The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints | Easter message 2024

Unveiling the Message of Jesus during Hanukah: An Exploration of Divine Unity and Deliverance | Messages of Christ

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The story of Jesus and Hanukah serves as a beacon of light in a world overshadowed by conflict and darkness. Through his teachings and actions, Jesus illuminates the path of unity, deliverance, and divine purpose.

The Festival of Hanukah, celebrated by Jewish families worldwide, holds profound significance as a time of remembrance and deliverance. This joyous occasion, also known as the Festival of Lights, commemorates the remarkable story of liberation from oppression. It is during this sacred time that we delve into the teachings of Jesus and unravel the deeper meanings behind his powerful sermon delivered amidst the celebrations of Hanukah.

As we reflect on the historical context surrounding the events of Hanukah, we are transported back to a time of turmoil and unrest. The desecration of God’s temple by the Greeks under Antiochus IV serves as a poignant backdrop to the rededication and renewal that followed under the leadership of the Macabes. The miraculous event of the temple menorah’s flames lasting eight days symbolizes resilience, faith, and divine intervention—a theme that resonates throughout the teachings of Jesus during this pivotal period.

Jesus, in his teachings at Solomon’s Porch during Hanukah, unveils profound truths about his divine role as the Messiah, the Good Shepherd, and the Gate. Through timeless metaphors of sheep and shepherding, Jesus conveys his unity with the Father and his mission of redemption and deliverance. The symbolic significance of Solomon’s Porch, overlooking the temple grounds and witnessing the rituals of sacrifice and dedication, adds layers of depth to Jesus’ teachings, emphasizing the spiritual connection between the earthly and the divine.

Central to Jesus’ message during Hanukah is the concept of oneness with the Father. By declaring himself as sanctified and consecrated by God, Jesus invites his listeners to contemplate the true nature of divine unity and authority. His emphasis on doing the works of the Father as a demonstration of unity, power, and authority underscores the transformative power of aligning one’s actions with God’s will—a lesson that transcends time and tradition.

The intense dialogue between Jesus and the crowd, culminating in his bold declaration of unity with the Father, sparks controversy and division. Jesus’ refusal to provide a straightforward answer to the question of his messianic identity challenges his listeners to look beyond labels and titles and instead focus on the essence of true discipleship. His call to emulate his example by humbly serving others, uplifting the marginalized, and embodying the spirit of compassion echoes with timeless relevance, urging us to live out our faith through action.

 


Every year, Jewish families around the world celebrate Hanukah, the joyous Festival of Lights. Children light the menorah, and for eight nights, families remember the remarkable story of deliverance that Hanukah commemorates. With all the conflicts not only in Israel, but around the world, we long for true deliverance, light that can bring peace to a world darkened by war, hatred and conflict. Many Christians are familiar with Hanukah, but did you know that Jesus celebrated Hanukah? In fact, the savior gave a powerful sermon during this Festival of Lights, helping us better understand his divine role as Messiah, deliverer, and redeemer. The story of Jesus and Hanukah begins shortly Shortly after he traveled to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles, or Sucot. Tabernacles celebrates the final harvest at the end of each year, and clearly foreshadows the final harvest of God and the coming Messiah. Jesus appears to have afterwards remained in Jerusalem until the time of Hanukah, which, depending on the lunar calendar, occurs anywhere from late November to the end of December. During this period, Jesus taught in the temple, declaring to listeners, I am the door. By me, if any man enter in, he shall be saved.

And I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and other sheep I have which are not of this fold, ‘ ‘them also I must bring, and there shall be one fold and one shepherd. Why so Any metaphors about sheep? Well, we’ll get to that later. John’s gospel records that shortly after the savior made these powerful statements, Jesus was worshiping within the temple complex at a place called Solomon’s Porch. Jerusalem’s majestic temple was undergoing a massive renovation, started four decades earlier under Herod the Great. Yes, the same Herod who tried to slay Jesus as an infant. This project doubled the area of the temple grounds, adding three expansive porches or colonades and many other impressive changes. The Eastern Most Colonnade, however, or Solomon’s Porch, remained mostly unaltered because of the steep valley upon which it was built. It was so named likely because this porch dated to the original Solomonic temple. Compared to a grand new porch like the imposing Royal Stoa, with its coffered ceilings and large apps, where the Priestley council or Sanhedrin could meet, Solomon’s porch was far simpler in design. Nevertheless, it provided ample shade and also would have served as a windbreak against the cold Easterly winds coming off the Kidron Valley.

