As I type this blog post, it’s the last night of Hanukkah. It’s been eight beautiful nights of remembering the miracle of lights. Each night reminded me of one amazing, astounding, life-changing truth- Jesus, the Light of the World, has overcome the darkness! Each night of Hanukkah, the menorah is lit by the shamash- also known as The Servant Candle. This is the candle that lights all the others. Jesus embodies the shamash. He came to earth as a servant so he could bring light into a dark world. It is only through him that we are able to embrace and shine true light.
In the past I’ve gone through a detailed explanation of what Hanukkah is, and how this holiday came to be known as the Festival of Lights. If you want a detailed explanation, just click here. I wrote this blog last year so the dates for Hanukkah will be different, but the facts and information will be accurate. This year Hanukkah began at sundown on December 22 and will last through December 30 at sundown.
Many Christians are not familiar with Hanukkah because most see it as a Jewish holiday. While it is true that it’s mostly celebrated by Jewish people, it is extremely relevant and meaningful to believers in Jesus as well.
Jesus actually attended the festival of Hanukkah. In the Bible it is called the Feast of Dedication. This is essentially saying the same thing because Hanukkah is the Hebrew word for dedication. You can read in John 10 how Jesus went the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah), and it was at this very festival that he declared he is the Son of God.
So why was the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah) being celebrated? The story goes all the way back to before the time of Jesus. The story of Hanukkah is actually recorded in the Apocrypha in the books of 1 and 2 Maccabees. In case you’re wondering what the Apocrypha is, it is a collection of books written in the four centuries between the Old and New Testaments. These books are not considered scripture, but many have great historical value, especially in understanding Judaism in the first century.
I will give you the short version of the story of Hanukkah:
In the second century B.C.E. the Israelites suffered under the rule of Antiochus IV, also known as Antiochus Epiphanes. He forbid the Jewish people to worship God and outlawed the Torah. He took over the Temple of Jerusalem and allowed anyone who wished to enter it. Idols were set up and pigs were sacrificed on the altar. Antiochus’ soldiers bullied and tormented the Jews into compliance, but not all gave in to their brutal tactics. A small group of Jewish priests known as the Maccabees fought against the soldiers. They were zealous and fierce (actually, Maccabee means hammer). Over time, and with God’s help, they were able to take back the Temple.
Once the Temple was reclaimed by the Jews, it needed to be cleansed. Keep in mind that many pagan sacrifices had taken place on the altar, and Greek idols had been set up in the holy Temple of God. One key aspect of the Temple that needed to be restored was the lighting of the Temple Menorah. This menorah was made of pure gold and held the finest consecrated olive oil. The Jewish people knew the light of the Temple needed to be restored, but there was a big problem. Only one day’s worth of oil could be found to use in the menorah. This would not be sufficient because the Temple menorah had to remain lit continually. It would take eight days to prepare and consecrate more oil. The menorah was lit anyway! Much to their amazement, the oil that was supposed to last for one day lasted for eight. This gave them enough time to prepare more oil. This is why the Hanukkah menorah (known as a Hanukkiah) has eight branches/candles that are lit. Actually, there are a total of nine branches/candles, but the ninth branch holds the servant candle. The servant candle lights the other eight candles. Keep in mind that the original Temple menorah had seven branches. After the miracle of the oil, the menorah contained eight, with the ninth being known as the shamash, or servant candle.
The reason this holiday is called the Feast of Dedication, or Hanukkah, is because the Temple was rededicated to God. This remembrance continued on after the actual event as a reminder that God is sovereign and he is the one true God. He is the only true light of this world. When Jesus went to the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah) he was declaring HE IS THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD. He is also the embodiment of the Temple. At that time, the Jewish people still went to the Temple, and it was standing, but Jesus was there to declare to them that he was the fulfillment of the Temple. He is the Living Torah (the Word of God) who would rule their hearts. The Torah wouldn’t just be a book of rules. Jesus would be the Torah written on their hearts. Jesus spoke to the Jewish leaders at the Feast of Hanukkah and this is what he said: (John 10: 25-30)
Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 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 will 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.”
Notice that Jesus says, “I and the Father are one.” It can’t get any more plain than that. Unfortunately, many of the Jewish leaders did not believe Jesus when he told them this truth. They accused him of blasphemy and wanted to stone him. Jesus went on to say that the Father is in him, and he is in the Father (John 10:38).
The Festival of Dedication (Hanukkah) is also about the LIGHT. The pure gold menorah lit the Temple once again. When Jesus came to earth, he became the physical embodiment of this golden lamp stand. His sinless life emanated this glorious light for all mankind to see. His sacrifice on the cross gave us the privilege of receiving this miraculous light.
