At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”
It was the Festival of Lights, otherwise called the Festival of the Dedication, a week-long celebration commemorating the consecration of the Temple after its desecration by Antiochus Epiphanes about two centuries before Christ. Its culmination was (and still is) on the 25th day of the Jewish month called Chislev, which corresponds to December. It was a joyful feast, and everywhere was full of lights.
Yet, “It was winter,” says John – unnecessarily, it might seem, as he had already given the exact date. But scholars suggest that the phrase has the same significance as “It was night” at the Last Supper (13:30). ‘Winter’ is a word that evokes bleakness and darkness. The dark shadows are gathering.
Against this backdrop Jesus stands out as Light of the World and the Consecrated One. “I am the light of the world” (8:12), “I have come into the world as light” (12:44). They quiz him: “If you are the Messiah [= the Anointed One], tell us plainly.” Yes, the Father has consecrated him and sent him into the world (10:36).
He is the new Temple, the new Place of Meeting. We can think of the mind of Jesus, the ‘Christ-mind’ (see Philippians 2:5), as a vast lighted Temple, a Tent of Meeting with God.
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