Yeshua is the Hanukkah Light of the World
by Lonnie Lane
Hanukkah, the Festival of Dedication, is the celebration of the Hebrews rededication of the temple after it was desecrated by the Syrians while God kept the “perpetual light” lit for eight days with only one day’s worth of oil. Yeshua is the light of the world and the perpetual light in our lives. This isn’t just a Jewish folk tale. There is much to be learned of Him to inspire us in the Hanukkah story.
To begin with, the Hanukkah event took place inbetween the writing of the Old and the New Testaments, so it’s not recorded as one of Israel’s Biblical holidays. However, this was such a miraculous event in Israel’s history that a commemoration of it takes place every year since 164 BCE among the Jews. Hanukkah is “The Festival of Dedication” because it is when the temple was rededicated in holiness to God after having been made unholy by Antiochus and his Syrian armies. Yeshua celebrated it as well: “At that time the Festival of the Dedication took place at Jerusalem; it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon” (John 10:22, 23). What surrounds that statement of Yeshua being in the temple at that time had more significance to John’s Jewish readers than you may be aware of.
I’m going to assume you are somewhat familiar with the story of Hanukkah. If you are not, or if you want to understand the circumstances surrounding it, go to: “The Other Hanukkah Story & What It Might Mean to Us Today.” The short story is, for the sake of this message, Israel’s enemy destroyed their holy place of worship. The Syrian leader, among other blasphemous acts, sacrificed a forbidden pig to Zeus on the altar on which only sanctified animals were to be sacrificed to YHWH. This was blasphemy of the highest order. A small group of priests we know as the Maccabim (plural for Maccabee) organized an army and set about liberating the temple from the Syrians. Having driven them out, they were now left with the task of restoring the temple which meant rebuilding it and most importantly sanctifying it once again as holy unto God. Of prime importance was the relighting of the lamp which was to burn “perpetually.” Here are God’s words to Moses about it: “You shall charge the sons of Israel, that they bring you clear oil of beaten olives for the light, to make a lamp burn continually. In the tent of meeting, outside the veil which is before the testimony, Aaron and his sons shall keep it in order from evening to morning before the LORD; it shall be a perpetual statute throughout their generations for the sons of Israel” (Exodus 27:20,21, my emphasis here and following).
Now this oil was not just your ordinary buy-it-in-the-bottle olive oil. This was oil that was very precisely prepared as holy oil. Here are God’s instructions for the oil (don’t skip over all these quotes, they’re important): "You shall make of these a holy anointing oil, a perfume mixture, the work of a perfumer; it shall be a holy anointing oil. With it you shall anoint the tent of meeting and the ark of the testimony, and the table and all its utensils, and the lampstand and its utensils, and the altar of incense, and the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils, and the laver and its stand. You shall also consecrate them, that they may be most holy; whatever touches them shall be holy. You shall anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may minister as priests to Me. You shall speak to the sons of Israel, saying, 'This shall be a holy anointing oil to Me throughout your generations. 'It shall not be poured on anyone's body, nor shall you make any like it in the same proportions; it is holy, and it shall be holy to you. Whoever shall mix any like it or whoever puts any of it on a layman shall be cut off from his people.'"
Then the LORD said to Moses, "Take for yourself spices, stacte and onycha and galbanum, spices with pure frankincense; there shall be an equal part of each. With it you shall make incense, a perfume, the work of a perfumer, salted, pure, and holy. You shall beat some of it very fine, and put part of it before the testimony in the tent of meeting where I will meet with you; it shall be most holy to you. The incense which you shall make, you shall not make in the same proportions for yourselves; it shall be holy to you for the LORD. Whoever shall make any like it, to use as perfume, shall be cut off from his people" (Exodus 20:25-38).
The only time this specifically prepared anointing oil with it’s specific ingrediences could be used upon a person is when anointing Aaron and his sons as priests, or when Samuel anointed David as king: “Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward” (1 Sam. 16:13). Get the implications of this: David was sanctified and set apart as holy unto God. He wasn’t just a man called into an office. His revelations of God give some indication of how God was invested in David. We get more insight into how being anointed with this holy oil set David apart from Psalm 89: “Once You spoke in vision to Your godly ones, and said, ‘I have given help to one who is mighty; I have exalted one chosen from the people. I have found David My servant; with My holy oil I have anointed him, with whom My hand will be established; My arm also will strengthen him’” (Psalm 89:19-21). So as you can see, this was no ordinary oil, nor used for ordinary purposes.
