Chanukah: the Light of the world dwells within us. | Rabbi Jason Sobel


Chanukah: the Light of the world dwells within us.

Chanukah is a time of joy and celebration for Jewish people all over the world. It is a season of hope—the confident belief that our future will be better than our past. As followers of Yeshua-Jesus, we have a reason to celebrate: the Light of the world dwells within us. I invite you to join me as we take a closer look at this holiday and consider its meaning on a spiritual and personal level.

It’s worth noting that every major event in Yeshua’s life occurred on a biblical holiday. He was probably born around the Feast Tabernacles, died as the true Passover Lamb, and rose again on First Fruits. Even though we don’t see Chanukah listed with the other feasts in Leviticus 23, we shouldn’t presume it isn’t in the Bible. This holiday—also known as the Festival of Lights—originated in the “time between the testaments.” This period is when Judah Maccabee led a successful revolt against the pagan Seleucid ruler Antiochus Epiphanes, purifying the Temple in Jerusalem and restoring worship there (25 Chislev in 164 BCE). His brave and heroic leadership set an expectation in the hearts and minds of the Jewish people regarding the coming Messiah. Surely he would be like Judah Maccabee, only in greater measure.

We find Chanukah mentioned in John’s Gospel:

Then came Hanukkah; it was winter in Jerusalem. Yeshua was walking in the Temple around Solomon’s Colonnade.  Then the Judean leaders surrounded Him, saying, “How long will You hold us in suspense? If You are the Messiah, tell us outright!” (Jn 10:22-24)

At the heart of Chanukah is the Miracle of the Menorah, that supernatural event in which a single day’s supply of the consecrated oil (used to light the Golden Lampstand in the Temple) lasted for eight days. In the Messiah, we are now God’s temples (see 1 Cor 6:18-20). Like Judah Maccabee, we need to be concerned for the purity of our temple (i.e., self). We need to remove all impurity from our lives and dedicate ourselves to holiness for at least two reasons. First, personal holiness makes true worship possible. The Apostle Paul urged: “present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship (Rom 12:1 nasb emphasis added). Second, it is as we are a fit dwelling place for God only that we can walk out our calling as the Ohr HaOlam (“light of the world” – see Matt 5:14).

Chanukah is the “Festival of Lights.” May we be pure temples, dwelling places for Yeshua our Messiah, so that His light can shine through us. Our Chanukah hope” rests in this truth: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overpowered it” (John 1:5).

Based on what we know about how the history of the Maccabees shaped the Jewish “Messianic imagination,” it makes perfect sense that the leaders would ask Yeshua if He was the Messiah during this festival. What those leaders failed to grasp, however, was that at His first coming, Yeshua the Messiah would not be an aggressive military leader, overthrowing political powers. No, He came to defeat the power of sin and triumph over “principalities and powers in the cross” (see Col 3:13-15). At His Second Coming, Yeshua will be manifest as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah.

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