Today we see Jesus at the Temple in Jerusalem at the Feast of the Dedication. What is this feast and why did Jesus travel to Jerusalem for it?
The feast of the Dedication is exactly what it sounds like, it is the anniversary of the consecration (or dedication) of the Temple. It was one of the feasts in which Jewish people were required to travel to Jerusalem. This feast is still celebrated by the Jewish people today and is known to us as Hanukkah. You can find the stories detailing the events that establish the feast in the book of Maccabees.
I you are reading a protestant version of the Bible you might not be able to find the book of Maccabees. That’s because Martin Luther took it out. This raises an interesting question: On what basis did Jesus travel to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Dedication? Did he do so because the feast:
(A) Is part of Scripture.
(B) because it was Tradition?
Of course the correct answer is (C) Both.
Consider the context of what is happening here. The Temple was the most sacred place on earth. It held the Ark of the Covenant and God’s very presence filled the inner most Holy of Holies. The entire Jewish culture revolved around the Temple. The entire purpose of early Jewish history was to establish themselves as a people in the Promised Land so that they could build a Temple. Finally, after wars, slavery, and exodus they build a great Temple which they dedicate and consecrate to God. At one point the Temple is destroyed and the Jews work tirelessly to rebuild it. How can the story of that climatic moment, the story of when the beginning finally ends and the next phase begins be missing from scripture? Tell us plainly, are you serious? Jesus, who fulfills the law and the scripture perfectly, goes to Jerusalem for Hanukkah and John records that in his Gospel. This is strong evidence that either the books of Maccabees are scripture or a clear example that Jesus did religious things that were not based on following scripture alone.
Sometimes, scripture presents itself so perfectly, you can truly see the hand of God in it. The Jews ask Jesus:
“How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”
Jesus goes about answering them and they seek to stone him for blasphemy. Then Jesus gives this answer:
Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, you are gods? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came (and scripture cannot be broken), do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”
Notice, here Jesus is pointing out that that Father consecrated HIM and sent Him into the world. Do you understand now why this scene plays out on the feast of the anniversary of the consecration of the Temple? Jesus is the new Temple and He too has been consecrated. Through him will be offered the new and perfect sacrifice.
Why does Jesus stick in the parenthetical about the Scripture not being broken? One answer is because a man tried to break the scriptures. He violated the sacred trust of protecting the word of God from corruption. He took books f scripture out of the Bible and denied them to his followers. However, we are blessed because God takes all things and turns them to his good. So Jesus goes up to the Temple on the feast of the Dedication. He shows himself to be the new Temple. John, his Apostle, is with him and the Holy Spirit inspires John to record this event in the New Testament and thus the link to the past and the truth of the Scriptural nature of Maccabees is preserved. Every year for the 2,000 years since the Jews continued to celebrate the feast of Hanukkah. And every Christmas time (as John says it was winter), Christians see what their Jewish neighbors are doing as ask, “what is that about?” And we are drawn back, to discover the Jewish roots of our faith. And when the Protestant asks, “Where is Hanukkah in the Bible?” the Catholic answers, “Right here.”