Did Jesus Christ Celebrate Hanukkah?

This Jewish festival takes place in winter, usually December, and lasts for eight days. This year (2017) it falls on December 12-20. It is not one of the major feasts of the Lord that was given to Moses for the Jewish people to keep as part of their covenant with God. The reason it is not in the Jewish Bible? It occurred during the intertestamental period—the 400 years between Malachi and Matthew, the old and new covenants, when the heavens were silent.

God’s chosen people had become idolatrous and rebellious which led to both Israel and Judah going into captivity to the Assyrians and Babylonians. About halfway through this period, Alexander the Great conquered the world of the Eastern Mediterranean, and the Hellenization—secularizing into Greek culture began, including speaking Greek instead of Hebrew.

Upon his death, Alexander’s empire was divided up by his four generals. Israel was under the control of Seleucus and then under his son Antiochus Epiphanes. Rather than exterminate the Jews, he tried to force them to accept Greek culture. He forbade the honoring of the Torah (the Jewish Scriptures), Shabbat (Sabbath), the Moed (Feasts of the Lord), circumcision, and all Jewish observances. Mothers were killed for circumcising their sons, and their infants were hanged. Jews were put to death for refusing to eat pork and other unclean animals under Mosaic Law.

The worst desecration was the defilement of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. A statue of Zeus was erected in the Kodesh Ha Kodeshim (Holy of Holies), and a pig was sacrificed on the holy altar! That was the coup de grace! Yet because of their Hellenization, many Jews did nothing. They had become totally assimilated into the pagan culture around them.

Finally, some Jews revolted, and led by a family of father and his sons, they formed an army of guerrilla warriors who resisted the Greeks. They were greatly outnumbered, but they fought courageously and drove them out of the city and out of the Temple. Their motto was:

“Who is Like You, O Lord, Among the Mighty!”  When you take the first letter of each word in the Hebrew language, it forms the acronym maccabee. Thus, they became known as the Maccabees.

Having evicted the pagan idolaters from their Holy Temple, they began the process to repair, restore, cleanse, and rededicate it to the Lord. The dedication was an eight-day process and required the use of sanctified oil for the Lampstand—the seven candlestick menorah that stood in the first room of the sanctuary. But they only had a one-day supply of holy oil, and it would take eight days to make more. Nevertheless, they lit the menorah and began the sanctification process. Miraculously, the oil burned for eight days! This is the essence of the eight-day celebration.

A Celebration of Light

Jerusalem was ablaze in light, as each family burned candles at the doors of their houses. Today they celebrate this festival with a nine candlestick menorah—one for each day the oil burned, and the center candlestick is the “servant candle” which is used to light the others. God spoke through His prophet Isaiah: My servant shall bring light to the Gentiles.” John, the disciple of Messiah, said, “Jesus is the true Light that lights everyone who comes into the world” (Isa. 42:1, Jn.1:9). Jesus Himself declared two months earlier, at the close of the Feast of Tabernacles, “I am the light of the world; he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (Jn. 8:12).  Every day for eight days the candles are lit: one on the first day, two on the second, etc., until on the last day all eight candles are lit. This is why it is also called the Festival of Lights. Unlike other feasts, there is no fasting or mourning. It is a celebration of joy.

Through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Jewish people were set apart by God for a unique purpose upon the earth, and Satan has always sought to destroy them, either through assimilation or annihilation. But as with the Maccabees, God has always raised up a valiant remnant to maintain His covenant with the fathers.

The Feast of Dedication

The Hebrew word Hanukkah means dedication. The most famous person to ever celebrate this feast was Yeshua Ha Nazri—Jesus of Nazareth. Most people, Jews and Christians, have no idea that He did, or that it is in the New Testament. In his Gospel, John again tells us that Jesus was at Jerusalem for the feast of the dedication, and it was winter. There in Solomon’s porch, the Jews pressed Him to tell them plainly if He was the Messiah. Jesus said: “I told you, and you believed me not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me. But you believe not, because you are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:22-25).

Jesus said that now we are called to be “the light of the world” and to “Let our light so shine before men, that they may see our good works, and glorify our Father in Heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16). We shine as we are continually filled with the holy oil of God’s Spirit. David said, “I shall be anointed with fresh oil everyday” (Psalm 92:10). Apostle Paul (Rabbi Saul) said: “But we have this treasure—anointing in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God and not of us” (2Cor. 4:7).  John described it: “an unction from the Holy One…. the anointing that we have received from him abides in us” (1Jn. 2:20, 27).

There is no longer a Temple standing in Jerusalem, but there is another temple, another holy dwelling place created for His presence. Paul revealed, “You are the temple of the living God, and His Spirit dwells in you. If any man defile the temple, him will God destroy” (1Cor. 3:16-17). Therefore, we are to keep our temples free of the defilement of the world. It is time to renew our dedication to God’s claim upon our lives in order to have a godly influence on those around us who sit in spiritual darkness.

God’s claim by virtue of the redemption price paid by the shed blood of His Son: “Know you not that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (ruach ha kodesh)  which is in you, which you have of God, and you are not your own? For you are bought with a price: therefore, glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1Cor. 6:19-20). Without God’s Spirit indwelling us, we will become desecrated temples where darkness invades. When we get out all the idols, cleanse our impurities, rededicate our vessels to Him, His anointing will fill us with His glory, and His glory will draw men to Him.

“For you were sometimes darkness, but now are you light in the world: walk as children of light…. that you may be blameless and harmless the children of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Ephesians 5:8, Philippians 2:15).

“Arise, shine; for your light is come, and the glory of the lord is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the lord shall rise upon you, and his glory shall be seen upon you” (Isa. 60:1-2).