Hanukkah is under attack around the world. We see municipalities refusing to allow a public lighting of the Hanukkah Menorah.
Given that Hanukkah celebrates the Jewish tenacity to cling to their God given faith, it is worrying to see this assault happen in our countries.
It is especially disturbing given the visceral, unprecedented attacks on October 7 in Israel.
I feel it is my duty as a Bible believing Christian to come to the defence of the Jewish people in this time. And I would like to do so by sharing why Hanukkah should matter to us as Christians. How it came to be the Jews were forced to fight for their freedom, and how we know Jesus celebrated the holiday.
If the miracle of Hanukkah did not happen, Israel would have been destroyed and the line of King David would have been broken.
Jesus would not have been born.
Now I think you are asking the one question most Christians have about Hanukkah, “What is Hanukkah?”
Not many Christians know the story of Hanukkah because it took place during the “Intertestamental Period”, that period of time between Malachi – the last book of the Old Testament and Matthew – the first book of the New Testament. This is a period of about 400 years.It is recorded in the books First and Second Maccabees.
The Holiday remembers a great battle between the Greek King Antiochus Epiphanes and the Maccabees.
Antiochus ruled Judea and did his best to destroy the people’s faith in God. To kill the Jew in the Jew. He forbade the teaching of Torah to children. He demanded priests offer prayers to Jupiter. He had a pig sacrificed in the Temple in order to desecrate it. Antiochus’ soldiers were everywhere and the people were too scared to oppose him.
Except for one elderly priest in the tiny town of Modi’in. A greek officer with his soldiers demanded the priest, Mattityahu, offer a prayer to Jupiter and Antiochus. There in the town center, surrounded by armed Greek soldiers, he refused. The people rallied to his side and Torah observant Jews took to the hills with him, fighting a rebellion to restore Godliness in the Land. They were known as the Maccabees.
God blessed them with success against the superior Greek army and they rededicated the Temple to God – but there was a challenge. God commanded the Temple menorah be kept lit day and night but they had only enough ritually pure oil for one day.
It was then God performed a miracle, the oil kept the flame lit for eight days, enough time to prepare more pure oil.
Now each year Jews around the world re enact this by lighting the eight candles of the Menorah and remember how vital it is to always take a stand for God.
Even though the story did not make it into the official canon, we know that Jesus celebrated the holiday. In John 10:22-23 we read,
“Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon’s porch.” (NKJV)
The Feast of Dedication refers to Hanukkah and the rededication of the Temple!
What fascinates me is how closely Hanukkah mirrors the message of Jesus. Many of us know we can see Jesus in the story of the Passover, how His blood is like the blood of the lamb used by Jewish families to save themselves. But so few know how connected Jesus is to Hanukkah!
The holiday is celebrated by lighting eight candles on an eight branched candle – the Hanukkiah – over eight nights. But there is a nineth candle, the Shammash candle. The word means “Servant”, the Shammash candle is the servant candle used to light the other eight.
Now listen to what Jesus says in Matthew 20:27,
“And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant”
Here Jesus, who washed the feet of his disciples and sacrificed Himself so we might have Salvation compares Himself with being a servant. And just as the servant candle lights the other eight, look at how Jesus describes us as a community of believers lit by Him,
“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.” Matthew 5:14
As we light the candles we are reminded of the light from God which came into the world and that we are to rededicate ourselves and be that light to the world!