Did you know Jesus celebrated Hanukkah? In fact, at one such celebration, He taught something very important about Himself.
What is Hanukkah?
Here is a video which explain the origin of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah (also spelled Chanukah). This video (2:31) is geared for children. It is part of the "12 Questions of Christmas" by "What's In The Bible?" Puppets explain the real history of the Maccabean Revolt and the history of Hanukkah.
Jesus Celebrated Hanukkah
John 10:22-39 describe Jesus' teaching as He was in Jerusalem for the Feast of Dedication (also called Hanukkah). Picture it. Jews from all over the country of Israel were pouring into Jerusalem to celebrate this special holiday. They all made sure to visit the temple too, because that is where the miracle of Hanukkah took place. As these people visited the temple, they remembered what happened years ago. If you were there that day and a friend asked you why people celebrated Hanukkah, what would you say? (See the first video above for help.) Jesus and His disciples where walking through the temple courtyard when the Jews asked Jesus a question.
They said, "How long will you keep us waiting? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly" (John 10:24 NIRV).
Uh, oh! That's a trick question for Jesus at that moment in time.
Why is this a trick question?
When the people in the days of Jesus thought of the Messiah, they thought of a soldier like Judah Maccabee who would free Israel from the Roman Empire. Is that why Jesus was there? What did Jesus really come to free us from? (John 1:12) The answer Jesus gave them was not what they expected.
Jesus answered, “I did tell you. But you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name are a witness for 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 will never die. No one will steal them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than anyone. No one can steal them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” John 10:25-29 (NIRV)
Wait. Did Jesus just say what I think He said? Read that last part again. Is Jesus claiming to be God? Now think back to what you've learned about the history of Hanukkah. Who else claimed he was god? Was he right? What happened as a result? At Jesus' words, the people got very angry and tried to kill Jesus, but Jesus escaped. Why do you think the people got angry? (Not sure? Start by reviewing John 10:22-39. Then look again at the history of Hanukkah video above.) Antiochus IV kept telling people he was god, but he was not. Jesus said that He is "one with the Father," meaning that Jesus is God. The difference between Antiochus IV and Jesus is that Jesus was telling the truth. Jesus is fully God and fully human. That is why He was able to take our punishment for sin, die on the cross, and come back to life again (Hebrews 2:17-18; Philippians 2:6-11).
How to Celebrate Hanukkah
The video below(3:18) from Rebbetzin Tap is geared for children. It briefly explains the holiday and explains ways Hanukkah is celebrated. Who wouldn't love to play a game that uses a top and chocolate coins? If you choose to include one or more of these activities in your holiday celebrations, don't forget to remind each other that Jesus is really is God in a human body. Want to know more? Here's a link to a more advanced level on this topic: "Jesus Celebrates Hanukkah!" by the Associates for Biblical Research.