Jesus Christ, Christmas & Hanukkah: God’s Anointed Shepherd who died for you

John 10:11 “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd gives His life for the sheep.”

In the 10th chapter of the gospel of John, verses 22-23 say “At that time the Festival of the Dedication took place at Jerusalem; it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon’s porch”. Jesus being in the temple during the Festival of Dedication has much greater significance than you may realize.

You see, the ‘Festival of Dedication’ is today known as Hanukkah, when the temple was rededicated to God with the “oil of anointing”, as the place for the sacrifice of clean, perfect animals to atone for mans’ sin. Here in John 10 we see Jesus, God’s ultimate perfect, sinless Lamb, entering the temple as God’s anointed One who has come to offer Himself as the final atonement for all the sins you and I have ever, and will ever, commit. Hanukkah is a celebration of Jesus Christ’s achievement for us on the cross.

In 2019, Hanukkah began December 22nd and ends December 30th. It is a celebration of the historic event in 165BC when a group of temple priests known as the Maccabees led a revolt against the Syrian general Antiochus IV Epiphanes after he had defiled the temple by sacrificing a pig to Zeus on the altar. The temple altar was a holy place, dedicated for the sacrifice of clean, spotless animals to God as an offering to God to cleanse the people from their sin.

Hanukkah’s emphasis on dedication refers to the temple. Because Antiochus defiled the holiness of God’s house with his mockery of the pig sacrifice, the priests had to rededicate the temple to God by anointing the temple with oil. This anointing with oil was originally a commandment God gave to Moses after He freed them from Egyptian slavery: “You shall command the children of Israel that they bring you pure oil of pressed olives for the light, to cause the lamp burn continually. In the tent of meeting, outside the veil which is before the Testimony, Aaron and his sons shall tend it from evening until morning before the Lord. It shall be a statute forever to their generations on behalf of the children of Israel” (Exodus 27:20-21).

This anointing with oil was to dedicate the temple as holy – set apart to God for His purpose. But we also see people anointed with this oil. David was anointed and set apart as holy unto God, to carry out God’s purposes: “Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward” (1Samuel 16:13). Why did God anoint David? To be His shepherd over His people Israel: “…the Lord said to you, ‘You shall shepherd My people Israel, and be ruler over Israel”’ (2Samuel 5:2). The books of 1st and 2nd Samuel were written around 1,000BC.

But 400 years later (long after King David has died), the prophet Ezekiel writes in 580BC about a ‘future servant David’ who will be anointed shepherd over His people: “I will anoint one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them – My servant David. He shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the Lord, will be their God, and My servant David a prince among them; I, the Lord, have spoken.” (Ezekiel 34:23-24).

Around 700BC, the prophet Isaiah announced the same message of a future shepherd: “The Lord shall come with a strong hand, and His arm shall rule for Him. His reward is with Him, and His work before Him. He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are young.” (Isaiah 40:10-11). Who is this future anointed shepherd?

Back to John 10:22-23. It is 29AD and Jesus is observing Hanukkah, or the Festival of Dedication, as He walks through the temple. Verse 24 says men surrounded Him and asked Him a point-blank question: “How long do You keep us in suspense? If You are the Messiah, tell us plainly”. Why did they press Him for an answer? Look back at John 10:11-18, and our verse for this week. Right before He walked through the temple, He clearly told them that He was the fulfillment of Ezekiel’s and Isaiah’s prophecy of the future Messiah, who would be the Good Shepherd, who ultimately gives His own life to save His sheep!

Jesus is saying at Hanukkah that God is His Father who has anointed Him and sent Him to them. Just like the Jews who heard Him, today you either believe Him or you don’t. Once you are confronted with His words, you must decide if Jesus is lying, or out of touch with reality, or telling the truth.

This week is the time of Dedication to our Savior. May this Hanukkah season instill in you how precious you are to God that He would send His only Son for your sake. He now calls you to holiness and sets you apart to testify in a fallen world that Jesus Christ is your Savior and Shepherd.

The Evidence of Faith’s Substance – Article #380

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