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Happy Hanukkah

Gospel of John  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Introduction

“Like the earlier Tabernacles Feast, this Festival of Dedication (Hanukkah) was symbolized by a celebration of lights. It was also called the Feast of Lights, because of the lighting of lamps and candles in Jewish homes to celebrate the Feast But here the lights did not so much look back to the past leading of God in the time of Moses. Rather they pointed to a hoped-for time when the Messiah would come to the temple and establish, as Judas Maccabeus had anticipated, a time of independence.”
It was also called the Feast of Lights, because of the lighting of lamps and candles in Jewish homes to celebrate the Feast But here the lights did not so much look back to the past leading of God in the time of Moses. Rather they pointed to a hoped-for time when the Messiah would come to the temple and establish, as Judas Maccabeus had anticipated, a time of independence.”
Carson, D. A. (1991). The Gospel according to John (p. 391). Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans.But here the lights did not so much look back to the past leading of God in the time of Moses. Rather they pointed to a hoped-for time when the Messiah would come to the temple and establish, as Judas Maccabeus had anticipated, a time of independence.”
Borchert, G. L. (1996). (Vol. 25A, p. 337). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
The feast began on the 25th of Kislev (December in our calendar) and lasted for eight days.
“This feast commemorated the rededication of the Temple by Judas Maccabaeus in 165 b.c. after its profanation by Antiochus Epiphanes, king of the Seleucid Empire, (who had sacrificed a sow to Jupiter on the altar of the Temple). It was the last great deliverance that the Jews had known, and therefore it must have been in people’s minds a symbol of their hope that God would again deliver his people.”
Morris, L. (1995). The Gospel according to John (pp. 458–459). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
This was an occasion to celebrate God’s great deliverance of the past with an eye toward the coming deliverance of the Messiah. And it was upon this event, this feast, that the Messiah actually comes, presents Himself to the Jewish people in the temple and is ultimately rejected by them.
This would be the last time Jesus offers salvation to the Jews. The last time He makes an appeal to the people of Jerusalem to receive their Messiah. Upon this final rejection Jesus goes across the Jordan and does ministry elsewhere until His triumphal entry which begins His passion.
“It was Winter” — John loves to use symbolism. He uses, light and dark often. Here he uses winter not only as descriptive of the time of year but that of the condition of the hearts of the people. They were cold, dark and dead toward the possibility of faith in their Christ.
“Jews gathered around Him” — Jesus was in Solomon’s Colonnade, a roofed structure supported on pillars. It was a place of shelter from the winter weather. It was thought that this colonnade was a part of Solomon’s temple. It was a place where the scribes would hold their schools. Jesus is not depicted here as teaching…He was just walking through.
The Jews crowded around Him and pressed in upon Him. They in affect “hemmed Him in.” They are intense at this moment, serious in their question, they were emphatically demanding an answer from Jesus to the question, “If you are the Christ tell us plainly.”
“I did tell you but you did not believe” — Jesus points them to His miracles. Just as verse 21 indicated, “Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?” The miracles He did in the Father’s name testify to the reality that God is at work here. They testify to the identity of Jesus…that He and the Father are One, working together. That He is therefore the long awaited Messiah who was to come.
“You do not believe because you are not my sheep” — They did not see the miracles for what they were because they, in the past and in the present came to Jesus with their minds made up. Those who belong to the church, the saved and chosen people of God, hear the revelation of God made in Christ and believe. These people were hardened in their unbelief at the outset and up to this very moment never budged from this position of unbelief.
Perfect example of this is found in . The people of Jerusalem were stirred up by the wise men who came looking for the Messiah but not one of them made the walk to Bethlehem. Their minds were made up and they refused to believe in Jesus from the very beginning.
Those who belong to the church, the saved and chosen people of God, hear the revelation of God made in Christ and believe.
Jesus has made plain through word and deed that He is the Messiah. Yet, the vast majority of Jewish people rejected Him.

