Did you know Yeshua (Jesus) celebrated Chanukkah? “At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem; it was winter, and Yeshua was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon.” John 10:22-23. Chanukkah was celebrated differently in those days. There was no special menorah, called a chanukkiah (8 branch menorah as opposed to the Temple’s 7 branch). There were no gifts exchanged, and it’s likely the story of the miraculous appearance of oil lasting 8 days came later. Then what was this holiday about, and why was Yeshua celebrating it? The word Chanukkah is a Hebrew word meaning dedication. The two books of the Maccabees describe the reason for the season. Essentially Jewish revolutionaries overthrew Greek rule in 164 BCE and established an independent Israel again for the first time in 400 years. When the revolutionaries conquered Jerusalem, they cleansed the 2nd Temple, originally built in the 500's BCE, of pagan idols and re-instituted the worship of the God of Israel. This event is the meaning of Chanukkah and why it was celebrated.
When Yeshua entered the Temple during this particular festival, Israel was once again under foreign domination, this time Roman rule. This had been the case for approximately 100 years. There was a lot of turmoil and suspense during this period because there was the expectation of the Messiah coming and liberating Israel again from foreign occupation. This was especially true during this particularly holiday. So, it was not coincidental that Yeshua was asked in the same passage whether he was the Messiah because the hope was that he would lead a new revolt. His response was to note his works - in other words the miracles that he was doing, which, of course, had nothing to do with political machinations but rather showed the God of Israel was active in relieving human suffering, including the granting of eternal life. Then he really stirred the crowds by claiming unity with God in heaven. Admittedly, this was a shocking statement because he claimed that he was divine. While there were a few Jewish sects that considered a divine type Messiah, most did not. Hence, the crowds rose to stone him for blasphemy. He again challenged them to observe his miracles. If he wasn’t who he said he was, then how could he do these miracles? Immediately, thereafter came the famous story of Yeshua calling forth Lazarus from the dead.
What was Yeshua doing in this passage? Political liberty is a fine thing. Even today, Israel is a living, independent nation. But her existence hasn’t stopped human suffering. Every day we read of tragedies in and around Israel. The real answer is to know the one who claimed to come from the Father to do miracles in our midst. Israel is in need of miracles today, and so are we. We need the miracle worker, Yeshua, in our lives.
Jamie Cowen 2006