Hanukkah had begun in Jerusalem. It was winter and Jesus was walking around in the temple at Solomon’s Porch, so the Jews surrounded Him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us bluntly.”
Jesus answered them, “I told you and you don’t believe. The work that I do in the name of My Father testifies on my behalf, but you don’t believe, since you are not from My sheep, as I’ve told you. My sheep hear My voice and I know them and they follow Me and I give them everlasting life and they will never ever perish and nobody will pry them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all and nobody can pry them from the hand of My Father; My Father and I are one.” (John 10:22-30)
Hanukkah is a winter holiday that celebrates the rededication of the temple after the Maccabean Revolt, which took place in the Intertestimonial Period (the “400 Silent Years” between Malachi and Matthew). Extra-biblical sources tell us that at the end of the revolution, there was only enough oil to keep the menorah lit for one day, but a miracle occurred that let it burn for eight days. Because of this miracle, oil is one of the symbols of Hanukkah (it’s similar to how mangers, gold, frankincense, and myrrh are associated with Christmas). On this oily holiday, the Jews could be reminded of the miracle in the temple, but more importantly, the topic of oil calls to remembrance God’s promise to send an Anointed One to solve the world’s sin problem. That’s what the word, Messiah (Greek, Christos), means: Anointed One.
Rewind a bit further to the Babylonian exile. Daniel prophesied (Dan 9:20-27) that there would be a decree to rebuild Jerusalem, then 49 years later the streets and wall would be rebuilt, then 434 years later, the Messiah would be cut off. Well, the decree came, Jerusalem was rebuild 49 years later, and then another 434 years had pass, so obviously, the Messiah was around there somewhere when Jesus walked into the temple that Hanukkah day.
Jesus had already been straightforward about His claim to be the Messiah. He had even performed miracles to prove His legitimacy. So when the Jews ask, “If you are the Messiah, tell us bluntly,” He replies, “I told you and you don’t believe. The work that I do in the name of My Father testifies on my behalf, but you don’t believe.” Jesus had told the Jews and He had even shown the Jews that He was the Messiah, but they still did not believe.
Notice that Jesus said, “believe,” twice. The big issue here is that the Jews do not believe. Jesus goes on to draw a metaphor about the Jews disbelief, “but you don’t believe, since you are not from My sheep, as I’ve told you. My sheep hear My voice and I know them and they follow Me.” Some people like to get twisted up here and say that when Jesus says, “follow Me,” he means get baptized, live a good life, help old ladies across the street, and whatever else seems good… but let’s look at what Jesus is really talking about here. He is using a metaphor – believers aren’t literally white fluffy sheep walking behind Him in Solomon’s Porch – Jesus is comparing believers to sheep saying they respond to His words and deeds by believing in Him, unlike these Jews who do not believe. The question is, “Are you the Messiah?” and the answer begins, “I’ve already told you.”
But then, He really speaks directly. He tells the Jews something that is true about Himself that can only be said about the Messiah: “and I give them [those that believe] everlasting life and they will never ever perish and nobody will pry them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all and nobody can pry them from the hand of My Father; My Father and I are one.”
Notice the gift and the Giver. The gift is everlasting life (Jesus is really emphasizing the “everlasting” aspect of it here) and the Giver is Jesus, the Messiah, who is one with the Father. What a blunt way to claim Messianic authority!
Anyhoo, being as how Hanukkah is a holiday where Jews remember oil, it has become traditional to cook oily food for the holiday. The Ashkenazi Jews (Jews from Europe) are especially fond of latke (latke is the Yiddish word; in Russian, it’s draniki). They are basically shredded potatoes that are formed into pancake shapes and fried in oil. They are really good, so I thought I’d share Lena’s latke recipe with you to try at home.