In God’s Son was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it….This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all….I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. (John 1:4,5; 1 John 1:5; John 8:12)
God is Light. God (Father, Son, and Spirit) is righteous, true, and loving in His character, the opposite of darkness (evil, sin, and falsehood). He is infinitely, eternally, and unchangeably holy, with no shred of iniquity, injustice, or impurity in Him. There is no one like our God, majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders.1 He is my rock, fortress, deliverer, and shield in whom I take refuge.2 The Lord is great and does marvelous deeds; He alone is God.3
In Jerusalem near 30 AD, the Lord Jesus attended the Hanukkah celebration. John 10:22 calls it “the Feast of Dedication,” and it’s also called “the Festival of Lights.” In John chapter 10, Christ calls people to return to trusting and obeying God at a time when love for the Lord was weak. The people were stiff-necked, stubborn, and unwilling to be led by God. Christ calls Himself the Good Shepherd and Jewish hearers catch His messianic claims. Ezekiel chapter 34 prophesied that Messiah would be the God-anointed Shepherd of God’s people.4 Jesus announced that He fulfills Ezekiel’s prediction and He calls all people to follow Him.
Many Jewish people were not looking for God’s eternal salvation from sin, darkness, the devil, and Hell. Many were looking only for political deliverance from the Roman oppressors. Hanukkah is not commanded by the Lord, but it celebrates events occurring near 165 BC (between the Old and the New Testaments). Against all odds a small band of Jews led by Judah the Maccabee defeated a mighty army, drove foreigners from the land, and reclaimed the Jerusalem Temple. Jewish tradition teaches that a one-day’s supply of oil for the Temple light lasted eight days. Judah was nicknamed “The Hammer” and most Jewish people were looking for another military hero to liberate them again. That’s the setting for John chapter 10.
Jesus’ Claims. As the Lord walked around the Temple enclosure, some Jews approached Him and asked point blank, “Are you the Messiah (the Christ, God’s anointed and chosen one)?”. He answered:
“I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” Again His Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone Him.5
Evangelist Fred Klett comments, “The Messiah they hoped for was too small.” Jesus truly is and claims to be God’s Rescuer, God’s Unique Son, who comes to reverse the curse brought on us by Adam and Eve’s rebellion. Christ is the woman’s Seed promised in Eden, who comes to crush Satan’s head.6 He’s the One the whole Old Testament was pointing to! But the Jewish people were not ready to hear that and wanted to kill Jesus. They wanted their kind of Messiah, on their terms, who met their expectations, who granted their wishes. They were disappointed with Christ as He truly is. They wanted what they wanted rather than the true and living God who is. Let us not make the same mistake.
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”7
Fred Klett reminds us that Jesus isn’t a temporary fix for life’s crises in the 1st century or now. He is the Divine Savior who demands our total allegiance and gives us ultimate victory and abundant life. Christ defeats sin, raises the dead, and gives an eternal inheritance to all who repent and believe on Him. In this life we all face disappointment, death, trouble, and tragedy, but the eternity we will spend with God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) in the New Heaven and New Earth outshines whatever we suffer now.8 No matter what sin we struggle with, no matter what hardship we face, Jesus is the Divine Deliverer, Rescuer, and Restorer we need.
Christ Saves All Kinds of People. Thank God, Jesus doesn’t come to save Jewish people only. God the Father says to God the Son, “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore Jacob’s tribes and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”9 In the 21st century, Jesus is still gathering His believers all around the globe and He promises, “The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.”10 That promise is being fulfilled right now and will continue to be until Jesus’ return.
Hanukkah is a festival of lights for Jewish people, but Christ announces something bigger and better. He rightly claims to be God’s Light made flesh:
I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.11
What a wonderful promise, when we are surrounded by so much moral and spiritual darkness. Jesus’ light reassures us of God’s love, holiness, justice, and truth, and re-orients us back to Him. The Holy Spirit’s word, the Bible, is the lamp for our feet, the light on our path to guide us through this life to Heaven.12 With the Spirit’s blessing, Scripture is a light to guide us, a counselor to advise us, a comforter to reassure us, a staff to support us, a sword to defend us, and a physician to cure us. The Bible is a goldmine to enrich us, a robe to clothe us, and a crown to honor us in Christ.
Believers Are to Be Jesus’ Light Reflectors. Christians are to shine Christ’s life-giving light to the world. “We all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”13 We cannot produce God’s light. We can only reflect Jesus and point others to Him. May the Lord help us do that more consistently this holiday season and until Christ returns for us! Let us make the teaching about God our Savior attractive in every way.14
All of life illustrates Scripture truth and Hanukkah points to Jesus. Go in peace, beloved. Walk with Christ our King today and be a blessing to others!
Note: Rev. Fred Klett serves with CHAIM, a Reformed ministry to Jewish people. He spoke on this subject in Philadelphia years ago and parts of this article draw on my notes from his sermon.
1 Exodus 15:11. 2 Psalm 18:2. 3 Psalm 86:10. 4 Psalms 23,28,78,79,80,95,100 also speak of the Lord as our Shepherd. 5 John 10:25-31. 6 Gen 3:15; Gal 4:4,5; Rom 16:20. 7 Psalm 91:1,2 8 see Rev 21-22. 9 Isaiah 49:6. 10 Isaiah 11:9. 11 John 8:12; cf. John 1:1-5 . 12 Psalm 119:105. 13 2 Cor 3:18. 14 Titus 1:10.