The Gospel of John, Jesus' sixth sign, Part 9
Dec 20, 2019
The scene now changes. It appears that Jesus had healed the blind man while He lingered after the feast of Tabernacles. Now it is the Feast of Dedication, commonly known today as Hanukkah, or the Feast of Lights. It is not likely that Jesus remained in Jerusalem for the intervening two months, because prior to Tabernacles, which He kept in John 7, we read that “He was unwilling to walk in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill Him” (John 7:1).
Nonetheless, He did remain in or near the city long enough to heal the blind man, to teach, and to dispute with the Pharisees. It is likely that He then left for a short time before returning to the city for the Feast of Dedication. So John 10:22, 23 says,
22 At that time the Feast of the Dedication took place at Jerusalem; 23 it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon.
John is the only apostle who records this occasion where Jesus went to Jerusalem to keep this feast. Because of the highly prophetic nature of John’s gospel, Jesus’ attendance surely prophesied of the significance of this feast, even though it was not one of the original feasts given in the law of Moses.
The Feast of Dedication
The Feast of the Dedication was a celebration set up after 164 B.C. when the temple was rededicated and cleansed after being desecrated by Antiochus Epiphanes at the end of the third beast empire (Grecian). The full story is told in 1 Maccabees 4:36-59,
36 Then said Judas and his brethren, “Behold, our enemies are discomfited; let us go up to cleanse and dedicate the sanctuary….” 44 And when as they consulted what to do with the altar of burnt offerings, which was profaned, 45 they thought it best to pull it down, lest it should be a reproach to them, because the heathen had defiled it; wherefore they pulled it down, 46 and laid up the stones in the mountain of the temple in a convenient place, until there should come a prophet to show what should be done with them.
Four Jubilee cycles (196 years) had now passed at the year 31-32 A.D. It seems that the “prophet” had finally arrived who could show them what to do with the altar and with the defiled stones from the old altar when they built the new altar of burnt offerings.
Jesus was that Prophet, as we will see. He was also “the stone which the builders rejected” (Psalm 118:22; Matthew 21:42).
Jesus came to dedicate a new temple, built upon the foundation of the prophets and apostles (Ephesians 2:20; 1 Corinthians 3:16). The altar of this temple is one’s heart, whose “stones” must be shaped by God alone (Exodus 20:25), for only God can change the heart through the work of the Holy Spirit.
Feast of Lights
So when Jesus kept the Feast of Dedication, He validated this feast and showed how it prophesied of the New Covenant manner of keeping the feast. It was also called the Feast of Lights, and every night for eight days the outer court of the temple was lit up with great lights. The people were instructed to light candles in their homes, one for each member of the family. On the second day, they lit two candles for each family member. On the third day, three, and so on, and by the eighth day the houses were well lit.
Those lights represented Christ’s teachings that He did on that occasion, which the apostle records in the rest of the tenth chapter. The Feast of Dedication should be viewed as a prophecy of the dedication of our own temples (individual) and temple (the body of Christ as a whole), along with the altar of our heart.
In that sense, we may also link this with the day that Elijah rebuilt and rededicated the altar of twelve stones on which the fire of God then fell (1 Kings 18:30, 38). His act prophesied of a future time, as did the altar builders in the days of the Maccabees. Both pointed to a greater fulfillment when Jesus kept the Feast of Dedication in John 10:22.
The Maccabean dedication was described further in 1 Maccabees 4:52, 53,
52 Now on the five and twentieth day of the ninth month, which is called the month Casleu, in the hundred forty and eighth year [of the Grecian calendar whose Year 1 is the equivalent of 311 B.C.], they rose up betimes in the morning 53 and offered sacrifices according to the law upon the new altar of burnt offerings, which they had made.
The date of this dedication was given in terms of the Grecian calendar. It had begun when Alexander’s four generals agreed among themselves to divide the empire. Antiochus I was given rule over Syria and Judea.
We then read further in 1 Maccabees 4:56-59,
56 And so they kept the dedication of the altar eight days… 59 Moreover Judas as his brethren with the whole congregation of Israel ordained that the days of the dedication of the altar should be kept in their season from year to year by the space of eight days, from the five and twentieth day of the month Casleu, with mirth and gladness.
