It was now winter, and Jesus was in Jerusalem at the time of Hanukkah, the Festival of Dedication. He was in the Temple, walking through the section known as Solomon’s Colonnade. The people surrounded him and asked, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” (John 10:22-24)
Read: Isaiah 44:6 – 48:11
Relate: The Festival of Dedication, Hanukkah, begins on the twenty-fifth day of the Jewish month of Kislev (November/December). It is also called the festival of lights and because this is how the Jewish historian Josephus refers to it so we can assume it was commonly called this at the time of Jesus as well. Both titles refer back to one specific event that happened roughly two hundred years before Christ in confronted.
In 167 BC, the Seleucid emperor Antiochus Epiphanes dedicated the Temple in Jerusalem to Zeus and had a pig sacrificed on it. This act, prophesied in Daniel as the abomination of desolation, so outraged the Jewish people that they rose up in revolt against him. The rebellion was begun by Mattathias ben Johanan and after he died his son Judas Maccabeus successfully concluded the revolt and gained freedom for Israel from a foreign oppressor. It was on the 25th of Kislev that the Temple was liberated and rededicated and the golden lamp stand was relighted in the holy place. Even though there was no oil that lamp remained lit for eight days and thus we have Hanukkah.
Flash forward a few years to 26 AD. The Jews are again living under the boot heels of a foreign occupier. This time it is Rome, and the emperor has appointed a new man, Pilate, as the local governor. He begins his tenure by sneaking the Roman Eagle into the Temple at night. It is only removed when he realizes that virtually the entire population would rather accept death than allow it to remain. Another time he puts up golden shields in honor of Tiberius at Herod’s Palace. When the people complain he sets some hired thugs on the protesters who thoroughly beat them senseless. The list of the ways Pilate antagonizes his constituents is too long to list here. Suffice it to say the people are more than ready for him to go. They are longing for freedom and on the day commemorating another successful revolt they ask Jesus straight out: “Tell us plainly, are you the Messiah?”
React: The problem is, Jesus couldn’t answer them straight out. The way we understand it today, He was the Messiah. The way scriptures prophesied, He was the Messiah. What that word meant for the hopes and understanding and theology of the people of His day, Jesus was most certainly not the Messiah. He had come to save them, but from an oppression with a far greater hold over their lives than Rome had. If Jesus answered a point blank, “Yes.” That would have been it. The Jewish war against Rome would have taken place thirty years earlier than it did. They were that ready. Jesus couldn’t simply be their Messiah. He first had to redefine the term.
The same problem is true for us today. Ricky Bobby likes that 8lb 6oz baby Jesus in a diaper. His son likes ninja Jesus fighting off evil Samurai, Cal likes tuxedo T-shirt Jesus, and each and every one of us have fashioned an image of God that we are most comfortable with. We are longing for a Jesus that will meet our own needs and expectations when He is offering us so much more. Let’s let Him redefine the term Savior and Lord so that He can truly save us and that He will truly become the Lord of our lives.
God, I long for You to move in my life. The problem is, what I am longing for is not how You plan to move. I am desiring You, but as I would want You to be, not as who You truly are. Forgive me for this. Redefine the terms, reshape my expectations so that what I long to see happen is what You plan to do. Change my yearnings and passions and hopes and dreams and expectations until they are aligned with Your truth. Who You are is greater than my best conceptions. What You will do is so far beyond the best of my hopes. Blow my mind. Let me carried away in You.