Tonight at sundown, the Jewish holiday of Chanukah begins. It is a holiday Jesus Christ celebrated faithfully (John 10:22), and Jewish people celebrate the miracle God performed in anticipation of His Son’s arrival. For Christians not familiar with Chanukah, the following background information shows its relation to Jesus Christ and our faith in Him.
Chanukah is the festival of lights and dedication. It is not a festival ordained by God in the Bible to the Jewish people such as Passover, Tabernacles, or the Day of Atonement. Chanukah is based on a miracle from God, and is sometimes referred to as the Feast of Dedication (John 10:22). God’s plan and timing for this holiday provides great symbolism for the Light of the World (John 8:12), Jesus Christ, in the celebration of Chanukah.
Chanukah stems from events that occurred around 168 BC. Biblical scholars sometimes refer to this time as the inter-Testamental period. This was the time between the Old and New Testaments, and was a time of trouble for the Jews. The Greeks had conquered Israel and were oppressing the people severely. Antiochus, the emperor, wished to convert all subjects to worship the pagan gods of the Greeks. He and his men desecrated the Temple in Jerusalem and commanded all Jews to eat pork as a demonstration of their allegiance.
In a city outside Jerusalem, a soldier of Antiochus started to sacrifice a pig on the altar of the local temple. An elderly priest named Mattathias the Hasmonean became so enraged at the action that he stabbed the soldier to death, initiating a revolt. Joined by his five sons, known as the Maccabees, Mattathias and his sons fled to the hills surrounding Jerusalem. They formed a resistance movement led by Mattathias’ son Judah the Hammer. The resistance fighters fought valiantly and bravely, using clever strategy to defeat the forces of Antiochus, which included an army riding elephants.
The Maccabees were successful in liberating Jerusalem and they cleansed the Temple that had been defiled. Chanukah, which means dedication, commemorates the day of Temple rededication.
The ability to dedicate the Temple properly came through the hand of God. In order to reopen the Temple, holy oil was needed to light the Temple’s large menorah continuously for eight consecutive days. A problem quickly became evident – only one day’s oil was available and it would take eight days to prepare new oil. Faith in God prevailed and, despite the shortage, the priests lit the menorah. Miraculously, and not unlike the miracle God provided for Elisha and the widow (2 Kings 4:1-7), the oil burned for the full eight days. Upon the completion of this miracle, the Jewish Festival of Lights was born.
About 200 years later, our Savior spoke to His people during the Feast of the Tabernacles in Jerusalem. “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). Jesus was telling them He has always been the light of the world, even before He came to Earth. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, ant the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. (John 1:1-5). Jesus is the light.
The Pharisees did not recognize Jesus as the Light of the World and rejected His claims (John 8:13). They did not think it was normal for a man to testify so boldly. Jesus’ testimony was valid, however, and was backed up by the witness of our Heavenly Father who sent Him (John 8:18). Jesus would later prove His claims through His death and resurrection, which conquered the death and darkness of sin, but many fail to see His light, even today.
Jesus is the Light of the World, for now and all time. He is not a ceremonial lamp that burns for just eight days and is then extinguished. He has always been here and will always be here. He is a permanent light with a permanent priesthood (Hebrews 7:24) that will never end.
As we celebrate this season of His birth, pray the Jewish people will recognize the True Light of Jesus Christ and accept Him as Messiah. Pray that people of all religions would come to see His glorious light and to accept His sacrifice so all may be saved through Him. Jesus is the only true and everlasting light, a light to guide our paths wherever God leads us.
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