Jewish tradition said that there was only one undefiled vial of oil, a single day’s supply, for the lampstand in the temple, but that this miraculously lasted the full eight days of the Dedication. Though Jesus did not reference this directly, we may understand that the light of Christ’s teaching was self-perpetuating and has continued in order to dedicate the true Temple throughout the seven “days” (millennia) until the Great White Throne Judgment at the beginning of the eighth day (millennium).
The feast that Jesus attended was only a type and shadow of a greater event yet to come. Perhaps it is for this reason that He kept the feast on the fourth Jubilee since the altar had been dedicated by the Maccabees. Four is half of eight, suggesting numerically a partial fulfillment.
The Light of Jesus’ Teachings
John 10:24-26 says,
24 The Jews then gathered around Him, and were saying to Him, “How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these testify of Me. 26 But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep.”
The reason they asked for a plain word was because Jesus had never said in public, “Yes, I am the Christ.” If He had done so, the unbelievers would have accused Him of bearing witness of Himself, as they had already done when He claimed to be the light of the world (John 8:12). What they really wanted was to find an occasion to accuse Him by getting Him to testify a word which they believed to be false (perjury).
Hence, Jesus was content to lay claim to other callings, such as “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12), “I am the door” (John 10:9), and “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11). Beyond that, He let His works make the claims, and the people would either believe or not believe according to the condition of their own hearts.
John 10:27-30 continues,
27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal [aionian] life to them, and they will never [read “not”] perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”
This did not answer their question about whether or not He was the Christ. Yet He implied that they were not among His sheep that the Father had given to Him. This probably did not make them angry, but He ended His discussion with a simple statement that brought about a violent reaction. John 10:30, 31 says,
30 “I and the Father are one.” 31 The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him.
As usual, they misunderstood His words, even as many today continue to misunderstand.
God and Gods
John 10:32, 33 says,
32 Jesus answered them, “I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?” 33 The Jews answered Him, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.”
First of all, Jesus had made no claims to be the Christ, allowing His works to testify of Him. So when the people wanted to stone Him, He asked them which of His works had committed perjury. The people could find nothing wrong with His works, even though He had healed two people on the Sabbath day! It appears that He had won that argument, in spite of the efforts of the Pharisees to malign Him as a lawbreaker.
What really angered them, however, was His claim, “I and the Father are one.” They interpreted this to mean that He was claiming to be “a god” (theos, without the definite article). It is so translated in The Emphatic Diaglott. In other words, the people do not seem to have thought that He was claiming to be The God (ton theon).
Recall from John 1:1 that the apostle wrote that the Logos was with ton Theon and the Logos was also theos. Jesus did not claim to be The God, but He did claim to be a god. Earlier, in John 1:18, the apostle had used the term, “the only-begotten God,” having The God as His Father.
That introduction to the Logos comes into full display in John 10:30 at the Feast of Dedication. Perhaps their emotional and violent reaction was due to their recollection of Antiochus Epiphanes, who also claimed to be a god. The term Epiphanes means “God manifest.” Many today consider him to be a type of antichrist.
The Feast of Dedication was a celebration of the overthrow of Antiochus Epiphanes as much as the rededication of the temple and its altar. No doubt everyone was well acquainted with that story. So when Jesus made the claim that He was “one” with His Father, that is, of one mind, they became incensed at Him for claiming to be “God Manifest.” The difference, of course, was that Antiochus had defiled the temple, whereas Christ had performed “signs” that signified the cleansing of the temple.
The eight signs in John’s gospel were meant to interpret the meaning of the eight days in the Feast of Tabernacles. But this passage also treats the eight days of the Feast of Dedication as if these gave further revelation about Tabernacles. The signs were designed to manifest His glory (John 2:11), i.e., to bring the glory of heaven into the earth. The Feast of Tabernacles prophesies of the divine intent and plan. The glory is seen in the Feast of Lights as well.
Next time we will see Jesus’ explanation of His own statement.
This is part 9 of a series titled "Jesus' Sixth Sign" To view all parts, click the link below.