A once-in-a-millennium opportunity

Dec 15 2020

Around 200 years before Jesus’ last year, Judas Maccabees led his army into Jerusalem liberating the city from foreign invaders.

1 Maccabees 4:36-61 tells the story of the rededication of the temple — later called the Feast of Dedication and now known as Hanukkah. Judas and the people celebrated for eight days beginning on the 25th day of the 9th month Kislev.

During the two centuries from Judas Maccabees to Jesus’ day, the temple feasts grew in national significance and participation. A major part of Jesus’ experience was the calendar of holy days and feasts reinstituted from the Law of Moses. In fact, the Gospel of John tells of Jesus’ travels to the feasts in Jerusalem including the Feast of Dedication (John 10:22).

The irony is that in the previous 1,000 years, the nation had inconsistent feast celebrations and participation at best. Kings David, Solomon (2 Chron 5:3), Hezekiah (30:1), and Josiah (35:1) as well as reformers Ezra and Nehemiah (Neh. 8:18) led efforts to revive the instructions of Moses including the celebration of the Feasts — during their lifetimes.

In the first century, the Mosaic Law was definitive not only for Jesus personally but also for the nation around him and not just a few devout leaders.

One of the major statements of Jesus’ teaching was that he came to fulfill the Law. Jesus could not fulfill the Law without the celebrations of his nation. When Jesus entered the scene, the stage had already been set starting centuries before his birth.

His was a once-in-a-millennium opportunity.

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