The Miracles, Mysteries and Histories of Hanukkah | Part 5
Yeshua Our Light and Our "Shamash"
For many people, when they hear “Hanukkah,” the first image that pops into their mind is that of the Chanukiah--or the nine-branched menorah. That is, after all, a most fitting symbol for the “Festival of Lights.” For those of us who have lived in predominantly Jewish communities, we can vividly visualize the rows of homes with their windows lit up by this special holiday menorah.
Barney Kasdan informs us that,
the usual menorah, like the modern symbol of the State of Israel, is seven-branched. Eight branches [of the chanukiah] remind us of the eight-day miracle of oil; and, the appropriate numbers of candles are kindled each day. The ninth branch (in the center with four branches on either side) stands out. It is used to light the other candles and is called the Shamash (Hebrew for Servant). (Kasdan, God’s Appointed Times)
The Chanukiah in general, and the Shamash candle in particular, should evoke affectionate thoughts towards our King, His person and His work:
First off, during this “Festival of Lights,” while observing the glow of the menorah, believers should remember that Yeshua is the Light of the World who shines forth His light through all who are His. The Messiah Himself asserted this in John 8, when he declared: “I am the light of the world; whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” This proclamation of being the “light of the world” was Yeshua’s claim to be none other than God Himself, and stood alongside Yeshua’s ten other “I Am” statements in John’s Gospel, each of which were pronouncements of His deity.
Yet as the famous hymn says, this “light of the world”--this God-man--was “by darkness slain.” At Hanukkah, when we take the Shamash (remember, “servant”) candle and with it light its accompanying candles, we should recall Yeshua’s ultimate mission. A summation of the Messiah’s ministry is given in these words of Yeshua: “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life--a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
In the Garden of Gethsemane, with His betrayers at hand and only hours away from his execution, Yeshua indicted His opponents with this cutting statement: “This is your hour--and the dominion of darkness” (Luke 22:53). Just as the powers of evil had swarmed on Israel and surrounded the temple in an effort to annihilate God’s people in the days of Judah Maccabee, here we discover dark forces at work to destroy the True Temple--and the True Israelite--Yeshua. But note His words: “this is your hour.” The time was short for the enemy; indeed, after the Temple of Yeshua’s Body was destroyed, in only three days it was rebuilt in glorious splendor, just as He had previously promised (see John 2:19).
Because of the sufferings of our Shamash--because the “light of the world” was “by darkness slain;” and because that destroyed Temple was rebuilt, never to be toppled again, we as His followers now rejoice in those words, “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
The Apostle Paul, reflecting on what Yeshua accomplished by His suffering, death, and resurrection, reminds us that we were not bystanders in Yeshua’s murder, but partook in it, ourselves being under the “dominion of darkness.” Yet he assures the believers that things are different now, on the other side of the Cross of our redemption. Observe Paul’s words in Ephesians 5:8-14:
For you [i.e. we] were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light— for the fruit of the light results in all goodness, righteousness, and truth— discerning what is pleasing to the Lord. Don’t participate in the fruitless works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what is done by them in secret. Everything exposed by the light is made clear, for what makes everything clear is light. Therefore it is said:
Get up, sleeper, and rise up from the dead,
and the Messiah will shine on you.
May these truths be our continual reflection, and our cause for rejoicing, during the Festival of Lights.
Continue on to part 6 of The Miracles, Mysteries and Histories of Hanukkah entitled, "Yeshua, The Greatest Miracle of All."