Today begins the eight-day festival of Hanukkah. It is also known as the Feast of Dedication, and remembers the cleansing and re-dedication of the Temple during the Inter-Testamental Period.
It was during this festival that Jesus shared publicly His identity. John 10 reads:
“22 And it was the feast of the dedication at Jerusalem: 23 it was winter; and Jesus was walking in the temple in Solomon’s porch. 24 The Jews therefore came round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou hold us in suspense? If thou art the Christ, tell us plainly. 25 Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believe not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, these bear witness of me. 26 But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: 28 and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who hath given them unto me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”
The Tabernacle and Temple were bridges between God and man. It was here that the gap between heaven and earth was spanned. God’s presence was felt – on Earth!
This was clear in Leviticus 9: 23-24 at the dedication of the Tabernacle: “. . . When they [Moses and Aaron] came out, they blessed the people; and the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people. Fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fat portions on the altar. And when all the people saw it, they shouted for joy and fell face down.”
Similarly when Solomon’s Temple is completed, and the Ark installed, I Kings 8 states: “When the priests withdrew from the Holy Place, the cloud filled the temple of the Lord. And the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled his temple (verses 10-11 NIV).”
In Ezra, the Temple is dedicated for a second time following the Babylonian destruction. Here there was no outward manifestation of God’s presence, but it is accompanied by a quiet promise in Haggai 2: 6-7: “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the Lord Almighty (NIV).” Glory would be in that place.
The present Feast of Dedication marks the fourth (if you count the Tabernacle) such rebuilding of the bridge. When the Maccabees defeated the Seleucid Greeks and cleansed the Temple. The lamp stand was lit but only had sufficient oil for one day. This light which symbolises God’s presence burned for eight; enough time to prepare an on going supply. God in each dedication made Himself known either in word or deed.
Then we come to Mark’s Gospel verses 25f: “. . . the works that I do in my Father’s name, these bear witness of me. 26 But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: 28 and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who hath given them unto me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”
In short, “I am the Messiah. I am Emmanuel. And I am here in the Temple, showing the presence of God in both words and deeds, and this time, the Temple is in My flesh, and it will not be snatched again.”
On this Feast of Dedication let us take joy that the bridge to God is now forever open to us.