It was winter as Jesus walked and taught, alone, in the Temple Courts.
The Feast of Dedication was a wintertime celebration of the restoration of the Temple by the Maccabees in the Second Century B.C.. Historians explain its origin.
“This feast, also known as Hanukkah and the Feast of Lights…developed in the era of the Maccabees and celebrated the cleansing of the Temple after its desecration by Antiochus Epiphanes. (It was) observed on the 25th day of the ninth month.” (Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary)
This restoration of Covenantal worship shook off the Greek influence of Alexander the Great and his descendants.
Celebrating a Victory and a Revival
The three major feasts instituted by the Law of Moses were celebrations of the seasons of the year and the promised blessings of God. The Feast of Dedication celebrated a victory over surrounding enemies, Greeks on one side and Syrians on the other. The Temple was destroyed by the pagans but rebuilt by the successful Jewish rebels. Covenantal worship was restored. Jesus found this wintertime feast an occasion to walk through the Temple courts and teach at Solomon’s Porch on the Eastern side of the restored Temple.
Unlike the warm days and friendly nights of the other feasts, the people gathering to the temple were bundled against the approaching winter. Evidently the disciples preferred to stay inside where it was warm. The skies were clear with a deep azure blue. The only clouds to be seen were puffs of steam emitted by the breathing of the people. When Jesus started teaching, He attracted the usual crowd of hungry souls and opportunistic critics.
The Pharisees thought it was time to pin Him down.
“How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.”
Jesus paused in the point He had been making and smiled at the questioners. How the Pharisees hated that smile! It always signaled some pronouncement with which they would have to deal. Jesus answered promptly.
“I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name,
they bear witness of Me.”
It was true, and it was all the people needed: miracles, signs, and wonders. The Pharisees needed more—they needed words they could use to convict. Jesus went on.
“But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.”
His sheep? Was He claiming to be God Himself? The psalms made it clear that the flock belongs to God! But Jesus wasn’t through.
“…they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.”
What was this? Only God can give life! How can He promise such things?
“My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all;
and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.”
His “Father” again! Is he claiming to be the Son of God? What more do we need to hear from him? At that point Jesus made the supreme claim.
“I and My Father are one.”
At that moment, a biting wind streaked through the Temple courts, taking the breath away from believers and critics alike. How could He say such a thing? Each one in the crowd whispered into his/her own spirit, the Shema Yisral, their daily confession and the centerpiece of their spirituality.
“Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one.”
The smile on Jesus’ face remained there for all to see.
Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon’s porch. Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, “How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one.”
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.
John 17:20-23 NKJV
“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.
Lord Jesus, I marvel at the revelation of the Trinity—that God is both ONE and THREE. I cannot do the math but this is not a mathematical truth. I can believe this and I do! I know that somehow the love flowing between Father and Son flows also between Father and Spirit and round and round inside this mysterious Godhead. These cycles of love are the source of Your love for me and mine for You! Just as You and the Father are One by the Spirit, You prayed that we as Your people must be ONE in the same way, by the same Spirit. Amen and Amen.
Be Near Us Holy Trinity
Words: Traditional: Music: Frederick Arthur Gore-Ouseley
1. Be near us, Holy Trinity, One Light, one only Deity!
All things are Thine, on Thee depend, Who art Beginning without end.
2. The myriad armies of the sky Praise, bless, adore Thy majesty:
Earth’s triple frame—land, air, and sea— Upraise their canticle to Thee.
3. We, too, Thy suppliant servants all, Before Thy feet adoring fall:
To Thee our vows and prayers we bring With hymns that saints and angels sing.
4. One we believe Thee, Light divine, And worship in a glorious Trine:
O First and Last, we humbly cry, And all things having breath reply.
5. Praise to the Father, made of none, Praise to the sole-begotten Son,
Praise to the Holy Spirit be—Mysterious Godhead, One in Three!
© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved