Tag Archives: Light of the World

The Light of the World Is Born

Shalom in the name of our glorious Messiah!

On behalf of the Chosen People Ministries global family, I wish you a very Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!

For many of my fellow Jewish people, the very idea of linking these two holidays together is awkward. It still feels a little strange to me, even after being a Jesus follower for the past fifty years. Yet, I realize that having one without the other is impossible.

Let me explain. The story of Hanukkah describes the ways God protected and preserved His chosen people. If Antiochus Epiphanes destroyed the Jewish people, then how would Mary have given birth to the Jewish Messiah, Jesus? In other words, “Without Hanukkah—there would be no Christmas!”

I continue to reflect upon the similarities and differences between Christmas and Hanukkah. The similarities include the theme of lights, giving gifts, families gathering, and viewing the God of Israel as the deliverer of His people. Yet, the differences between the holidays loom large because there is no other time of year when Christians think more about the incarnation—God becoming human—than on Christmas.

HE IS THE REASON FOR THE SEASON!

It is still astounding to me, and largely unknown by my Jewish people, how the only mention of Hanukkah in the Bible is found in the Gospel of John chapter 10. But, of course, if you have read our newsletter for a while or spent time on our website, you know Jewish people do not accept the New Testament as God’s Word. I do, as does all our staff, but again, this is not a typical Jewish view.

The traditional Jewish view of the New Testament is one of the most difficult challenges we face in bringing the gospel to the Jewish people.

I still remember the day I realized Jesus was the Messiah. It happened after I read the New Testament and understood Jesus was Jewish and celebrated the Jewish holidays—including Hanukkah! Then, as I continued reading, I realized the New Testament, especially the Gospels, seemed like part two of the Hebrew Scriptures.

In the Old Testament, we read about the promises of God to the Jewish people and the nations of the world. In the New Testament, we see how those promises are fulfilled in Jesus the Messiah. The Bible, both Old and New Testaments, tells one magnificent and seamless story of God’s plan for redemption.

GOD IN THE FLESH

This incredible story, told through both testaments, made perfect sense to me. Even more importantly, I fell in love with the Messiah Jesus and believed He was indeed God wrapped in human flesh!

Yet, accepting His deity is difficult for most Jewish people, as we are raised to believe God has no physical form. Jewish people expect the Messiah to be a religious, political, and military leader, not God in the flesh.

Modern Judaism considers the first two commandments—to have no other gods before us nor to create graven images of God—the reason why the very idea of an incarnation is unacceptable.

The Christmas/Hanukkah season intensifies these differences as it is increasingly difficult for Jewish people to avoid the issue of Jesus’ deity! Every nativity scene reminds us of the New Testament teaching about how God became a man. As believers, we know the Messiah’s deity is true and fulfills God’s promises to the Jewish people found in Isaiah 7:14 and again in chapter 9, verses 6 and 7.

In Micah 5:2, we learn this leader in Israel, the Messiah, was to be born in Bethlehem, whose “goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.”

The Hebrew Scriptures present unshakable evidence for the deity of the Messiah throughout its pages, yet most Jewish people do not recognize or accept it. This conflict over the deity of Jesus is at the heart and core of Christmas and Hanukkah.

It was during the celebration of Hanukkah when Jesus made one of the clearest statements about His deity. We also see how the Jewish people of His day took exception to His declaration of divinity:

“I and the Father are one.” The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them, “I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?” The Jews answered Him, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.” Jesus answered them, “. . . If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father.” Therefore they were seeking again to seize Him, and He eluded their grasp. (John 10:30–39, emphasis added)

Have you ever wondered why the Jewish leaders had such a strong reaction to Jesus’ pronouncement? It seems to stretch far beyond theological disagreement as, after all, they wanted to stone Him! It is impossible to understand the reaction of the Jewish leaders without knowing the background of Hanukkah.

THE HANUKKAH STORY

So, I hope you do not mind me telling you the Hanukkah story. It is always a blessing for me.

You will not find the story of Hanukkah in the Bible. Instead, it appears in the books of the Maccabees, which are part of the Apocrypha, writings outside the canon of Scripture. Jewish people view these books as historical documents but not divinely inspired Scripture.