Jerusalem only receives snow every few years, but winter conditions could still be harsh, and this porch likely gave Jesus and his listeners welcome protection. This location also featured a stunning view of the whole temple grounds, with the gold-covered façade of the temple and the intricately carved stone of the surrounding courts and chambers. From this vantage point, Jesus and his listeners likely would have observed the many sheep being led through various gates of the Court of the Women, providing a fitting backdrop for his timeless metaphors, wherein he declares himself the Gate and the Good Shepherd. Hanukah was a time for Jews to commemorate the dramatic events of almost two centuries earlier. About 170 BC, the Greeks under Antiochus IV, captured Jerusalem and desecrated God’s temple. A statue of Jesús was erected inside its precincts, and pigs sacrificed on the altar. Jews were understandably furious. Under the leadership of a Priestley family known as the Macabes, Jerusalem and God’s temple were recaptured in 164 BC. Both temple and altar were rededicated and sacrifices to the Lord renewed. For this purpose, the gospel of John calls Hanukah the Feast of Dedication. According to later tradition, as priests tried to relight the temple menorah, only enough consecrated oil remained for the lamps to burn for a single day.

Yet its flames lasted eight days, enough time to consecrate new oil. Even into modern times, Jews celebrate this miracle by lighting the menorah for eight nights. We don’t know exactly when this tradition started, but the most significant and celebrated Hanukah event in Jesus’s day would have been the rededication of the temple and the altar of sacrifice. Knowing this background, let’s review the story of Jesus and his Hanukah message. As he taught at Solomon’s porch, the people started inquiring in earnest, How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly. Especially at Hanukah, the Jewish people would have yearned for a messianic figure who would free them from Roman oppression. The Hebrew word Messiah, like the Greek word Christ, means anointed one. In the Bible, three main groups were viewed as Messiah-like: prophets, priests, and kings. Jews saw these select individuals as sent from God. Anointing them with oil physically symbolized the authority God had poured down upon them. Figures such as King David, Solomon, and Aaron the high priest became inseparably connected with ideas of power and deliverance. So we can understand why during the Festival of Hanukah, the people were again seeking a new Messiah.

Notably, Jesus does not respond to their question directly. According to John’s gospel, he replies, I told you, and ye believed not. The works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me, but ye believe ‘Yee are not ‘ because ye are not of my sheep. In other words, Jesus doesn’t offer a simple yes or no if he was the promised Messiah. Instead, he tells his listeners that they ought to already know the answer because his works done in his Father’s name already bear witness of this fact. He then states, I and my Father are one. This was more than many listeners could take, and they took up stones, perhaps rubble from ongoing construction, to kill him. Jesus then asked why they wanted to stone him. The answer was quite simple. He had claimed to be one with God. It was one thing to claim he was the Anointed one, similar to kings and priests of the past. But Jesus was claiming to be the Son of God and one with the Father. Jesus’s next words bring it all back to Hanukah. He announces that he is the one sanctified or consecrated by the Father.

The word used in this instance is the same Greek word that is used when referring to the dedication of the tabernacle of Moses. In essence, because Hanukah was a feast commemorating the rededication of the desecrated temple, Jesus had announced, God has dedicated me. The scriptures tell us that the ancient tabernacle and later temples were the literal dwelling place of God’s presence. At these holy sites, Israel communed with and became at one with God. Jesus had boldly asserted that he was now that consecrated place. He was the anointed one, where people could come to become one with God. Throughout this interchange, Jesus repeatedly insists that he does his Father’s works to show that he truly is the anointed Messiah, having God’s authority. His His works and the Father’s are the same, much as the servant of a landowner is authorized to act in the landowner’s name as a demonstration of unity, power, and authority. By doing his Father’s works, Jesus represents the exact same unity, power, and authority. It might have been easier if Jesus had simply declared himself the Messiah, but in this instance, he chose to teach by example, reinforcing over and over that he was one with God because he did his Father’s works.

In essence, Jesus declares, I’ll tell you who I am by how I live, not by just what I say. How can we follow the savior’s supreme example of oneness with the Father? Just as Jesus said, it is by doing God’s works. Christ’s unity with his Father doesn’t seem to mean a physical unity as much as a unity in purpose. His example powerfully emphasizes that we, too, must strive to become one with God by humbly doing God’s works. As we ponder these sacred lessons from Hanukah, let us look past the labels of Catholic, Baptist, Roman, evangelical, or any other label we might give and focus on the all-encompassing title of being a true Christian, one anointed by his Holy spirit to act, not just a name, but also indeed. Let us do the works of the Father by serving our neighbor, feeding the poor, empowering the powerless, and lifting the widow and orphan. Doing the works of the Father brings power into our daily lives, power that helps us overcome all things, bringing light into our lives through Christ Jesus..

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