In our passage this morning we learn about Yeshua being in the Temple on the Feast of Dedication. John says that it was winter, yet everyone knew that Hanukkah was in winter so Biblical scholars suggest that reason for the redundancy is that it is the spiritual winter of Israel. Light vs. darkness is a theme of John’s writings. And one of the main themes of Hanukkah is rekindling of the light in the Temple, light over darkness. Hanukkah dates back to 164 years before Yeshua came to Israel. And is the celebration of when Judah the Maccabee initiated the Feast of Dedication to celebrate the re-dedication of the temple.
The Temple had been defiled by the pagan tyrant Antiochus Epiphanes who had offered on the great altar in the Temple a pig as a sacrifice to the Greek god Zeus. The Light of the Menorah was extinguished. Exactly three years later, the temple was delivered, purified and rededicated to the worship of the living and true God. It was on the anniversary that commemorated this event that Yeshua made His last public offer of His Messianic Kingdom to the Jewish people. The following April during the next Passover, Yeshua would be crucified. Here in John on this Feast of Dedication, Yeshua offered to Israel one last time deliverance, purification and re-dedication to the worship and service of the living God of Israel. But Israel would not come to Him the true Shepherd of Israel and as a result, Israel’s house would be left to her desolate. Some forty years later, the temple would be destroyed once again as a result of God’s judgment, and not one stone would be left upon another.
Because it was winter and the rainy season, Yeshua was walking in the area of the temple called Solomon’s porch. This was a colonnade, a roofed structure supported by pillars. Many of the Jewish visitors to the Temple as well as those who were continually challenging Him gathered around Him and hemmed Him in, and then confronted Him. They claimed that Jesus had left them in suspense long enough. He needed to tell them plainly if He was the prophesied and promised Messiah. This was a question that Yeshua could not give a simple yes or no answer to.
The problem was that the Messiah expected by the Jewish people was a political Messiah who would deliver them from the power of Rome through military force. There were two different descriptions of the Messiah described in the Jewish Scriptures; the Rabbi’s came to describe one as Messiah ben David and the other as Messiah ben Joseph. The description of Messiah ben David was like King David, a warrior who would unite Israel fight against their enemies and triumphantly lead Israel into the glorious political and spiritual rule over the nations. The description of Messiah ben Joseph was based on Joseph the beloved son of Jacob, who was betrayed by his brothers sold into slavery to Gentiles and eventually rescued his brothers from their plight of near starvation and estrangement from their father and each other.
They were expecting Messiah ben David not Messiah ben Joseph. Jesus was the Messiah, the Messiah prophesied by Scripture. He was not a political Messiah but a spiritual Messiah with a very special relationship with God. As Yeshua would say at the end of our passage this morning, “I and My Father are one.” That is to say, God the Son and God the Father are distinct Persons. The Son is not the Father, and the Father is not the Son, yet they are echad, one God. To use the language of theologians, they are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory.
They wanted Yeshua to claim to be a political Messiah so they could use that as a charge of treason to get Him in trouble with the Romans. Instead Yeshua claimed to be a spiritual Messiah, as he told Pilate later “My Kingdom is not of this world”. In this encounter in the Temple the Pharisee’s and Sadducee’s as well as the Scribes were doing all they could to get rid of this threat to their power and the status quo with Rome. They wanted to try and control things so that they could remain in their relative comfort and peace that they enjoyed under Roman rule. Yeshua was a threat to that peace.
They demanded that Yeshua tell them plainly who He is. Yeshua replied that He already had done so. The problem was not Yeshua’s words. The problem was their unbelief. Yeshua likely never used the exact word “Messiah” in the hearing of His enemies. Yet without using that title, Yeshua had repeatedly explained who He was.
He was the One whom Moses had written about, the One the Scriptures had spoke of. He was the One sent by the Father, to whom the Father had committed all judgment, the One who gives everlasting life to all who believe in Him. He was the One whose day Abraham had rejoiced to see, He was the Good Shepherd who would lay down His life for His sheep. Yeshua had plainly revealed who He was for all who had ears to hear. Not only Yeshua’s words, but also His works, testified to Who He was. You might remember when John the Baptist sent a messenger to Jesus to ask if He was indeed the Coming One. Here was Jesus’ response:
Matthew 11:4-5 Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: 5 The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Yeshua was doing exactly what the prophets had prophesied that the Messiah would do. Just two or three months earlier, during Sukkot, Yeshua had healed the man born blind giving light to a man who had lived his life in darkness. And Jesus would soon raise Lazarus from the dead in John 11. Yeshua was doing incredible things that demonstrated that He was sent by the Father and God of Israel, mighty works; he was also working in the name of Father. John 5:36.