Again, please allow me to summarize the story of Hanukkah in my own words.

Antiochus IV Epiphanes was a Seleucid king who reigned from 175–164 BCE over part of the Greek Empire, which Alexander the Great’s four generals divided among themselves upon his death. Antiochus bore the title Epiphanes (God manifest), implying his “incarnation” of the Greek god Zeus. Jewish people called Antiochus the madman (Epimanes) because of his cruel and erratic behavior.

This polytheistic madman wanted the Jewish people to follow Hellenistic ways and periodically outlawed Jewish worship and practices. Finally, he sent his emissaries throughout Israel along with a portable statue of himself and demanded the Jewish people bow down and worship him as a Greek god incarnate. But those faithful among the Jewish community could not stomach idolatry and would not bow to the statue of Antiochus Epiphanes!

The Jewish people who lived in a small town called Modi’in led a grassroots rebellion against the Syrian Greeks from 167–160 BCE under the leadership of Mattathias, a Levitical priest, along with his son Judah.

The Maccabees fought hard for seven years and in 160 BCE defeated the Syrian Greeks, retaking Jerusalem and the Temple. But their joy turned quickly to horror when they discovered that Antiochus sacrificed a pig on the Temple altar.

The Maccabees dismantled the holy altar and removed the stones, which they believed to be beyond cleansing. Jewish tradition tells us they heaped the stones into a pile in the Temple area where they would await the coming of a great prophet to cleanse them. Then, they built a new altar.

JEWISH LOYALTY TO THE ONE TRUE GOD

Hanukkah celebrates the victory of faithfulness over idolatry—more specifically, worshiping the image of a man who believed he was the incarnation of a false god. In this instance, it was Antiochus. Jewish spiritual loyalty resisted idolatry and refused to worship the image of a man claiming to be god.

May I speculate? I believe this spiritual loyalty and resistance to the idea of an incarnation was a strategy the devil used to repel the Jewish people from the actual incarnation of God as predicted by the prophets of Israel. Who can blame the Jewish leaders for resisting what, in their understanding, was an idolatrous statement by Jesus in declaring His oneness with the Father (John 10)? The religious loyalty of the Jewish leaders blinded them. They did not recognize God was fulfilling the promises of Scripture through taking on flesh and dying for the sins of the Jewish people and the world (Isaiah 9:6–7, 53:1–12; Micah 5:2, etc.)!

I cannot blame my people for resisting idolatry. However, the leaders already observed a Messiah who healed, performed miracles, and claimed to fulfill the prophecy of the One who was indeed God in the flesh. He opened the eyes of the blind, fed multitudes miraculously, cast out demons, and fulfilled the messianic qualifications peppered throughout the Hebrew Scriptures.

My prayer is for both Jews and Gentiles who have not yet concluded that Jesus is God in the flesh. Understanding this and coming to know the One who is the reason for the season, the son of David, and the Savior of the world is life changing! I pray the Lord will lead each of us to make the truth of His deity known among both Jews and Gentiles in the days ahead.

Thank you so much for your prayers and sacrificial support of Your Mission to the Jewish People. We have some incredible outreach projects on the horizon, which I will tell you about in the future. Meanwhile, I pray your love for the Messiah will grow more profound as you reflect upon the miracle of the incarnation!

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Filed under Anti-Semitism, Holidays & Festivals, Jewish Christian Dialogue, Jewish Holidays, Jews and Christians, Judaism, Messianic Jewish, Uncategorized

Sharing the Light of Jesus

This season of the year reminds me of the beautiful passage in the book of Psalms in which David declares, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps 119:105).

It is a joy to follow the Light of the World, Jesus (Yeshua), the Messiah. John pointed to the true light who enlightens all who believe:

In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light. There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. (John 1:4–9)

The Scriptures teach us Jesus is the Incarnate Word (John 1:14)—God in the flesh—who is the ultimate light of God and reflects the glory once seen resting upon the mercy seat in the Temple.

Jesus let His disciples know that He is the Light of the World: “Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life’” (John 8:12).