The priests who were reclaiming the temple for God were very much aware of the requirement for this oil that was to burn perpetually. It must be made exactly as God had instructed to Moses. It is recounted that they searched throughout the temple and found only one cruse of oil bearing the High Priest's seal. It takes eight days to make the new oil according to the prescription. In their zeal to see the temple restored to God, they lit the lamp with that oil and the miracle is that it stayed lit for the eight days till more was produced. The following year the commemorative celebration was declared with the retelling the story with hallel (praise) and thanksgiving, in Hebrew known as Megillat Taanit.”
As we read the verses above about how specific and precise and with such reverence the oil was to be treated, does it give you a deeper sense of the reverence for holiness that would permeate the temple? And of the calling upon the priests to carry out all this in such holiness that the very aroma and awareness of holiness would permeate the temple? Everything in the temple was to be anointed with this oil. The aroma of the oil and the incense not only would permeate their clothing (which was also holy) but would absorb into their skin so they would carry the aroma of the temple with them wherever they went. Does that ring a bell for you? Paul, who was quite familiar with all the workings of the temple made the analogy of the temple holiness and the presence of the Lord as we carry Messiah within us: “Thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Messiah, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Messiah to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing” (2 Cor 2:14,1 5). Stop for a few moments and let that sink in, like perfume!
To go on with our story we have to peek back into history a little to climb into the minds of those who lived in the days in which He lived. We’re going back to the winter of A.D. 29 where Yeshua is observing Hanukkah, or the Festival of Dedication. This follows in John’s gospel where He is telling of the parable of the Good Shepherd and his interpretation of it (10:1-18). Any Hebrew listening or reading the story would immediately pick up on the Messianic implications of this parable which refer back to Ezekiel 34. Good Shepherd = Messiah. “For thus says the Lord GOD, "Behold, I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out…. therefore, I will deliver My flock, and they will no longer be a prey; and I will judge between one sheep and another. Then I will set over them one shepherd, My servant David, and he will feed them; he will feed them himself and be their shepherd. And I, the LORD, will be their God, and My servant David will be prince among them; I the LORD have spoken. I will make a covenant of peace with them (Ex 34:22-25. I suggest you read the whole chapter.)
This is one of many passages which were implied in His parables and messages in which He was appealing to the temple leaders to rethink how they saw Him and their intentions toward Him. They could easily have infered from what He was saying that He meant them. If you read through the whole chapter of John 10 (I recommend you stop here and go do it), you will see that before and after the sentence about Yeshua being at the temple during Hanukkah, there seems to be an ongoing dialog about Him being the good shepherd as opposed to those who are bad shepherds who “fleece” the sheep. Hear His words: So Jesus said to them again, "Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep” (10:7-11). These are not just poetic words. These are prophetic words. We understand now what those who heard Him couldn’t possibly. We know He laid down His life to “save” the sheep of His flock. We understand what a Good Shepherd He is in so many ways.” Many would undoubtedly remember Him saying these words and would realize after His resurrection that He did indeed lay down His life that they could be saved.
What they could understand from all this surrounding Hanukkah in John’s Gospel is the Messianic implications in what Yeshua is saying. Further, He is stating a relationship with God no one could have in the natural. Hearing commands from God directly was something only Moses could do to their thinking. And what is this about authority to lay down his life? Authority from God? “No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again This commandment I received from My Father." (:18). Some people were sure He had a demon and was crazy, but others said, “A demon cannot open the eyes of the blind, can he?" (:21). The Hanukkah scenario is a continuation of this issue of whether Yeshua could be the Messiah because all knew the Messiah was to be a shepherd from God just as David had been a shepherd. The Messianic connotations were inescapable.
So now, it’s Hanukkah as Yeshua is walking through the temple area. Some men come and approach Him (I love how He is so approachable) and ask Him point blank, "How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Messiah, tell us plainly" (:24). Here’s where a bit of understanding of the socio-political situation will be helpful to understand what’s really going on here. There are thousands of Jews now in Jerusalem for the Festival. If He answered in the affirmative, and the word got around that the Messiah had come and that He was in town, imagine what a riot that could have set off among the Jews. There were also the Romans to deal with. At that time, there existed a prevailing apocalyptic expectation in Israel that God would vindicate Israel and bring judgment against the unrighteous. There had, in fact, been a song written by a Pharisee in mid-first century B.C. as a kind of prophecy. It acknowledged the Lord as King and told of a Davidic ruler who would reign forever. The song tells how Israel had strayed from Torah and had been punished by God by sending in the Romans. In the song, the writer prays that God would raise up a king, a son of David, to rule over Israel. It speaks prophetically in this song (with which the Essenes would have concurred) that this king would destroy the unrighteous rulers and purge the Gentiles from Jerusalem and destroy unlawful nations. So just the mention of Him being the Messiah could have stirred up all that expectation among the people, but also the Romans would have been moved toward securing their position over Jerusalem, beginning with arresting Yeshua immediately. All this if He had answered “Yes” to the question of whether He was the Messiah.