Here are some verses to meditate on as we remind ourselves that God/Jesus is light. As you read through them think of how blessed we are that God sent his Son to save us from the darkness of sin, and to shine light into our hearts.
“The people sitting in darkness have seen a great light, and those sitting in the region and shadow of death, ON THEM A LIGHT HAS DAWNED.” Matthew 4:16
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous LIGHT.” 1 Peter 2:9
The undeniable thing about light is that it reveals the truth. In the light we see when dirt is on the floor, or if dust is on a table. The darkness covers it up, but the light brings it out so we can see it. If we are walking on a dark, unlit path, it is easy to stumble and run into things. With a flashlight, or other source of light, we can avoid these obstacles and steer clear of danger. When we have the light in us (Jesus) the dangers and dirt in our life is revealed through the Holy Spirit. What used to be a stumbling block is now shown to us, and it can be removed by the power of Christ in us.
God is light: Jesus is light
” Now this is the message we have heard from Him to announce to you- that God is light and in Him, there is no darkness at all.” John 1:4-6
Jesus is the Light of the World
“Jesus spoke to them again saying, ‘I am the light of the world. The one who follows Me will no longer walk in darkness but will have the light of life.'” John 8:12
Jesus is the light that lives in us
“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, is the One who has shone in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of god in the face of Messiah.” 2 Corinthians 4:6 “For once you were once darkness, but now in union with the Lord you are light. Walk as children of the light, for the fruit of light is in all goodness and righteousness and truth.” Ephesians 5: 8,9
“You Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light.” Psalm 18:28.
“Light shines in the darkness for the upright.” Psalm 112:4
We are called to shine the light of Jesus
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they put it on a lamp stand so it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men so they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16
Light conquers all darkness. Light overpowers the darkness.
“In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overpowered it.” John 1:4,5
Jesus’ appearance is the brightest light
“I looked up and there before me was a man dressed in linen, with a belt of fine gold from Uphaz around his waist. His body was like topaz, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude.” Daniel 10: 5,6
“There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.” Matthew 17:2
“The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.” Revelation 12:23
Hanukkah is a beautiful reminder of the Light of the World. It’s a great time to remember that Jesus must be our guide in this dark world.
Hanukkah means Dedication
Hanukkah is also a great time to rededicate our lives to Jesus. We can rededicate ourselves to Jesus by committing to reading scripture, or perhaps spending more quality time with him. We could join a Bible study, or read a section or chapter of the Bible each day. We can rededicate ourselves by spending more time in prayer, or we can recommit to serving him. This service can take many forms, but the important thing is that we serve in a way that brings glory to Jesus.
Hanukkah is about the rededication of the Temple. We know we are the Temple of the Holy Spirit so our rededication could be a new drive to listen carefully to the Holy Spirit and follow his lead. As we follow the Holy Spirit’s lead we will naturally begin dedicating our lives to the Temple himself- Jesus.
The menorah isn’t just for Hanukkah. It’s for any time, any day! Why? Because the Light of the World shines light in our lives every single day. But Hanukkah can be time when we bring ourselves back to the truth of what Jesus stands for. It also reminds us that God is not done with the nation of Israel. Hanukkah not only shows us Jesus is the light, but it also has prophetic implications. For more on the prophetic truths, read this post.
You will be surprised at how all of God’s feasts and holidays hold fascinating, eye-opening truths about end times. Well, I shouldn’t use the word end times because that seems like it’s THE END. But, the truth is that it’s just the beginning. The Feasts of the Lord such as Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement and Feast of Tabernacles point to the promises of Jesus and his return. They point to the absolute truth that Jesus will set up his kingdom on earth. Hanukkah and Purim are holidays that point to these truths as well. The truth is, it’s not the end. It’s eternity with the LIGHT OF THE WORLD.
Hanukkah is an eight day holiday and the number 8 points to a marvelous truth. Eight means new beginnings. Circumcision took place on the 8th day and this pointed to a new heart and covenant with God. On Noah’s Ark, eight people were saved to begin a new life. God created the world in seven days (resting on the 7th). There is an 8th day coming. God will renew this broken world and his Son, Jesus, will be the King! Jesus will also restore the kingdom of Israel and the Jewish people. The Jews and the Gentiles will truly be united on the olive tree once and for all under ONE AMAZING KING. This is cool to think about because olive oil was needed to light the menorah. The Jews and Gentiles will be united under Christ and light will fill the whole earth.
When you see the lights on the menorah, remember this awesome truth! Happy Hanukkah! May the Light of the World Fill Your Life with JOY!