Hanukkah begins today at sundown. Why should this be of interest to Christian Zionists? Protestant Christian tradition usually says the 400 years between the Old and New Testament are the “Silent Years”. That is a shame because the entire account of the Maccabees happened during that period. Whether you believe their story is Scripture does not eliminate the historical value of the documents. Did you know Jesus went to Jerusalem during Hanukkah just a few months before His death and resurrection?
Now it was the Feast of Dedication, and it was winter. John 10:22
Most people relate Hanukkah to the miracle eight-day supply of oil for the Temple menorah, but the reason for the season was the re-dedication of the Temple after the victory over the Greeks. That is where the real name came from. When Jesus was there that year, He had just earlier proclaimed Himself as the Light of the World during the Feast of Tabernacles. His full Hebrew name is Yeshua ben Yehovah. Here is an excerpt from my book, Generation LIGHT:
Jesus and Hanukkah
There was a moment in the life of Jesus when He sent his disciples from Galilee to Jerusalem for one of the feasts. This period of ministry is found in John’s Gospel, chapters 7-10. After they had gone up, He also went up, but secretly. This was for the Feast of Tabernacles. This particular year was His last during His earthly ministry. He apparently stayed and ministered in the Jerusalem area from the Fall Feast all the way to winter. The next Passover would be His last. John 7:2 identifies Tabernacles as the beginning of His last autumn visit to Jerusalem, and John 10:22 reveals the extent of His stay.
There is good evidence that Jesus went up to the temple in Jerusalem for the three major feasts of Yehovah every year. These feasts (from Leviticus 23) are still observed today in Jerusalem. They are not called the Feasts of Israel or the Feasts of the Jews. They are the Feasts of the LORD (Yehovah). Passover is in the spring, Pentecost (or Shavuot) in the summer and Tabernacles in the fall. Jesus went up to these feasts in peril of His life which is validated in the first few verses of John chapter seven. Indeed, it would be the Feast of Passover, the following spring when Jesus would be crucified. This was not hidden from Jesus; He knew the times and He knew the appointed time. So it is no small thing that He chose to go up to the Feast of Dedication.
It is very meaningful that He stayed for the Feast of Dedication, the one we now call Hanukkah. While it does not elevate that feast to the level of the prescribed Feasts of Yehovah, it does lend credibility to Hanukkah. Why is this timing interesting? Throughout this two or three month period there was a particular recurring theme of Jesus’ ministry. Over and over He had declared Himself to be the Light of the world.
Yes, it was Hanukkah that was observed at this particular point in Jesus’ ministry. This feast is also called the Festival of Lights, because of the story in the Book of Maccabees when the temple was saved from destruction, dedicated after being defiled and the miracle of the oil occurred. The proclamation kept ringing in the ears of the Jews as they prepared to celebrate once again the miracle of light, an event that had occurred only some 200 years earlier. At the dedication, although there was only enough oil for the temple menorah for one day, it lasted eight days until more oil could be sanctified for temple use. This explains why a normal menorah has seven candles while the Hanukkah candelabrum (called a Chanakiah) holds nine candles. Eight candles represent the eight days it took to sanctify the temple. The ninth is the servant candle and is used to light the other eight. One of the eight is lit the first night and then one and two the second night, and so on until all eight are lit on the eighth night. Christians recognize the servant candle as Jesus. The ninth candle is the source of the light. It is no stretch to see this ninth candle as Jesus the servant and source of all Light.
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. Mark 10:45
My wife, Doreen, has published a children’s book telling the story of the Festival of Lights in the context of two young friends, one Jewish and one Christian. How Hanukkah Saved Christmas makes the point that if Jerusalem and the temple had been destroyed during the time of the Maccabees, Jesus could not have literally fulfilled many
prophesies. If the Jews had been utterly destroyed there could have been no legitimate King to reign on David’s throne. Only a Jew, a true descendant of David could be the Messiah King. Jesus fulfilled that requirement. If the temple had been destroyed, Jesus could not have entered the Temple as the Messiah must, and Jesus could not have entered Jerusalem on a colt as declared in Zechariah 9:9. We must be truly thankful to God and celebrate the courage of the Maccabees.
It was during the Feast of Tabernacles that year leading up to this unique Hanukkah Feast (according to John 10:22) when Jesus stood and gloriously proclaimed twice that He was the Light of the World.
Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” John 8:12
“I must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” John 9:4-5
This is one of many claims that sounded clearly like blasphemy to the Pharisees. Every time Jesus claimed attributes of Deity, it further convinced the Pharisees of His guilt and their obligation to kill Him. Even today, we must come to grips with this seemingly outrageous claim. Jesus was either the most egotistical liar ever, or He actually is the Light of the world!
Happy Hanukkah! (however you want to spell it.)
Les Lawrence, Voice of Christian Zionists (READ MORE)