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The Gospel According to Hanukkah

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Shalom dear friend,

It was my older brother Alan who was the first in our family to become a believer in Jesus. Even though my family was not especially religious, this news hit my parents like a sledge-hammer. I remember a very heated and emotional argument ensued resulting in my father crying and my brother vowing to forget this "Jesus thing."

However, when we moved to Australia a year later, my brother couldn't put his spiritual quest aside. Through studying the Scriptures and seeking the truth, he came to a very strong and committed faith in Jesus (Yeshua) as the Messiah. We may not have been orthodox Jews, but my parents raised us up in a traditional Jewish home being proud of our Jewish identity. My brother believing in Jesus was a definite step in the wrong direction as far as my parents were concerned.

My parents thought that it was just a phase that he was going through. I guess 32 years later, he is still going through that "phase." Alan has gone on to be an incredibly inspired motivator of missions, thinker and author who has written several books on the subject of missiology, and is known internationally.

I thought that my brother had lost his mind when he became a believer in Jesus and that he had betrayed his Jewish upbringing. Yet, I always respected his opinions. I remember the many nights we sat opening up the Bible together. He shared with me that he had not given up on his Jewish identity but had simply come to believe that Jesus was our Jewish Messiah predicted in the Scriptures.

Of course, he began sharing the Messiah with me from the Tenach what is commonly called the Old Testament. We looked at the many prophecies that predicted the first coming of the Messiah; prophecies like Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 9:6-7; Psalm 22 and others.

But perhaps the two prophecies that really stood out to me where Jeremiah 31:31-34, the promise of a New Covenant and also Isaiah 53, the prediction that the Messiah would come as a Suffering Servant.

I couldn't deny that these passages were speaking of the Messiah and I started opening up my heart to faith in Yeshua. It was at this time I started to read the New Testament. I have to be honest, I had never read the New Testament before. It was a closed book for us as Jews. I had assumed it was full of anti-Semitism and lies, and all about the blond haired and blue-eyed Jesus.

I was so wrong!

I was amazed how the story was all about us, the Jewish people. About our forefathers, our prophets, our Scriptures, our traditions, and our history. And I was so amazed at the Jewishness of Jesus. He celebrated all the Jewish holidays and even quoted the most important confession of the Jewish faith, the Shema, and said it was the most important commandment, and that the second was like it: love your neighbour as yourself. (Matt 22:3740)

I began to realise, more and more as I read, that the Gospel is Jewish and that Yeshua had come in the fullness of time as the true Messiah of Israel. I knew that my decision to believe in Him wouldn't go down well with my family and friends, but I had to make that choice nonetheless.

He gave me so much peace in my heart when I finally confessed faith in Him on the 24th of March, 1984.

That year, the Jewish holidays took on a whole new meaning. Celebrating Passover, Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur as a new believer in Yeshua was truly amazing and life-changing.

Then came the Festival of Hanukkah.

Even though I knew about the Festival of Hanukkah, we had never really celebrated it as a family because it always fell during my father's busiest time of the year December (my father was a hotelier). By the way, as Jews we never celebrated Christmas either, so to make it up to me, my parents bought me a nice big present every year.

But approaching Hanukkah as a new believer in Yeshua was a revelation.

I didn't know that the only time Hanukkah is mentioned in the Bible is in the New Testament. It is not mentioned in any of the Hebrew Scriptures. After reading John 10 and studying the passage, I finally understood that the Gospel and Hanukkah were intertwined... it was really the Gospel according to Hanukkah!

One of the greatest statements Yeshua ever made about Himself was during the feast of Hanukkah. As you will read in this newsletter, Hanukkah is a post-Old Testament holiday that developed during the centuries immediately prior to Yeshua's birth.

I believe that Hanukkah is all about the Gospel. Please take a moment and read this text!

At that time the Feast of the Dedication took place at Jerusalem; it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon.

The Jews then gathered around Him, and were saying to Him, "How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly." Jesus answered them, "I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father's name, these testify of Me.

But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of Myhand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand (John 10:22-29).

The above statement is simply incredible! To think that the Messiah said this during the great festival of Hanukkah is astounding to me, having grown up in a Jewish home.

But Yeshua did not stop there as He continued to infuse new meaning to the traditional festival of lights and redemption, by showing the linkage between Himself and the Father.

The Apostle John records Yeshua saying, I and the Father are one (John ?10:30).

Believe me, the Jewish people of the day knew exactly what He was saying and His statement was not well received!

Look at what happens next, The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him (John 10:31).

The idea that a man would claim to be God is understandably offensive to the Jewish people who are taught that God cannot take on human form. I was taught this as well, growing up in a Jewish home. And ordinarily this would be true. But, this perfect man would be the Messiah who died for our sins.

Dear friend, this is the Gospel according to Hanukkah. God sent His only Son as His greatest gift to you and me better than any Hanukkah or Christmas present by far! And through this divine Messiah we have true spiritual freedom that will endure forever.

So, may the Lord bless you abundantly this Season may the Lord fill your home with His light and joy.

Your brother in the Messiah,

Lawrence Hirsch