It was the Feast of Hanukkah at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Yeshua was walking in the temple, in Solomon’s porch. The Judeans therefore came around him and said to him, “How long will you hold us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” (John 10:22-24)
Hanukkah has always been a time of Messianic expectation. One of the traditional prayers, the Ma’oz Tzur (Might Rock), ends with the following verse:
Bare Your holy arm
and hasten the End for Salvation –
Avenge the vengeance of Your servant’s blood
from the wicked nation.
For the triumph is too long delayed for us,
and there is no end to days of evil.
Repel the Red One to the nethermost shadow
and establish for us the seven shepherds.
— The Artscroll Siddur
The Arm of Hashem is actually an often-overlooked title of the Messiah, as in Isa. 53:1-2:
Who has believed our message?
To whom has the Arm of the LORD been revealed?
For he grew up before him as a tender plant,
and as a root out of dry ground.
He has no good looks or majesty.
When we see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him . . .
As I noted in my article on the Amidah, “The word translated “salvation” is y’shuah (ישועה), which is pronounced exactly like the name Yeshua (ישוע)—in fact, they are spelled exactly the same save for the final heh (ה).” This particular word has an interesting tendency to appear in the Jewish liturgy in any passage that refers, directly or obliquely, to the Messiah, and here we see it linked to the Messianic expectation of Hanukkah, when we celebrate our deliverance by Hashem through the hand of the near-Messianic figure of Judah Maccabeus.
Even the dreidels have Messianic significance. The letters on the sides of the dreidel, נ (Nun), ג (Gimel), ה (Hei), and ש (Shin), are an acronym for Nes Gadol Hayah Sham – “a great miracle happened there” – but also have the same numerical value as the word Mashiach, Messiah.
It is often missed just how important this relatively minor holiday–not even one of the High Holy Days given in the Torah–was to Yeshua. The Gospel accounts make it clear that He was very cautious about staying in Judea due to the envy of the leadership there, and mostly resided in Galilee. In fact, John’s Gospel account tells us that three Passovers passed during Yeshua’s ministry, but does not even mention Yeshua going to Jerusalem for the middle one (John 6:4). We can safely assume that He did to fulfill the Torah, but apparently He kept it such a low-key visit that nothing of note happened.
The point is that Yeshua was pretty much restricting His visits to Jerusalem to the Feasts at that time, and wasn’t even making a waves at all of them (although He certainly did on Sukkot that year!). And yet He made the extra effort to travel to Jerusalem in the winter, the rainy and snowy season, in order to attend the Hanukkah festivities! Clearly, our Master considered Hanukkah a big deal–and so should we.
As we enjoy this final day of this holiday, let us look forward in expectation to our deliverance from the Red One–that is, both Edom and Rome and ultimately, the red beast from the sea (Rev. 12)–in the return of the King of the tribe of Judah, the true Arm and Hammer of God.