The Torah warned about a prophet who came working miracles but then tempted people to go after other gods. But Yeshua was not like that. He came doing works in the name of the Father in submission to the will of the Father. He never broke Torah or told others to do so. So we see that Yeshua in both word and deed was bearing a powerful and consistent witness to Israel. And Yeshua sincerely, genuinely wanted Israel to submit to His message with the obedience of faith.
Yeshua would later sincerely grieve over their rejection of His message and calling to Israel in Matthew 23:37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Jesus came plainly explaining His mission and His message and backing them up with incredible works. Yet most in Israel rejected Yeshua and His message. John 1:11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. The problem was not Yeshua but their own unbelief. Then Yeshua said to them “You do not believe because you are not of My sheep.” Most people think this should be the other way around. They think Yeshua should have said, “You are not of My sheep because you do not believe”.
Because most people think we by ourselves can decide by ourselves whether we are or are not one of Yeshua’s sheep by choosing to believe or not to believe. But on that Hanukkah two thousand years ago – that is not what Yeshua said. He said the opposite. What Jesus is saying here, is that the reason for the people’s decision to reject Yeshua is that they are not Yeshua’s sheep, and that is why they haven’t heard Jesus’ voice and followed Him. Because they have not yet fully surrendered their lives to the Father and His Word. John 8:43-44
What I am speaking of is moral inability, which comes from a heart that is unwilling to submit to God and His Word. And God holds people responsible for their rebellion against him and His Word. People reject Yeshua because they have rejected God the Father and His Word. They do so because they are not His sheep, and they are responsible before God for it. But not all reject Yeshua. Some receive Him. Why do they receive Him? Is it because they are better people, or wiser people? Was it because of their own power and will that made the difference? No, not at all.
John said it in the opening of His Gospel: John 1:11 He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. If that were the case then we might be able to boast about our decision and moral fiber but the fact is that we have no basis for such pride. We need to remember that when the Good News of Messiah and His Kingdom comes to us it is our responsibility to respond to it in faith. But when we fulfill our responsibility, when we respond to the Good News in faith, we can’t congratulate ourselves that we’re better by nature than other people.
Instead we give God the glory and the praise and the thanks. It is an incredible mystery that throughout the ages when we existed only as a thought in the mind of God, God saw us and in His love and grace chose us just as He has chosen Israel as a Nation. Not because we deserved it or earned it. As Moses reminded us in Deuteronomy 7: The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8 but because the Lord loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers. He chose to be merciful to us for one reason only. He did it for His glory and because of His incredible grace, that we might praise Him for His mercy and love.
And this is the message of Hanukkah. God is a God of deliverance and mercy. When spiritual darkness and oppression came upon our people in the days of Antiochus, God raised up a deliverer, Matthias and his sons. Because they loved God and His word they would not bow down to the gods and the lifestyle that Antiochus brought to Israel, because they loved God and they loved His word more than they loved their lives. Darkness had covered the land and many of the Jewish people were overcome by the darkness. The darkness entered the Temple and blew out the Light of the Menorah, but the Light of God can never be extinguished.
God’s light was rekindled by those who would not be overcome by the darkness because by God’s wonderful grace His light filled those men. Almost two hundred years after the Maccabees, the Light of God came in all of its glory to the Temple. And the majority of our people would not come to the Light; because they preferred darkness to the Light. Today Yeshua offers to be your Hanukah. He offers to deliver the temple of your body from sin and darkness and to purify your soul from defilement, to dedicate you to God. To bring you His Kingdom.
The Messiah who is the Light of the World the Word of God made flesh is the Ner Tamid, the Light that will illuminate your Menorah. He has humbled Himself by leaving heaven and taking on flesh to make it possible for us to serve God just as the Maccabees. Today we wrestle not against flesh and blood enemies. But spiritual ones and the only way we can fight this battle is with the armor of God; which is issued to us when we come to God through Messiah in faith and obedience to His Word. God desires you to respond to the Light of the World, Yeshua.
If you reject Yeshua’s offer, you will have no one to blame but yourself. Because your decision is rooted in the moral inability of a rebellious heart, and a rebellious heart is no excuse before God. Yet if you receive Yeshua’s offer in faith, if you confess with your mouth that Yeshua is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will experience the Light of God in your life.
A light that will overcome the darkness and Yeshua will transform your life. He is the one who transforms you into one of His sheep, into one whose very nature is to hear Jesus’ voice with the ears of faith and to follow Him in the paths of righteousness. He is the Good Shepherd who cares for His sheep, just as told those Pharisees, Scribes and Sadducces on that Haunkkah 2000 years ago, just as Ezekiel 34:8-16 foretold.