Last year the Jewish celebration of Hanukkah started on Christmas Eve, and we had a number of our church families light Hanukkah candles commemorating this Jewish holiday. This year Hanukkah starts a few days early before the Christian celebration of Christmas. Why is this significant? Way back in October of last year I was preaching a series of messages on the Jewish holidays to highlight the Jewishness of the Lord Jesus Christ and His connection to the Jewish holidays. All of the holidays that we recognized last year and again back in October of this year are biblical holidays. Hanukkah, however, is not a biblical holiday, as it was not commanded back nor found in the Old Testament. But it is a holiday that the Lord Jesus Christ celebrated. In fact, we read in the 10th chapter of John’s Gospel, “Then came the feast of dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. The Jews gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly,” (v.22-24 NIV). The feast of Hanukkah is a festival that Jesus Himself celebrated as we see in John’s Gospel. It’s important to remember that Hanukkah was the celebration of God’s deliverance through the Maccabee brothers from the evil reign of Antiochus Epiphanes. Epiphanes= “God manifest” and was a title that Antiochus took for himself in seeking to have the Jewish people sacrifice a pig on their holy altar and worship him. It was this that led to a rebellion and ultimately the liberation of Judah from Antiochus’s army. The Temple was rededicated in 165 BC, and that is the history of the observance of Hanukkah.
It is also in this passage where Jesus makes his strongest statement about His own deity. Reading again in John 10, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one,” (v.27-30 NIV). I think it’s interesting that the security of the believer in the Lord Jesus Christ is based on the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. In this passage, Jesus is not affirming that He and the Father are the same person. The word “one” does not suggest that the Father and Son are identical, but rather it means that they are one in essence and unity. The Jewish leaders asked for “a plain answer”. Jesus couldn’t be plainer than He was in verse 30. The safety of the sheep is based on the fact that it is the will of God to save us. It is also Jesus’s will, and His will is identical with the Father’s will regarding the salvation of the sheep. Absolute identity of wills involves the identity of natures. Jesus and the Father are one in will, nature, and essence. In the context of the feast of dedication, Jesus makes a declaration about being the Son of God. Antiochus claimed to be “God manifest”, but he’s dead. Jesus claimed to be the revelation of God to humanity, and He also died. But He did not stay dead. He’s alive today working and moving in the hearts and lives of those who trust in Him. That reminds me of Matthew’s account of the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ when the Angel came to Joseph to tell him about Mary’s pregnancy. We read, “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him “Immanuel”-which means, “God with us”(Matt.1:23 NIV). This is one of the most amazing and spectacular things about Christmas. God is with us in the person and work of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. I pray that God would meet with you in many special ways this Christmas season as you think of what it means to be a sheep in the fold of the of the Good Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ! May God fill us with His presence this Christmas season.
Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah,
Pastor Rich Sivo