THE FEAST OF DEDICATION

Bible Reading: John 10:25-30

Every word in the Bible is there for a reason, and sometimes it is necessary to dig deep to find the reason why? Why does John mention the Feast of Dedication and winter in John 10:22? What is the importance of this, and its connection to Jesus speaking about the Good Shepherd?

The Feast of Dedication, also known as the festival of light, and is more commonly known as Hanukkah. It began on the eve of the 25th of the Jewish month of Kislev, and lasted for eight days. It was a celebration of the triumph of light over darkness, of purity over adulteration and of spirituality over materiality.

Two hundred years before Christ the Holy Land, was ruled by the Seleucides [Syrian-Greeks]. The temple in Jerusalem was captured and pillaged, and its treasures and artefacts taken, making it unusable for worship. The Syrian King, Antiochus IV, defiled the temple by erecting an altar to Zeus over the altar of burnt offerings in the temple and offered a pig on the altar. This was known as the abomination of desolation [Daniel 11:31]. Antiochus was a type of the anti-Christ, and his vile deed foreshadowed a similar act by the anti-Christ before Jesus returns [Daniel 12:11, see Matthew 24:15].

In the winter of 164 BC against all odds, a small band of faithful Jews, led by Judas Maccabeus, defeated one of the mightiest armies on earth, drove the Seleucides from the land. They reclaimed the Temple and rededicated it to the Lord. When they sought to light the Temple’s menorah [the seven-branched candelabrum], they found only one uncontaminated cruse of olive oil. Miraculously that one-day supply burned for eight days, until the new oil could be prepared under conditions of ritual purity. Hence the festival of light that lasted for eight days.

The Festival of Hanukkah [literally “dedication”] celebrated the re-dedication of the Temple after the sacrilege. So why did Jesus use this festival to speak of Himself as the Good Shepherd? It was because during the festival the priests examined afresh their commitment to service, and they used the passage in Ezekiel chapter 34 as their principal text for reflection. For this reason, at Hanukkah Jesus used the shepherd theme from Ezekiel chapter 34 to distinguish between himself as the good shepherd [John 10:11] and Israel’s current religious leaders as bad shepherds [10:10, 12-13].

Questions:

Do you think that there is a place in our modern Christianity to celebrate great victories in our spiritual lives and in the history of the Church, in a similar way to the Jews celebrating Hanukkah?

Why is it important to re-examine our commitment to serve Jesus on a regular basis?

Why it is so important to understand the background of the New Testament? Does this inspire you to do more research? How would you go about it?