Jesus Knows Me and I am Changed

“My Sheep? — The church. Those who know Jesus as Savior and Lord of their life are His sheep. Jesus is speaking of His followers, Christians.
“I know them” — Our relationship with God is on the basis of the knowledge Jesus has of us. He knows us, calls us and for those who have ears to hear, they follow Him.
Follow Me” — Jesus took the initiative to save us. He knows those who are His…He calls out to them and they respond with faith. They follow Him…They believe, trust and are changed…their life begins to reflect their relationship with Him.
You cannot be a believer in Christ and not be changed. We must focus on this for a moment…It cannot be denied. We are defined by what we do not what we say or profess…the two go hand in hand if the profession is to be thought of as anything more than mere words.
Living Faith — Belief plus trust which produces a changed life
Dead faith — to give mental assent to something a true, refuse to place trust in it and remain dead.
James 2:17 ESV
So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
Scripture is very clear that a person who refuses to follow Christ with their life is still dead in their sin, an unbeliever and lost.
1 John 3:9 NASB95
No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.
If we are truly born again we cannot continue in unrepentant sin. Sin bothers us when we are actually saved because we are different in Christ. We have been born into a new kind of life, one which follows Jesus and is uncomfortable with anything contrary to Him.
Believers listen to the voice of Jesus and follow Him…Follow His way of life, His plans and His way of life.

Eternal Security

If this is you…If you are truly a follower of Christ. You have placed living faith in Jesus, a faith that has changed who you are…then you are the recipient of eternal life.
Eternal life — A life of infinite quality and one which will never end.
We cannot quantify the quality of our life in Christ. We have a taste of it right now. We have begun to enjoy what it means to know and follow Him while we walk on earth. But, it only gets better from here…throughout all of eternity we will only learn to enjoy and experience more fully what it means to have this life in Christ.
There was a woman who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and had been given three months to live. So as as she was getting her things “in order,” she contacted her pastor and had him come to her house to discuss certain aspects of her final wishes. She told him which songs she wanted sung at the service, what scriptures she would like read, and what outfit she wanted to be buried in. The woman also requested to be buried with her favourite Bible. Everything was in order and the pastor was preparing to leave when the woman suddenly remembered something very important to her. “There’s one more thing,” she excitedly. “What’s that?” came the pastor’s reply. “This is very important,” the woman continued. “I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand.” The pastor stood looking at the woman, not knowing quite what to say. “That surprises you, doesn’t it?” the woman asked. “Well, to be honest, I’m puzzled by the request,” said the pastor. The woman explained. “In all my years of attending church socials and potluck dinners I always remember that when the dishes were cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, ‘Keep your fork.’ It was my favorite part because I knew that something better was coming… like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie. Something wonderful and of substance! So I just want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand and I want them to wonder, ‘What’s with the fork?’ Then I want you to tell them: ‘Keep your fork… the best is yet to come.’ The pastor’s eyes welled up with tears of joy as he hugged the woman goodbye. He knew this would be one of the last times he would see her before her death. But he also knew that the woman had a better grasp of heaven that he did. She knew that something better was coming.
“There’s one more thing,” she excitedly.
“What’s that?” came the pastor’s reply.
“This is very important,” the woman continued. “I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand.”
The pastor stood looking at the woman, not knowing quite what to say. “That surprises you, doesn’t it?” the woman asked.
At the funeral people were walking by the woman’s casket and they saw the pretty dress she was wearing and her favourite Bible and the fork placed in her right hand. Over and over, the pastor heard the question, “What’s with the fork?” And over and over he smiled. During his message, the pastor told the people of the conversation he had with the woman shortly before she died. He also told them about the fork and what it symbolized to her. The pastor told the people how he could not stop thinking about the fork and told them that they probably would not be able to stop thinking about it either. He was right. So the next time you reach down for your fork, let it remind you oh so gently, that the best is yet to come.
“Well, to be honest, I’m puzzled by the request,” said the pastor.
The woman explained. “In all my years of attending church socials and potluck dinners I always remember that when the dishes were cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, ‘Keep your fork.’ It was my favorite part because I knew that something better was coming… like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie. Something wonderful and of substance! So I just want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand and I want them to wonder, ‘What’s with the fork?’ Then I want you to tell them: ‘Keep your fork… the best is yet to come.’
The pastor’s eyes welled up with tears of joy as he hugged the woman goodbye. He knew this would be one of the last times he would see her before her death. But he also knew that the woman had a better grasp of heaven that he did. She knew that something better was coming.
At the funeral people were walking by the woman’s casket and they saw the pretty dress she was wearing and her favourite Bible and the fork placed in her right hand. Over and over, the pastor heard the question, “What’s with the fork?” And over and over he smiled.
During his message, the pastor told the people of the conversation he had with the woman shortly before she died. He also told them about the fork and what it symbolized to her. The pastor told the people how he could not stop thinking about the fork and told them that they probably would not be able to stop thinking about it either. He was right. So the next time you reach down for your fork, let it remind you oh so gently, that the best is yet to come.
The quantity of life Jesus offers is also beyond our ability to wrap our mind around. Someday we are going to step out of time and space. We will exist in eternity where there is no measure called time…and our life there with God will never cease to be. Death is defeated and time is literally no more. Literally, we will never perish!
We will never perish. Our life will never decay and never die
Secure — No one and nothing can snatch us from the hand of Jesus or the Father in heaven.
If we have genuinely placed our faith in Jesus, repented of our sin and followed Him…we are forever secure in our salvation. Nothing can take it from us. It can never be lost. No momentary sin can remove us from our relationship with Him.
Jesus and the Father are One…if you believe in Jesus the full person of God comes to bear upon your present and future life…You are forever secure in His almighty power.
Harry Ironside stated that salvation was like Noah inviting a pagan in his day to place his trust in God's Word and come in to the ark. Some view salvation like Noah offering to put a peg on the outside of the ark. "If you just hang on through the storm, you'll be saved." Salvation is not dependent on our holding on to God, but on our being securely held by and in Christ.
Harry Ironside stated that salvation was like Noah inviting a pagan in his day to place his trust in God's Word and come in to the ark. Some view salvation like Noah offering to put a peg on the outside of the ark. "If you just hang on through the storm, you'll be saved." Salvation is not dependent on our holding on to God, but on our being securely held by and in Christ.
Our salvation, yesterday, today and forever is dependent upon Christ and His ability to hold us in Him. He saved us, is saving us and will save us in the future…beginning to end it has nothing to do with me and everything to do with Him!
But the promises are true and sure…He will hold onto, secure and save us.

