Sunday, December 6, 2015

It's Chanukah! Why Jesus Christ wasn't stonned to death on this day.

It's Chanukah! Today and for the next week, Jews celebrate the Feast of Rededication! Happy Chanukah! It's also the day when Jesus Christ gave his clear claim to be the Messiah.

Chanukah, or The Fest of Rededication, commemorated the multiplication of holy oil needed for the menorah after enemy troops were defeated in and around Jerusalem. Syrian troops under Antiochus IV Epiphanes had prohibited circumcision and the ceremonial observation of the Jews and then he had pigs offered on the altar in the Temple. Mattathias Maccabees and his sons, through a guerilla action, forced the numerically superior army to leave and a treaty was established giving the Jews their freedom once again to conduct their religious practices as they wanted. In the time of Jesus, the heroic actions of the Maccabees resulted in an aspiration that the coming Jewish Messiah would also overthrow the mighty forces of Rome, in other words, a political Messiah was to come.

On this day in the Jewish calendar, on Chanukah, some wanted to kill Jesus Christ for what he said. "They picked up stones to kill him for what he said." (John 10:31). But, why were they so upset? In the language of his day, in the meaning of the word "Messiah", he made many people upset. Why did this happen? Previously, Jesus had healed a man on the Sabbath. (John 5:1-15) Jesus was powerful, that is he could do miracles, but would a Jewish Messiah heal on the Sabbath? Wasn't he expected to lead a rebellion against Rome? When challenged about his miracle on the Sabbath, he said, "My Father is always at work and I too am at work." (5:17) Not only had he broken the Sabbath, but he "called God his Father, making himself equal with God." (5:18)

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me.
Now, at Chanukah, at the Feast of Rededication of the Temple, Jesus makes his claim to divinity even more clearly. He was asked point blank: "Are you the Christ, the Messiah, tell us!" (John 10:24) They demanded a clear answer. He completely disappointed them. First, the works (miracles) gave witness to his Messiah-ship. He described himself as a shepherd and said to his opposition, "You are not my sheep." (10:26)

He was calling himself the (1) Shepherd of Israel - which was one of various functions of the coming Messiah.

This was a clear reference to two O.T. passages of the Bible. Psalm 23 and Jeremiah 23:1-6. Jesus did something very clever, he joined the ideas behind of Chanukah with four OT themes: He claims to be (1) Shepherd to the house of Israel, (2) the Branch of David, (3) the coming King, and this implied a NAME!  (4) 'The LORD our Righteousness'. (Jeremiah 23:2-6) Jesus indicates that as Messiah he will not be a political leader and he will not fulfill the demands of customs and traditions of men. He gave a clear answer, "I am the Christ - I am the Messiah", but more than this, he was claiming to be Divine - WOW - "The LORD our Righteousness". He could not have been clearer: "I and the Father are one." (10:30)

Jesus completely disappointed him by saying  that while no one could snatch the sheep from him, his opposition would not be part of his flock. They would not, and could not, accept his teaching.

We may not understand this clearly, but Jesus' opposition certainly did. They heard it loud and clear and responded: This is Blasphemy! You deserve to die! And so they picked up stones to kill him. (10:31) "We are not stoning you for any of these," replied the Jews, "But for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God." (John 10:33) And again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp. (10:39).

So, Jesus Christ was not killed on Chanukah. His death, and resurrection, came several months later, at Easter, at the time of Passover.

No comments:

Post a Comment