Welcome to the Mountjoy Ministries Blog

This blog was authored by Bryan W. Sheldon, author and Bible teacher. His books are listed below. The studies in the blog are offered in the desire that they may be helpful in directing readers to the truths contained in the Bible.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Feast of Dedication in History and Prophecy

Hanukkah at the Time of Jesus
Hanukkah Lamps

The second point that Jesus was making to His interrogators at Hanukkah was to offer Himself as a contrast to the one who, two hundred years earlier, claimed a high title for himself. Antichus IV used the title ‘Epiphany’ to indicate he was a god (it means ‘god manifest’). Jesus, in His reply to His interrogators said His presence was the true epiphany. Here it is again:

“Do you say of Him whom the Father … sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? (John 10:36)

While Jesus did not take the title ‘Epiphany’, which had too much baggage to be of any help, He did use the title ‘Son of God’, which was significantly and correctly equated by His opponents to the truth of epiphany, that is, ‘make Yourself God’. The regulations in force at that time are recorded for us in the Mishnah (the book of legal regulations that were in place at the time of Christ). It orders that the blasphemer is to be executed on the basis of Numbers 15:30:

“But the person who does anything presumptuously, whether he is native-born or a stranger, that one brings reproach on the Lord, and he shall be cut off from among his people”.

 This was understood to be blasphemy committed ‘with a high hand’, that is, so that he raised his hand, as it were, against YHWH, or acted in open rebellion against Him. Such a one was to be cut off (cf. Gen.17:14); for he had despised the word of the Lord, broken His commandment, and was to atone for it with his life.

Jesus, by His use of the title, “Son of God” (a term of deity), was considered by His opponents to be acting above His station in rebellion against YHWH. But Jesus was not acting above His station, He was truly God … manifested in the flesh (1 Tim. 3:16). John states positively it in the opening of his gospel: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God … And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:1,14).

The assertions that Jesus was one with the Father (in John10.30: I and My Father are one” and 10:38: the Father is in Me, and I in Him”) are strengthened by His later declarations:

that everything that belonged to the Father belonged to Him: All things that the Father has are Mine” (John 16:15);

and to have our prayers answered we are to ask the Father in His Name: … whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you (John 15:16); that He was the only one who knew the Father, and therefore the only one who could reveal Him to others; All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him” (Matt. 11:27).

Jesus, by His use of the ‘I AM’ designations (John 8:58; and John 6:35, 48; 8:12; 9:5; 10:7, 9, 11, 14; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1) and the title ‘Son of God’ (John 10:36), acknowledged the fact that He was God incarnate and acted as such. He accepted worship and forgave sins. Among those who worshipped Him was a leper (Matt. 8:2); a ruler of the Jews (Matt. 9:18); a blind man (John 9:38); His own disciples (Matt. 14:33); a Canaanite woman (Matt. 15:25); the mother of James and John; (Matt 20:20, KJV); and the Gadarene demoniac (Mark 5:6). He received worship without embarrassment or any hint of impropriety.


Many of those that cross-examined Him were Pharisees who, as previously mentioned, considered themselves the descendants of the Chasidim (the pious). The Chasidim was the group, at the time of Antiochus, who were the prime movers in the rebellion against Syrian rule. They fostered the revival of Israel’s commitment to the Law and their Jewish culture. The Pharisees then, in loyalty to their roots, were ardent defenders of the Torah and the traditions of Israel, and saw in Jesus someone who did not support them in their cause. That Jesus revered and obeyed the Law of Moses, the Law that had been revealed from heaven, was not enough; they required all of Israel (including the Messiah) to accept the decisions of the Sopherim and the Tanaim as binding Law also. The high authority accorded these additions was never recognised by Jesus. In fact He opposed them. He was keen to sweep away anything that blurred the clarity of the Word of God.

Moreover, He was aware that the conflict between Himself and the Pharisees would lead them to enact Hanukkah in reverse: led by another ‘Judas’ they will take the light of the world out of the Temple and crucify Him on Golgotha bringing darkness over the earth for three hours. The physical darkness would not only impact on the One who was made a sin-offering but would also signify that Israel as a nation would remain in spiritual darkness until they called for the return of Jesus, ‘the Light of the World’.

