“Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon's porch” (John 10:22-23). The Lord was present at the temple during the Feast of Dedication, that is: Hanukkah. Whether He participated is not stated, but His lack of umbrage, as when He chased out the merchants (John 2:13-17), implies approval.
The Feast of Dedication did not originate in the Law God gave to Israel by Moses. Rather, it developed some centuries after the Old Testament Scripture was complete, about 165 years before Christ came to earth. Therefore, certain uninspired history is relevant to understand what was going on at the temple when Jesus walked there one winter.
The narrator of 1st & 2nd Maccabees makes no claim of inspiration, concluding his accounts with these words: “If it is well written and to the point, that is what I wanted; if it is poorly done and mediocre, that is the best I could do” (2nd Maccabees 15:38). Clearly, these books are not the unerring product of the Holy Spirit. Even so, they provide insight.
The secular record states:
“Then Judas and his brothers said, ‘See, our enemies are crushed; let us go up to cleanse the sanctuary and dedicate it.’ So all the army assembled and went up to Mount Zion. There they saw the sanctuary desolate, the altar profaned, and the gates burned. In the courts they saw bushes sprung up as in a thicket, or as on one of the mountains. They saw also the chambers of the priests in ruins. Then they tore their clothes and mourned with great lamentation; they sprinkled themselves with ashes and fell face down on the ground. And when the signal was given with the trumpets, they cried out to Heaven.
Then Judas detailed men to fight against those in the citadel until he had cleansed the sanctuary. He chose blameless priests devoted to the law, and they cleansed the sanctuary and removed the defiled stones to an unclean place. They deliberated what to do about the altar of burnt-offering, which had been profaned. And they thought it best to tear it down, so that it would not be a lasting shame to them that the Gentiles had defiled it. So they tore down the altar, and stored the stones in a convenient place on the temple hill until a prophet should come to tell what to do with them. Then they took unhewn stones, as the law directs, and built a new altar like the former one. They also rebuilt the sanctuary and the interior of the temple, and consecrated the courts. They made new holy vessels, and brought the lampstand, the altar of incense, and the table into the temple. Then they offered incense on the altar and lit the lamps on the lampstand, and these gave light in the temple. They placed the bread on the table and hung up the curtains. Thus they finished all the work they had undertaken.
Early in the morning on the twenty-fifth day of the ninth month, which is the month of Chislev, in the one hundred and forty-eighth year, they rose and offered sacrifice, as the law directs, on the new altar of burnt-offering that they had built. At the very season and on the very day that the Gentiles had profaned it, it was dedicated with songs and harps and lutes and cymbals. All the people fell on their faces and worshipped and blessed Heaven, who had prospered them. So they celebrated the dedication of the altar for eight days, and joyfully offered burnt-offerings; they offered a sacrifice of well-being and a thanksgiving-offering. They decorated the front of the temple with golden crowns and small shields; they restored the gates and the chambers for the priests, and fitted them with doors. There was very great joy among the people, and the disgrace brought by the Gentiles was removed.
Then Judas and his brothers and all the assembly of Israel determined that every year at that season the days of dedication of the altar should be observed with joy and gladness for eight days, beginning with the twenty-fifth day of the month of Chislev” (1st Maccabees 4:36-59).
Thus, the Feast of Dedication reminded the Jews of the purification of the temple after it was defiled by Greek invaders. Christ did not object to this memorial occasion.
None now living are obligated to keep any of the Jewish feasts, for it is written, “let no one judge you… regarding a festival” (Colossians 2:16). Whether a soul chooses to observe the occasion or not is a personal choice. “One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it” (Romans 14:5-6).
Regardless of whether anyone opts to participate in Hanukkah, the theme of temple dedication remains a valid consideration because the New Testament is not lacking for temples.
The bodies of all Christians are temples. “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's” (1st Corinthians 6:19-20). When Paul wrote this it was in the context of sexual purity. The apostle had just finished saying, “Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body” (18). Thus, to commit any bodily sin, especially fornication, is to defile the Holy Spirit’s temple.
Moreover, the church is God’s temple. Having said, “you are God’s building” (1st Corinthians 3:9), and identifying “Jesus Christ” as the “foundation” (11), Paul asked, rhetorically, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are” (16-17). It is a grievous thing to treat the church Christ promised to build (Matthew 16:18), and bought with His blood (Acts 20:28), as anything less than holy. To subvert its “eternal purpose” in making known “the manifold wisdom of God” (Ephesians 3:10-11) by diverting the church to frivolous pursuits is to defile the temple of the Almighty God.
All Christians are called on to purify the temples we occupy, including physical bodies and the church, that in them God may be honored.
By Bryan Matthew Dockens
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