hanukkah. Where does Hanukkah come from? It goes back to the inter-testament period at the close of the Old Testament. There was a period of 400 years between the close of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament.
Daniel had prophesied of the raising up of kingdoms, like the Greeks and the Romans. The prophecies said these kingdoms would rise and fall.
The Grecian kingdom would fall into four kingdoms.
And the rough goat is the king of Grecia: and the great horn that is between his eyes is the first king. Now that being broken, whereas four stood up for it, four kingdoms shall stand up out of the nation. (Daniel 8:21)
When Alexander the Great died, the Grecian kingdom was broken into four kingdoms. During this time Israel was ruled by the Greeks. The Greek rule over Israel lasted about 150 years.
Antiochus Epiphanes brought great shame to himself because of what he did in Israel. He set up an idol to Zeus in the Temple and sacrificed a pig on the alter. This led to a Jewish uprising led by Judah bin Mattathias nicknamed the Hammer – Maccabeus. It is during this period that we have the writing of the Apocrypha, the non-inspired books contained in the Catholic Bible. This uprising is told about in the books of the Maccabees.
The uprising was successful, and they took back the Temple on 25th Day of Kislev, 165 BC. Remember, the Jews follow a lunar calendar and we follow a solar calendar. Our years are a few days longer than those who follow a lunar calendar. This means the 25th doesn’t always fall on the same day in both calendars.
Consecrating the Temple
Once they took back the Temple, it needed to be re-consecrated. This is where we get the Feast of Consecration. In Exodus 30 we find the necessity of a certain Consecrating Oil. It is very costly and very tedious to make. They didn’t have enough to consecrated the Temple. They only had enough to burn in the Menorah for one night, but it had to burn for eight nights. The Menorah is a lamp stand with seven lamps. It takes about 6 ounces of oil for each lamp.
At this time, God performed a miracle. The oil burned, not just for one night, it burned for eight full days. This gave them time to produce the tedious and costly Holy Anointing Oil, which included the finest of spices, flowing (liquid) myrrh, sweet-smelling cinnamon, fragrant cane, cassia, and olive oil.
The Jews still celebrate this event. It is called the Feast of Dedication. It is not an Old Testament feast that God had commanded. It is an extra-biblical practice they came up with themselves. Jesus, Himself, participated in the celebration of this feast.
And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon’s porch. Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly. (John 10:22-24)
It was at this feast that the Jews asked Jesus plainly if He was the Christ. In the next few versus, Jesus communicates clearly that He is the Son of God.
Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me. But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one. Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me? The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God. Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God? If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him. Therefore they sought again to take him: but he escaped out of their hand, (John 10:25-39)
They wanted to stone Him for blasphemy, and Jesus asked for which of His works would the stone Him. They said the reason was that Jesus, being a man, made Himself God. The Jews understood exactly what Jesus was saying, and they wanted to stone Him for it. It would be blasphemy for a man to claim to be God, but this was not the case for Jesus. Jesus is Emanuel, which means God with us. He is not a man who became God, He is God who took on the form of a man.
For those who say Jesus never communicated that He was God, this is only one of the five times He communicated this message, and each time the Jews understood and wanted to stone Him. Those who don’t see this as Jesus claiming to be God, do so because they choose not to.
Hanukkah is a celebration that lasts for eight days. They celebrate by lighting a candlestick, not a lamp stand, and there are nine stems on it with nine candles. Eight of the candles represent the eight days. The ninth candle is in the center and stands a little higher than the others. This candle is used to light the other candles. It is called the Shamash (Servant) candle. Shamash is the word used for the Messiah in Isaiah Chapters 42, 49, 50, and 53. The Messiah is called the Servant in these passages. The Messiah is Jesus Christ. I call this the Jesus of Hanukkah.
In the celebration of Hanukkah they light the middle candle first, and it gives light to all of the other candles. Each night they light another candle until all of the candles are lit. None of the candles can be lit by anything other than the Shamash candle.
Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. (John 8:12)
This is Jesus, who claimed to be God in the flesh in John Chapter 10.
Another place I see Jesus in Hanukkah is in the oil. Oil is important to the celebration of Hanukkah. During these eight days they will eat food that has been fried in oil because it represents the oil. The oil used in the Temple came from the Garden of Gethsemane, which was just at the foot of the Temple.
Just up from the Garden is the Mount of Olives. Jesus would often go there to pray.
To make the olive oil, they would first break them up with milling stones and then put them in the press. The olives are pressed three times. The first time they are pressed without any weights added to the press. The first press was the purest oil, the extra virgin oil, and was given to the Temple for the burning in the Menorah.
They would add weight to press out more oil, which was the cooking oil. They would then add more weight. The oil that came from this third pressing was the least pure and was used as oil for lamps to burn in homes.
This is the same place where Jesus went to pray the night He had the last supper with His disciples. It is the same location that Jesus was pressed when he went to pray three times.
And he came out, and went, as he was wont, to the mount of Olives; and his disciples also followed him. And when he was at the place, he said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation. And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. (Luke 22:39-44)
He was pressed to the point that His sweat was, as it were, great drops of blood. The agony of what lie ahead was immense. It was not just the physical pain, which would be great, but the agony of bearing the sin of all of mankind. He would also be separated from the Father for the first time in His eternal existence. All of these made Him cry out to God and ask that this cup pass from Him. He was totally submitted and said, Not My will, but Thine, be done.
I see Jesus in Hanukkah. I see Him in the Shamash candle as He gives light to the world. I see Him in the oil as He was pressed to bring about the purest offering that could ever be offered. His blood was not shed in the garden, it was as if it was great drops of blood. He did spill his blood on Calvary’s tree later that day. It was there that the redeeming blood of our Saviour was shed.
Hanukkah is a Jewish celebration, but what are they thinking about? They are thinking about deliverance and consecration. If you are saved today, you have been delivered from sin by the blood of Jesus Christ and you have been set apart, consecrated, to be a child of God.
Even though Hanukkah is a Jewish celebration, I think there is something we as Christians can learn from it. I hope you can see Jesus in Hanukkah as I do, and that it will give you a better appreciation of what our Saviour has done for us.
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