Saturday, December 14, 2013

Feast of Dedication

“And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon's porch.” John 10:22-23

I believe this is the only time we find this feast mentioned in the Bible. It is Hanukkah, which many Jews celebrate in this season of the year. Hanukkah means “dedication.” This feast commemorates an event that occurred during the period between the Old Testament and the New Testament (about 165 BC). A Syrian King named Antiochus invaded Israel and demanded the Jews to abandon the worship of their God. He forced “Hellenization,” of Greek customs and religion on the Jews. To make sure that the Jews could not worship their God, he defiled the Temple in Jerusalem. He placed Greek idols in the Temple and sacrificed a sow on the altar. Antiochus took the title “Epiphanes” which means, “god manifested” and demanded to be worshiped.

God had promised Abraham many, many years before that He would preserve and sustain his descendants forever (Gen. 13:15; 17:7,8,13,19). God said to Abraham, “In thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 12:3), Christ would be born of his descendants.

God raised up a family of heroes, the Maccabees (their name means “hammer”). They led a small band in revolt against Antiochus and his mighty army and drove the Syrians out of Israel. The high point of that victory was rededicating the Temple in Jerusalem. This is why the holiday is called Hanukkah (dedication).

There is a legend, that they needed consecrated oil to rekindle the sacred candelabra. They only found enough oil for one day and it would take eight full days to make enough oil for Temple use. Tradition says that a great miracle happened, called the “miracle of the oil.” The oil for one day continued to burn for eight whole days, enough time to make and sanctity new oil. That is why Hanukkah is celebrated for eight nights and why the Hanukkah menorah is lit for eight nights.

In any case Israel’s victory over Antiochus and his mighty army showed forth a great miracle of God’s preserving power. God would not allow Satan to use Antiochus to destroy Israel because of His promise to Abraham. If Satan could have destroyed the Jews, he would make God a liar and the promise to Abraham (Christ) could not be born of Abraham’s seed.

The Jews were well aware of the event that occasioned the Feast of Dedication when they approached Jesus on Solomon’s porch. They reasoned that if He was the Messiah, He had power to preserve them from the tyranny of the Romans, as God had preserved them from Antiochus (V. 24). Jesus answered them with a rebuke – “I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do  in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me” (V. 25). Jesus boldly asserted His Messiahship. The works that I do in My Father’s name bear witness of Me. They were His credentials from the Father. He had divine power to preserve and sustain His people, but not in the way they hoped or expected. “But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you” (V. 26). They had the witness of His words and His works and they believe not. By refusing to acknowledge His words or works, they were rejecting Him and His Father.

“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 may man pluck them out of my hand” (Vs. 27-28). Those who believe on Him  have a new nature and are called SHEEP. He plainly declares that His sheep SHALL NEVER PERISH. His power to preserve was eternal and spiritual. It was based on faith in Him as the Anointed One of God. The salvation He offered was not from Roman oppression, but from the oppression of Satan, sin and death. The dedication of the Temple was a reminder of God’s power to keep His promises and preserve His people. But One greater than the Temple stood on Solomon’s porch that day. 

“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” (Vs. 29-30). Jesus strongly affirms the absolute security of His people Oh, what words of assurance and comfort these are. THEY ARE MINE, He declares, “My sheep.” The Father gave them to Me. He is greater than all, no one is able to pluck them out of the Father’s hand. Then he declares His oneness with the Father, “I and the father are One.”

It was fresh in their minds because of Hanukkah, how they had rightly reject the false claims of Antiochus. They asked Jesus for a plain statement of His identity and when He told them He was the true One, what is their reaction? Unbelief. They could not deny His power nor His goodness, but the fact that an apparent ordinary Man should claim to be the Son of God, was too much for them to believe. They “took up stones again to stone him” ( V. 31). But they could not carry out their evil purpose, for it was not yet His time. They rejected their Messiah and missed an even greater miracle than Israel’s against-all-odds victory over the overwhelming Syrian army. What they missed was greater than if Jesus had saved them from the Roman government. They missed the miracle of Emmanuel, God with us. Jesus has the power to preserve those who come to Him. Heb. 7:25

God keeps His promises – Isa. 7:14; 9:6. Jesus fulfilled these promises. In Him God has proven His faithfulness to Israel and to all the world. He will save and keep all those who call upon His name through faith in Jesus. He has made each believer to be His own Temple, where Emmanuel, God with us has taken up residence. May we dedicate ourselves anew to live for Him by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Prepared by E. J. D.