Tag Archives: feast

Did Jesus Celebrate Chanukah? No Doubt!

ChanukahMenorahBeing a preacher who grew up Jewish, I often get asked questions about the links between Judaism and Jesus. Around this time of year, the question usually gets asked, “Did Jesus celebrate Chanukah?” To that, I respond, “No doubt!” But maybe our definition of “celebrate” needs discussion.

Here’s the Cliff’s Notes version of history:

During the ~400 year “intertestamental period,” the Greeks dominated much of Central Asia and the Mediterranean Sea. After the death of Alexander the Great, his empire divided primarily into Ptolemies (Egypt) and Seleucids (Syria). The Seleucids practiced extreme “Hellenization” (forcing Greek language, beliefs, and practices on those they conquered). Around 175 BC, Antiochus Epiphanes, in an effort to stamp out Judaism altogether, sacrificed a pig on the altar and desecrated the 2nd temple.

In the revolt that followed, the Jews drove out their persecutors and restored a general peace and self-rule in the land. When the Jews tried to cleanse the Temple and resume worship, they needed oil for the consecration and sanctification of the holy objects that had been defiled. It is said that they had only 1 day of oil, but it lasted an amazing 8 nights, thus the 8 nights of the Jewish festival.

Now, back to Jesus and Chanukah…

In Jesus’ day, the commemoration celebration we call Chanukah, or the Festival of Lights, was called “The Feast of the Dedication” (John 10:22). John records that, as the Dedication Feast is taking place, Jesus goes into the Temple and teaches people to follow Him. But the Dedication Feast was not merely the candle lighting, gift giving occasion that Jews celebrate today. It was packed with Messianic meaning.

The Jews were looking for a Messiah (anointed one) as prophesied in scripture. He was supposed to come in the days of the Roman Empire, in the line of Judah through David, born in Bethlehem, and proven by signs and wonders. So when Jesus walked into the Temple during THAT week…he received quite an audience! They asked, “How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ (Messiah), tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these testify of Me” (John 10:24-25).

So, did Jesus “celebrate” Chanukah?

Well, the Bible doesn’t technically record Jesus playing with a dreidel, lighting candles, or eating yummy latkes. But consider what “celebrating” really means:

  1. He celebrated the spirit of Chanukah by cleansing the Temple in John 2, and again in Matthew 21 and Mark 11, of the impure money changers, just as the defiled temple had to be cleansed after the sacrificing of a pig on the altar.
  2. He celebrated Chanukah by giving us a pure Temple and Priesthood – His body, rather than the stained, Roman controlled temple & priesthood of the day (John 2:21; Hebrews 6:20).
  3. Jesus offers believers a perfect temple, not made by human hands (Acts 17:24), but God dwelling with His people in glory, in Heaven, forever (Revelation 21:22).

Regardless of whether we can prove Jesus “celebrated” Chanukah, He definitely celebrated true Dedication, and so should we! Whether you light a candle or give gifts this week, be sure to celebrate the REAL reason for Chanukah – God’s people dedicating themselves to worshiping Him as commanded in scripture (John 14:21). God bless, and Happy Chanukah!

All Things are Ready, Come to the Feast

“When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, otherwise they may also invite you in return and that will be your repayment. But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous” (Luke 14:12-14).

What would you do if you had planned an expensive and stylish wedding reception for your daughter, only to find out that the wedding was cancelled only six weeks out? Many of us would get on the phone and try to argue, cajole, and negotiate our way out of the reception costs. Perhaps, if we couldn’t change the fees, we would invite our friends and neighbors to have a party anyway…and why not? We’ve already paid for it!

But Carol and Willie Fowler chose a different option. They lived out Christ’s words (Luke 14:12-14) by deciding not to invite friends and relatives or rich neighbors. Rather, they called an organization that helps feed the homeless, and they told them their plan: replace the 200 person guest list with 200 homeless people (primarily women and children).

Buses transported residents from three area shelters to the restaurant where they had punch and lemonade, hors d’oeuvres of beef tenderloin kabob, coconut shrimp, and a main meal of salmon and chicken. Children were greeted by a clown, a juggler and a face painter. Kids ate mac ‘n cheese, chicken fingers, french fries, and fresh fruit.

In this real life “making lemonade of lemons” story, this couple fulfilled the most basic principle of Christianity: do unto others as you would have them do unto you (Luke 6:31). In Matthew 25:40, Jesus said, “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” While there is nothing wrong with enjoying a meal with friends, what a blessing it is to invite those who could never reciprocate.