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451 CHAPTER 28 453THE LAST WINTER 453AT THE FEAST OF DEDICATION 1 453Jesus returned to Jerusalem in time to attend the Feast of Dedication during the last winter of His earthly life. This feast, like that of Tabernacles, was one of national rejoicing, and was celebrated annually for a period of eight days beginning on the 25th of Chislev, 2 which corresponds in part to our December. It was not one of the great feasts prescribed by Mosaic statute but had been established in 164 or 163 B.C. at the time of the rededication of the Temple of Zerubbabel following the rehabilitation of the sacred structure after its profane desecration by Antiochus Epiphanes, the pagan king of Syria. 3 While the festival was in progress, Jesus went to the temple and was seen walking in the part of the enclosure known as Solomon's Porch. 4 His presence soon became known to the Jews, who came crowding about Him in unfriendly spirit, ostensibly to ask questions. Their inquiry was: "How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly." The mere asking of such a question evidences the deep and disturbing impression which the ministry of Christ had produced among the official classes and the people generally; in their estimation, the works he had wrought appeared as worthy of the Messiah. 452The Lord's reply was indirect in form, though in substance and effect incisive and unmistakable. He referred them to His former utterances and to His continued works. "I told you," He said, "and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness of me. But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. I and my Father are one." The reference to what had been before told was a reminder of His teachings on the occasion of an earlier sojourn among them, when He had proclaimed Himself as the I AM, who was older and greater than Abraham, and of His other proclamation of Himself as the Good Shepherd. 5 452He could not well answer their inquiry by a simple unqualified affirmation, for by such He would have been understood as meaning that He claimed to be the Messiah according to their conception, the earthly king and conqueror for whom they professed to be looking. He was no such Christ as they had in mind; yet was He verily Shepherd and King to all who would hear His words and do His works; and to such He renewed the promise of eternal life and the assurance that no man could pluck them out of His own or the Father's hand. To this doctrine, both exalted and profound in scope, the casuistical Jews could offer no refutation, nor could they find therein the much desired excuse for open accusation; our Lord's concluding sentence, however, stirred the hostile throng to frenzy. "I and my Father are one" was His solemn declaration. 6
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