The Exclamation Point

The Jews begin to pick up stones in order to stone Jesus for blasphemy. He has stated that He and the Father are one which would make Himself equal with God. Of course this is an emphatic point concerning His identity as deity and Messiah.
Jesus responds to them by quoting from
Psalm 82:7 NASB95
“Nevertheless you will die like men And fall like any one of the princes.”
Psalm 82:6 NASB95
I said, “You are gods, And all of you are sons of the Most High.
Psalm 82:6–7 NASB95
I said, “You are gods, And all of you are sons of the Most High. “Nevertheless you will die like men And fall like any one of the princes.”
The Psalmist was referring to the judges of Israel who were representatives of God in their day. They were mere men who would die like all men but they had received the word of God and were operating as His representative. If such men could be called gods for illustrative purposes, how much more could the actual Messiah be called The Son of God!
Again Jesus calls their attention to not simply His words but His actions so they might believe. But they refuse to do so…pick up stones and proceed with their attempts at capital punishment…which fail because God is sovereign and it is not the way nor the time for the Son of God to die.

Conclusion

Jesus has come to give us eternal life. Have you thought a lot about what that actually means for us? A secure, never ending, quality of life beyond all comprehension.
But the way there is to be empty of self…love God and be changed by your faith in Him.
A man spoke with the Lord about Heaven and Hell. “I will show you Hell,” said the Lord. And they went into a room which had a large pot of stew in the middle. The smell was delicious and around the pot sat people who were famished and desperate. All were holding spoons with very long handles which reached to the pot, but because the handles of the spoons were longer than their arms, it was impossible to get the stew into their mouths. Their suffering was terrible. “Now I will show you Heaven,” said the Lord, and they went into an identical room. There was a similar pot of stew and the people had the same identical spoons, but they were well nourished, talking and happy. At first the man did not understand. “It is simple,” said the Lord. “You see, they have learned to feed each other.”
“Now I will show you Heaven,” said the Lord, and they went into an identical room. There was a similar pot of stew and the people had the same identical spoons, but they were well nourished, talking and happy.
At first the man did not understand.
Hell is full of people consumed with self. Void of love for anyone or anything outside of themselves. They are their own god. Their self-sufficiency and self centeredness prevent them from seeing the truth of Christ and the way to eternal life. Their life is limited to their own short sighted and wicked schemes.
Heaven is full of people who have found a relationship with Christ…a relationship that has forever changed them and allowed them to enjoy all of God’s goodness without limit…a goodness that overflows and spills over into the life of everyone around them.
Those who know Christ are changed…they have repented of sin, followed Christ and are different for it. Their love of God is evident, their capacity to love each other and even their enemies is evidence of the change within. A new quality of life has begun and it only gets better and better from here.
“It is simple,” said the Lord. “You see, they have learned to feed each other.”
So do you know Him? If you do then are you enjoying the security you have in Him? Are you, by faith enjoying the quality of life to be known in Him?
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