As His disciples, He calls us to reflect His light as instruments dispelling the darkness of our broken and sinful world. 

THE LIGHT SHINES AMONG UKRAINIANS AND RUSSIANS SUFFERING THE RAVAGES OF WAR

I recently received a note from Maxim, one of our Israeli staff members who is shining the light of the Lord among his fellow Russian speakers as they immigrate to Israel from Ukraine and Russia. So many Russian Jewish people are trying to escape the forced draft and general oppression of the Russian leadership, and we are doing all we can to reach them. We are engaged with this growing group of almost one hundred thousand, and more enter Israel daily. Many have arrived with just the clothes on their backs, and some receive help from the Israeli government.

Let me allow Maxim to speak for himself!

Shalom. 

I hope you have a blessed holiday. I want to share with you about our first family conference and thank you for this opportunity, especially for the financial support. The idea for this project was brewing for several years. While leading children’s camps, it occurred to me it would be good to do something for families with children. In connection with the war in Ukraine and the arrival of new immigrants from Ukraine and Russia to Israel, we decided the time had come for a family conference. At our children’s camp last summer, many kids who attended were new immigrants with overwhelming needs we tried to meet with the love of Jesus! 

We held the family conference last month in Haifa. We booked thirty-four rooms, and there were more than eighty of us. Most of the invitees were new immigrants from Ukraine and Russia, and many of them were non-believers. We also invited families from local congregations to get to know the newly arrived immigrants. The theme of the conference was “Our Family Starts with Me.” 

Everyone arrived on a Thursday afternoon, and then, after supper, we gathered together for the first meeting, where we joined together for worship and a Bible lesson. After the meeting, we took the children on a night safari to the Haifa Zoo. On Friday, we celebrated with a beautiful Sabbath dinner, played exciting games, and everyone enjoyed themselves. We had meetings twice a day for an hour and a half. 

One of our Ukrainian Jewish missionaries did an excellent job of leading worship. I prepared lessons, which were more like conversations, during which participants could express their opinions and raise pressing issues. There was a lot of free time for families to talk among themselves and with each other. The kids had the best time playing ping-pong, during which we had many conversations. 

The most important part of the retreat was our time with the parents. They are receptive to the gospel and our love for many reasons, especially because they are hurting. I thank God for this opportunity and the newly opened doors. 

Thank you again for your support, prayers, and participation. 

Please pray for our upcoming trip to the country of Georgia with a group of twenty-two elderly Russian and Ukrainian Holocaust survivors. 

Blessings during this holiday season, and remember to pray for us! 

Maxim 

HIS LIGHT SHINES IN THE DARKNESS

The Lord has been so generous to each one of us. Without your partnership, we could never provide the funding that Maxim needs to be a light to the new immigrants to Israel who are escaping a hellish war in Ukraine. It is going to be a harsh winter in Ukraine, and Your Mission to the Jewish People is there on the ground, bringing heating devices, food, medicine, and various emergency services in partnership with other ministries to help Ukrainians survive the aggression of the Russian military. 

May I also ask you to pray for our ministries among the very religious Jewish community? I never thought I would see the breakthroughs we are witnessing today. In Israel, New York City, the United Kingdom, and online, we receive requests from ultra-Orthodox Jewish people who want to learn more about Jesus. I cannot provide further details, but I am asking you to pray. We are confident now quite a few among the very devout are seeking the Lord. We must find and nurture them; what we have planned should help. I am sorry to be so vague, but there are considerable community consequences when ultra-religious Jewish people come to believe in Jesus. 

I am praying the light of the Messiah will shine brightly in the hearts of religious Jewish people who recognize He died for their sins, rose from the grave, and provides abundant life now and forever. 

Would you join me in praying for the most religious of all the Jewish community? These folks could one day make up 50 percent or more of the Jewish population worldwide. We talked about these precious people in the past, but now is the time for us to take further loving and sensitive action to make the Light of the World known in every corner of the religious Jewish community. 

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Filed under evangelism, Holidays & Festivals, Israel, Jewish Christian Dialogue, Jewish Holidays, Jews and Christians, Judaism, Kiev, Messianic Jewish, Uncategorized