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Blog #368: Jesus and Hannukah

Image: Illustration by Phil Schorr

John Cline

From the Jews for Jesus website comes the following insight: Jesus, like the servant candle on the Hannukah, lights our way, and sends His Spirit to ignite us as well, so that we can shine His light in a dark world. We do not have enough “oil” to live a life dedicated to God, but Jesus has miraculously provided for us.

So the miracle of preservation made Christmas possible, and the miracle of the light reminds us of Jesus, whose advent the prophets predicted would be, “a light to the Gentiles” whose salvation would reach “to the ends of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6).

The common theme that links Hanukkah and Christmas is that of God with us—Immanuel. A traditional Hanukkah hymn declares to God: “Rock of Ages, let our song praise thy saving power; thou amidst the raging foes wast our sheltering tower; furious they assailed us but thine arm availed us; and thy word broke their sword when our own strength failed us.”

God was present with His people in a way that pulled the rug right out from under the evil Syrian king. When Antiochus entered into the Temple to defile it, he declared himself Antiochus “Epiphanes” meaning “God manifest.” The Jewish nation rejected his outrageous, counterfeit claim to deity; counterfeit because God had promised to be present with His people, not only in a miraculous military victory, but in flesh. He promised to actually be what Antiochus, in his insanity, had claimed—the incarnate God. This promise was wrapped up in the special name by which the prophet Isaiah predicted the Messiah would be known: “Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).

How poignant it is that Jesus chose the Festival of Dedication to stand in the Temple, in the portico of Solomon, and declare, “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30). Is it coincidence that Jesus chose this time and place to reveal His deity?

Here’s an interesting aside going back to the original Hanukkah celebration. Before the Temple could be rededicated, we (Jews) needed a new altar built with clean stones. But what about the stones from the old altar? They had been washed of course, but could they ever be considered clean, being porous as they were? According to tradition, these stones were stored in the portico of Solomon, until such time as the Messiah would come and explain what to do with them.

Could it be that when those Jewish leaders looked around the portico of Solomon for stones to throw at Messiah Jesus they reached for those very pieces of that old altar? What divine irony—to hurl a symbol of the sacrificial system at the One who was about to sacrifice Himself for us all.

It is only because Jesus is Immanuel, God with us, that He could sacrifice Himself as an atonement for our sin. He was born to die and rise victorious, born to light our way and make us to be lights, born to be adored by Jews and Gentiles who will bow and worship the One who is the hope of Hanukkah and the Christ of Christmas. These two holidays share their ultimate significance in the person of Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah. He truly is our Rock of Ages.

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