Jesus at the Feast of Dedication

At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. (John 10:22)

The Feast of Dedication commenced on the 25th of Kislev and lasted for eight days. Celebrating, as it does, the victory of a small band of Jewish rebels led by Judah, son of Mattathias, the Jewish priest, over the oppressive rule of the Greco-Syrian ruler Antiochus IV against impossible odds, it commemorates the rededication of the altar and the restoration of pure Temple worship after the Temple had been defiled by the erection of a statue of Zeus within its Sanctuary and the offering of a pig on the altar. The rebels took the name Maccabees, the traditional Jewish explanation of which is that it is an acronym for the battle-cry of the Maccabees, Mchamocha ba’elim YHWH”, “Who is like You among the mighty, O Lord!” (Exodus 15:11).

Although not a Biblically mandated feast and designated a “minor festival” in the Jewish liturgical calendar, it has become a major celebration of Jewish identity in modern times.

Yet, just two centuries after the Maccabean victory the Jewish people were again under the yoke of an even more powerful and cruel oppressor – imperial Rome.  This is the setting for the story of a much greater deliverance from a far greater bondage – deliverance from the bondage of all men to sin and Satan through the coming of the promised Messiah.

Matthew tells us that an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and instructed him to call the child that was conceived in Mary, the virgin to whom he was betrothed, Jesus (Yeshua) “for he will save his people from their sins.” Luke tells of Mary’s encounter with the angel Gabriel:

And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”
But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.
And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.
He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.” (Luke 1:28-35)

Rabbi Howard Berman observes that the usual focus on her virginity was perhaps the least of the disturbing implications of her encounter with the angel Gabriel.[1] Mary, (Miriam) would have been quite aware of the recent history of her people and probably celebrated the Feast of Dedication with her family. The implications of this announcement went far beyond the problem of her being a virgin and found to be with child – this son was to be the saviour of her people and would receive the throne of David to reign over the house of Jacob forever! The profound political and spiritual implications must have been equally as disturbing. She was to bear a son who would not only save her people, but would usurp the present, seemingly invincible powers of Rome, the Herodian dynasty and the compromised Jewish hierarchy.

Berman notes that it is striking that the phrase the angel uses, “With God, nothing is impossible,” seems to so clearly echo the words of Judah himself as recounted in the Chanukah story. When many expressed doubts and fear at the prospect of the small Maccabean band resisting the powerful forces of Antiochus Judah replied “With the God of Heaven, it is the same to save by many or by few!”

Just as the Feast of Dedication (Chanukah) celebrates the miracle of redemption and deliverance so was the birth of Jesus heralded with pronouncements of peace on earth and deliverance for his people. In this context Jesus’ appearance at the Feast of Dedication some thirty years later, as a backdrop for his own message of liberation and redemption, is significant.

We are told that Jesus walked in the Colonnade of Solomon.[2] Solomon was the one to whom was given the honour of building the House of YHWH. When the Temple was consecrated with burnt offerings the glory of the Lord filled the temple signaling God’s acceptance and approval of the house that Solomon had built for Him. Such was the manifest glory of the Lord that the Priests could not enter. Yet this temple was merely a temporary stage in the unfolding revelation of how God intends to dwell among his people.

Solomon’s name means peace and his wisdom and influence extended to the ends of the then-known world. Just as his reign over the throne of David prefigured that of the Messiah, whose Kingdom would endure forever, so did the temple that he built prefigure the spiritual temple made of living stones that would be built by the Messiah.

“For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His Name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His Kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever.” (Isaiah 9:6)

The choice of Solomon’s Colonnade as a backdrop for his message is perhaps deliberate, connecting His God-ordained mission with the temple of Solomon ordained by God, thus embracing and symbolizing everything it typified.

The temple was in fact undergoing massive reconstruction under the patronage of Herod who sought to establish a name for himself in perpetuity by his elaborate building projects as well as to ingratiate himself with the Jews.  That temple in fact became known as Herod’s temple. The Ark of the Covenant and the Glory had departed after the destruction of Solomon’s temple and had never returned when the Jews returned from Babylon and rebuilt the temple under Zerubbabel.

Thus the Porch named after Solomon was the appropriate setting for the fulfillment and return of the glory of the Lord that would be fulfilled at the Feast of Pentecost. This was the place where the tabernacle of David would be raised up as prophesied by Amos: “On that day, I will raise up the Tabernacle of David which has fallen down” (Amos 9:11-12). It would be purified by the mighty baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire, recollecting the dedication of Solomon’s temple.

This prophesy of David’s tabernacle was declared by the council of Jerusalem to have been fulfilled in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and upon Jews and Gentiles without distinction: “With this the words of the prophets agree, just as it has been written:  ‘After this I will return and rebuild the tabernacle of David which has fallen down’” (Acts 15: 14-16).

While the corrupt priesthood was presiding over the ritual offerings and cleansings of a defiled temple, Jesus walked in Solomon’s Colonnade preparing for the dedication of His temple that would be purified through a baptism of fire. Here a remnant, according to the election of grace, would obtain what Israel sought and did not obtain (Romans  11: 4-7).

This site was also the threshing floor of David and this is where the threshing (separating the wheat from the chaff) begins. As he walked the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” (John 10:24) Jesus tells them that they do not believe because they are not part of his flock: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand…. I and the Father are one.”

When The Day of Pentecost would fully come He would purge his floor, consuming the chaff in his Baptism of Fire. As Malachi had prophesied:

…the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD. Then the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years. (Mal. 3: 1-4)

His temple will be established forever on the eternal rock, that is himself:

“You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Christ Jesus.” (1 Peter 2:5)

Thus the Feast of Dedication finds new meaning in the dedication of the spiritual temple for those who belong to Jesus and who are called to remain pure and undefiled.

 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. (1 John 3:3)


[2] Some of the thoughts in this section were gleaned from

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