So He answers these men rather indirectly, talking about the security of having faith in Him that extends even eternally. Quite a statement to make, isn’t it? If anyone ever tells you that Yeshua never said He was God, these would be the passages to take them to. He goes on to say, “I and my Father are one" (10:30). Now, remember that these folks are all gathered there in the temple for Hanukkah. They are remembering that Antiochus, a mere man, had declared himself a god 200 years earlier and had brought great destruction and desecration to the temple. A man saying he is God was not something the Hebrews could take lightly. To Hebrew ears, ‘them’s fightin’ words’ and so many of ”…the Jews picked up stones again to stone Him” (:31). In their thinking, He was a man who made Himself God (10:31-33) and they already knew what came of that. Yeshua’s response is significant. He asks them: “Do you say of Him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, 'You are blaspheming,' because I said, 'I am the Son of God?'” (:36). At this, they attempted to accost Him again but He managed to slip away from them.
Yeshua is saying that YHWH is His Father (!) and He has sanctified Him and sent Him to them right there. Now either you believe that or you don’t. Once confronted with those words, one has to decide if He’s entirely out of touch with reality or if it’s true. I can understand it would have been harder to understand before the Resurrection.
But here’s what makes Him the Hanukkah Light of the World. Yeshua just said that He is “sanctified” by the Father. Sanctified is the word used for the temple and the priests and the anointing oil and everything in the sanctuary which was set apart for God as holy. So He’s saying that He is holy! We’re used to hearing this, but this was outrageous to the people hearing Him. The Greek text uses the word “sanctified” which is hagiazo and means “to make holy, to purify or consecrate, to sanctify!” Translate it into Hebrew and it becomes qadash, “to make ceremonially or morally clean, to dedicate, keep holy, to purify, to sanctify wholly.” So when Yeshua was saying He was sanctified, He was also saying He was holy unto God, that He was (entirely) dedicated to God. If He is the “Dedicated One” then He is the embodiment of Hanukkah which is all about complete dedication to God.
Yeshua told the people, “While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world…. I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness." (John 9:5; 12:46). Hanukkah is about lighting lights, one day at a time for eight days, to commemorate the eight days they waited to see if it would stay lit till they had more oil. If Yeshua is the fulfillment of the meaning of Hanukkah in its greater significance, then His light is to shine in His temple “perpetually” which is another way of saying eternally. As we are His temple, in as much as we are dedicated to Him, His light shines in us. He is the light in the temple which we are! We who carry His light also carry His holiness within us. As we walk in holiness, we bring “the sweet aroma of the Lord in all places.” What a privilege. This is what it means to be His witnesses – witnesses of the beauty of His holiness. Then we can shout out in song with David, “Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness…. O worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness: fear before Him, all the earth.” (Psalm 29:2; 86:9).
The light we carry of holiness comes through a sanctification process that we all go through, with God doing the work within us in order to release the aroma of salvation to others. The light He has placed within you is one that is “perpetual” and is there at all times, “in season and out of season” (2 Tim 4:2), to bring light to the darkness in this world around us. Perpetual also means eternal. What greater rest to our souls is there than knowing as we walk in holiness with the Lord that we are sanctified and dedicated unto Him forever. Selah!!
At this time of Dedication – though any time is a good time for rededication to the Lord – let’s enter into the sanctification of the Lord and rededicate ourselves to Him, putting aside any thing that we know is not in keeping with His holiness. May this Hanukkah season bring you new revelation of how precious you are to Him, how He has called you to holiness and set you apart from the world in order that you may let His light shine through your life.
Hag Sameach, Happy Hanukkah, everyone. Bless you.
Reprint of this article is permitted as long as you use the following; Use by permission by Messianic Vision, www.sidroth.org, 2010.
Lonnie Lane comes from a family of four generations of Jewish believers, being the first one saved in 1975. Lonnie has been in church leadership for many years, and has planted two “one new man” house fellowships, one in Philadelphia suburbs and the other in Jacksonville, Florida, where she now lives near 6 of her 8 grandchildren. Lonnie is the author of “Because They Never Asked” and numerous articles on this website. She has been the Producer of Messianic Vision's radio and TV shows and the International Prayer Co-Coordinator for Messianic Vision's intercessors. Click Here to order Lonnie's book, "Because They Never Asked."
Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible Copyright ©1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, Calif. All rights reserved. Used by permission.