Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Light of the World

Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life."
John 8:12 NKJV

Most of you probably know that today is the first day of Hanukkah, a holiday for the Jewish people in which they celebrate the overthrow of their enemies in the second century B.C. and the rededication of the Temple which followed. It is also known as the Feast of Dedication and although it is not one of the seven feasts God ordained back during the Exodus, it has become a very important celebration for the nation of Israel in the years following the Maccabean revolt.

During the occupation of Israel by the Syrian/Greek forces, the Selucid King of Syria, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, not only commanded the people to worship the Greek gods, he set up a statue of Zeus in the temple and sacrificed pigs on the altar. A revolt began and the end result was that in 165BC the king was overthrown and the Jews were able to resume worship in their temple. The trouble was, they discovered that when they went to relight the Menorah, or lampstand in the temple, there was only enough oil to burn for one day. Since this oil was specially consecrated by the priests for use, it would take days to prepare more. However, a miracle occurred in that the one day supply of oil burned for eight days allowing time for the priests to complete the process of acquiring more.

During Hanukkah, the people celebrate by lighting one light each night for eight nights using what is known as a Hanukkah Menorah with eight branches on a single main stem as opposed to the Menorah used in the Temple which has six branches off of the main stem. It is the daily lighting of the Menorah that also gives Hanukkah the name Festival of Lights. Yet there is something else I feel is even more important to us as believers about this special day in Israel.

What many people miss about this holiday is the fact that Jesus chose this very day to announce to the world that He was indeed, the Son of God.

Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon's porch. Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, "How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly." Jesus answered them, "I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father's name, they bear witness of Me. "But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. "And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. "My Father, who has given [them] to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch [them] out of My Father's hand. "I and [My] Father are one."
John 10:22-30 NKJV

Was there a reason in Jesus' mind that it was important to do this on this particular day? I believe there was simply because of what this celebration was about, and the events it would recall to every Jew. Remember that the revolt occurred because Antiochus Epiphanes not only set up a statue of Zeus in the temple, but also commanded people to worship it as a god. Every Jew would know this, and I am sure that the religious leaders of the day were making sure that everyone remembered what this celebration was all about.

So is it a coincidence that those leaders chose this very day to ask Jesus if He was declaring Himself to be God? I think not, simply because if they wanted an excuse to kill Jesus and be rid of Him, this would be a perfect time to attempt that since everyone would immediately remember their history, and the events surrounding this day. However, I think it not a coincidence that Jesus chose this very day to not only be at the temple so this question could be asked, but answered it plainly for all to hear. Don't you think the word would get around rather fast that someone else proclaimed themselves to be God in flesh on the temple mount on the day that they were celebrating their overthrow of someone else who did the very same thing?

"As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world."
John 9:5 NKJV

Jesus said these words just before the events we read about in the passage above. I don't think it is another coincidence that on the “Festival of Lights” Jesus also said that He was the “light of the world”. Jesus seemed to be using this festival as a way to show the people who He was in such a way that they would remember Him every time they celebrated it.

However not only did Jesus use this festival for His purpose to reveal Himself as the Son of God, God Himself says that at some point in the future, this day will play a very important part in Israel's history once again.

'Consider now from this day forward, from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, from the day that the foundation of the LORD's temple was laid--consider it: 'Is the seed still in the barn? As yet the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree have not yielded [fruit]. [But] from this day I will bless [you].' " And again the word of the LORD came to Haggai on the twenty-fourth day of the month, saying, "Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying: 'I will shake heaven and earth. I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms; I will destroy the strength of the Gentile kingdoms. I will overthrow the chariots And those who ride in them; The horses and their riders shall come down, Every one by the sword of his brother. 'In that day,' says the LORD of hosts, 'I will take you, Zerubbabel My servant, the son of Shealtiel,' says the LORD, 'and will make you like a signet [ring]; for I have chosen you,' says the LORD of hosts."
Haggai 2:18-23 NKJV

The twenty-fourth day of the ninth month referred to here is Hanukkah. The late Grant Jeffery, as well as many other respected Bible scholars believe that this passage is a prophecy telling us that on this day , some time in the future, God will again reveal Himself to the world by directly involving Himself in the affairs of nations by destroying their strength by divine intervention. If current events are any indication, we may see this passage fulfilled right before our very eyes.

During this week of celebration may we as believers remember that Jesus is indeed the “light of the world”. It is through His sacrifice that we can be saved and spend eternity with Him as He has promised us. Have you made the choice to accept Him as your Savior and Lord? If not, I hope you will consider doing it today. You can do this by simply praying a prayer like this one:

Jesus I know I am a sinner and have broken your commandments and sinned against you. I believe you died and rose again for me as a sacrifice for my sins. I ask you to forgive me of my sins and come into my heart so that I can begin to live for you. Amen.

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