At the time of the Maccabees they rejected Antiochus Epiphanes and the darkness he represented and brought light to Israel.
   At the time of the Messiah they rejected Jesus, Son of God, and the light He represented and brought darkness to Israel.

Next Time: The Significance of Hanukkah in Prophecy




Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Hanukkah in History and Prophecy

Hanukkah at the Time of the Lord Jesus

Last time we indicated that Jesus used two aspects of
Hanukkah Lamp
the Hanukkah festival to point to two remarkable truths about Himself.
The first is His use of the word ‘ἡγίασεν’ (hegiasen) which is translated ‘sanctified’ but could easily be translated ‘dedicated’ which is a play on the name of the feast ‘hanukkah’ (dedication). This text (“Him whom the Father sanctified (dedicated) and sent into the world”) tells us that Jesus was dedicated before His birth. We are also aware that as an infant He was dedicated to the Lord (Luke 2:23). This early act of dedication in His life was never rescinded and in the proper course of time was further confirmed by the Messiah as His prayer in John 17 reveals. And for their sakes I sanctify (dedicate) Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth (John 17:19). So He was dedicated (Hanukkah’d):
            Before His birth.
               At His birth, and
                  After His birth.
John’s biography of Jesus (chapter two) also contains the record of a much earlier encounter with Jewish leaders, a group that might have included some of these same people. It seems that a temporary market had been set up within the Temple area (in the court of the Gentiles). There were traders selling animals for ritual sacrifice alongside money-changers who handled Temple currency. All this taking place within the area marked out by Solomon as sacred for the worship of the Lord. This, it would appear, was only a small desecration — nothing approaching the scale of Antiochus’ profanity. Nevertheless, Jesus took it very seriously. He (the Lord of the Temple) drove out the offending mercenaries. For the disciples it later brought to mind a text from the Psalms: ... zeal for Your house has eaten me up” (see John 2:17). This text continues; “And the reproaches of those who reproach You have fallen on me (Psalm 69:9). His connection to the Temple and His Father was very strong and abuses of the Sanctuary were felt personally by Jesus.
In this early clash with the Temple authorities, He was challenged to provide some evidence of Messianic authority that could justify His actions. They asked for a sign, an authenticating miracle: “What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?” (John 2:18) He replied: Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). They thought He was talking about the ‘grand buildings’ that surrounded them, but He spoke of the temple of His body. In fact it was an early indication that the key sign for those that opposed Him would be the sign of the prophet Jonah, that is, the sign of death and resurrection. It is  Matthew’s gospel that  emphasises its importance. In a separate brush with the Jewish leadership Jesus said: An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth (Matt. 12:39–40).  In expressing Himself in this way, He was clearly aware they would execute Him. In fact it would be ‘outside the camp’ on the site where the Day of Atonement sin offerings were burned (see Heb. 13:11,12)—a greater profanity than that committed by Antiochus. But He was equally as clear that He would rise from the dead and that would be the greatest attesting sign of who He really was. Paul confirmed it: he said Jesus was declared to be the Son of God ... by the resurrection from the dead (Rom. 1:4).
But more significantly for the nation, Jesus knew that in a few short years Israel’s governing body, the Sanhedrin, which included  the leading priests, would declare that neither YHWH nor His Son had authority over them—in fact they had no king but Caesar. What a confession to utter in the shadow of the House of God! Such a denial of the authority of the God of Israel would inevitably lead to the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple.
In the light of this previous clash (in John 2) it is  no stretch to think that, at the festival of Hanukkah (in John 10) the Messiah was again alluding to the fact that He was the true fulfilment of the meaning of the feast. As Judas Maccabaeus restored access to God by dedicating the Temple, even so Jesus will provide even greater access to God through the dedication of His temple, His body. In the Jerusalem Temple access to the Holy Place and beyond to the Holiest of All was through the Gate of the Golden Vine. Jesus replaced that—He asserted: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me (John 14:6). The writer to Hebrew Christians includes this truth in his letter: Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of   Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh (Heb. 10:19–20).
The second point next time ...