Hanukkah—When Jesus Claimed to Be God

On a wintry day in Jerusalem, Jesus walked in Solomon’s Colonnade—the long, covered, columned portico on the east side of the Temple—overlooking the Kidron Valley.

Hanukkah—When Jesus Claimed to Be God

(Photo: Solomon’s Colonnade lay along the eastern wall of the Temple. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

The conversation Jesus had that day occurred at Hanukkah—a celebration the Jews referred to as “the Feast of the Dedication” (John 10:22).

The feast had historical significance, which heightened the passion of those in Jerusalem. They encircled Jesus to ask Him a simple question.

His reply gave them more than they bargained for.

Today, some say Jesus never claimed to be God. But His words during that Hanukkah left little doubt.

What to Do When It’s Not Really the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

The songs play it. The movies portray it. Even our church services have their part to play. “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” Yeah, well what if it isn’t? For many people, holidays bring up painful memories.

(Photo by Photodune)

(Photo by Photodune)

Sore spots from childhood or the loss of loved ones hit hard during this sentimental season. While many people celebrate the joys of Christmastime, others suffer lonely holidays.

During one of the most desperate times of King David’s life, the anointed future king of Israel found himself running from two separate enemies—hardly a time to celebrate. With the Philistines to the west and King Saul to the east, a distressed David sought refuge in the cave of Adullam (1 Samuel 22:1–2).

David felt very alone.

His situation offers encouragement to us during lonely holidays.

Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity—Appropriately Unassuming

Bethlehem’s main attraction centers on the oldest standing church in Israel. The ancient structure marks the traditional site of Jesus’ birth, and yet, it isn’t much to look at.

Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity—Appropriately Unassuming

(Photo: The front of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Built in the sixth century by the emperor Justinian, the Church of the Nativity sits on top of the location of the original octagonal church Constantine’s mother, Helena, constructed just a few centuries after Jesus.

When I went there earlier this year, it looked altogether uninspiring and unassuming.

To me, that’s appropriate.

God’s Odd Leading in Your Life

Almost 2,000 years ago Joseph and Mary journeyed to Bethlehem. But approximately 2,040 years before they did, Jacob and Rachel, another expectant couple, traveled south along the same road.

Rachel gave birth to Benjamin, but died soon after delivery, and Jacob buried her near Bethlehem (Gen. 35:19).

God's Unusual Leading in Your Life

(Photo: Anton Raphael Mengs. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Rachel’s death foreshadowed the devastation that the territory of Benjamin would suffer in Jeremiah’s time:

Rachel is weeping for her children . . . Because they are no more. —Jeremiah 31:15

Yet the prophecy found its final fulfillment in Jesus’ day, when Herod the Great slaughtered all baby boys in Bethlehem (Matt. 2:17-18). So, at God’s direction, Joseph fled to Egypt with Mary and Jesus to live until Herod’s death.

Each movement of Jesus’ family finds its cause in God’s revelation to Joseph:

  • Fleeing Bethlehem to Egypt
  • Returning from Egypt to Israel
  • Avoiding Judea to settle in Galilee

God’s purposes for these moves lay first in the protection of His Son, but Matthew notes that each directive also fulfilled Scripture. I doubt anyone but God saw beforehand the murky prophecies fulfilled by these geographic moves. But in hindsight, they become clear.

God’s Odd Leading

God’s leading and timing in our lives often don’t make sense either.  At least at first.

The Power of Providence in Your Life

The first Christmas looked like a coincidence. From a human perspective, politics set the agenda: Caesar took a census of his people. Period. End of story.

The Power of Providence in Your Life

(Picture by Danka Peter)

But from the divine viewpoint? God orchestrated ordinary events for extraordinary outcomes.

Think about this past year in your life. Many ordinary events occurred. Most you don’t remember. But God has been working.

It isn’t just the Christmas story. It’s your story too. God uses the power of providence in your life as well.

Twas the Night AFTER Christmas Poem

I’ve decided that during the holiday season we should change the mall’s name to “maul.” I’ve never seen such mayhem—kids running, parents screaming, angry people in long lines—all to the music of “Joy to the World” in the background. Good grief!

Twas the Night AFTER Christmas

(Photo by Stephane Bidouze, via Vivozoom)

If you decide to head to the “maul” the night after Christmas, you’ll see more of the same chaos—a rush of returns in exchange for . . . even more . . . stuff.

So in honor of these days after Christmas, I’ve decided to try my hand at rewriting Clement Clarke Moore’s Christmas classic.

Here she goes. (Ahem.)

Jesus’ Birth in a Barn Had You in Mind

It must have seemed really strange. Honestly, it still does. Two thousand years of waiting for the Messiah, and He is born in a barn and laid in a feed trough.

Jesus' Birth in a Barn Had You in Mind

(Shepherd in modern Israel, courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

If it had been up to us, we would have given God’s Son a room in the finest five-star hotel in Bethlehem. But Jesus got only a one-star motel—and God had to provide the star!

When the shepherds hurried into Bethlehem to find the baby of whom the angels spoke, the wonder of God’s power must have seemed a strange contradiction to the conditions they found.

  • No halos hovered over Joseph, Mary, and Jesus.
  • Instead, they saw a poor couple surrounded by animals and the smell of manure.

Actually, the crudity of Jesus’ birth story offers really good news.

Because it had you in mind.

The Holy Spirit of Christmas Past [Podcast]

Luke 1:26-38

When God wants to impact our lives today, He uses His Holy Spirit.

Just as occurred that first Christmas, with the Holy Spirit “coming upon” Mary, so the Spirit of God has come upon believers today,  empowering them to respond as Mary did– with obedience and faith.

Play

Your Epiphany of a Surprising Jesus

The little-known holiday, “Epiphany,” reminds us that the Wise Men came to Jesus after Christmastime.

Rather than coming two weeks later, it was at least two years. How do we know? The Bible gives the clear implication in Matthew 2:1-2, 7, 16.

Visit of the Wise Men

(Photo: from thebiblerevival.com. Public domain.)

Jesus was a toddler when the Magi showed up. How surprised they must have been to come to Joseph and Mary’s humble house in Bethlehem instead of a posh palace in Jerusalem ( it was a “house,” not a stable; check out Matthew 2:11).

Jesus wasn’t the king they expected.

Our Expectations of Jesus

Honestly, to those who knew Him, Jesus didn’t fit most expectations of a king. Each one had an epiphany of sorts:

  • Jesus’ own family thought He was crazy.
  • The religious leaders blamed Satan for Jesus’ miracles.
  • And the wise magi? They didn’t come first to Bethlehem to look for Jesus. They headed to Jerusalem, to the place where kings were supposed to live.

Even those who walked in the footsteps of Jesus up and down the Holy Land—those He chose as His disciples—even these apostles stumbled over their expectations of who He should be.

We all do, in fact. (Talk about an epiphany!) Jesus never seems to be what we expect when we come to Him.

He is far greater.

Question: How was Jesus different than what you expected? Please leave a comment.