When Jesus Caused a Near-Riot at Hanukkah


Yes, even Jesus attended the Feast of Dedication, otherwise known as Hanukkah.

Hanukkah is a joyful celebration for the Jewish faith commemorating a very important time in their history. The celebration runs for 8 days and is usually celebrated during the same time Christians celebrate Jesus’ birth.

The Background of Hanukkah

Mid-2nd Century BC, the Syrians under Antiochus Epiphanes overtook Jerusalem and forced Greek culture and worship on the inhabitants. Antiochus went so far as to declare the Temple a temple of the false God Zeus. He did the most unthinkable thing in the Jews eyes, he sacrificed a pig on the altar.

In 165 BC a group of rebels headed by Judas Maccabee, won a long battle to regain control of Jerusalem. They rededicated the Temple desecrated by Antiochus and re-established the worship of Yahweh. Judas declared an 8 day celebration of the temple’s rededication. Hanukkah, which means “dedication,” became a yearly celebration of remembrance of that event.

Jesus Celebrates Hanukkah

About midway through John 10:22-39, we read of Jesus attending the Feast of Dedication. As he attended the feast, the Bible says the Jewish leaders surrounded him. They asked him to declare so publicly if he claimed to be the long-awaited Messiah. Jesus countered that he had already declared that truth and proved his claim through several Messianic signs.

Up to that point, Jesus had verifiably performed six of the seven signs John would record in his Gospel account.

Jesus had turned water to wine (John 2:1-12) and raised the Centurion’s son from the dead (John 4:46-54).

At the pool of Bethesda, He had healed a man who had been lame for 38 years (John 5:1-9).

Jesus fed a multitude that included 5000 men plus women and children with just 5 loaves of bread and two fish (John 6:1-15).

He walked on the water in the Sea of Galilee to rescue his disciples in a storm (John 6:16-21).

Then Jesus healed a man who had been blind since birth (John 9:1-7).

In addition to these signs, on countless public occasions Jesus professed to be the One sent from the Father. He left no doubt about who he believed himself to be. But it was the claim to be one with God (John 10:32-33) that infuriated the Jewish leaders. After that claim they picked up stones in order to execute him on the spot.

So, yes, Jesus attended Hanukkah that year, but He was not a welcomed worshiper. He almost caused a riot at the religious celebration.

What We Learn from Jesus’ Hanukkah Appearance

It is important to note that Hanukkah celebrates the rededication of a building that housed worship. This building and that worship were a shadow of what Jesus Christ represents in reality. (Hebrews 8:1-2).

But during his conversation with the Jewish leaders, Jesus revealed three important truths we, his followers, need to remember.

Through HIM we have eternal life.

Jesus said, “I give them eternal life.”

We neither obtain nor attain eternal life through religious rituals but receive it through a relationship with Jesus.

This Christmas remember that the baby whose birth we celebrate is the Savior who died on the cross. Isaiah reminds us that indeed a child has been born, but that also that child is the Son who has been given. (Isaiah 9:6) Our works do not redeem us, but his finished work on the cross redeems and frees us.

Through HIM, we never have to face death.

Jesus said, “…they will never perish…”

Oh, yes, our earthly bodies will expire just like everyone else’s. But for the Jesus follower, we skip the experience of death. Jesus told Martha that whoever lives and believes in him will never die. (John 11:26) One of the gifts the Magi brought was myrrh, a common burial spice of Jesus’ day. Even his birth foreshadowed the death he would die so that we would not have to die.

Through HIM, we are eternally secure.

Jesus said, “No one will snatch them from my hand.”

Jesus has a firm grip on us that neither circumstance nor action can loosen. Nothing separates us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39). We cannot even pry ourselves loose from his grasp, even should we desire.

As signs and sounds of Hanukkah surround you, remember that the Temple was a shadow of what now is.  Unto you is born…. A SAVIOR, who is Christ the Lord

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