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And It Was Winter

by Tim O'Hearn

It was Hanukkah and it was winter. The rabbi wandered in Solomon's Porch. This was a colonnaded portico on the eastern wall of the Temple complex, opposite the Western Wall, which within fifty years would be all that remained of the pride of King Herod. It was not unusual for people to wander through these porches; many a rabbi regularly taught his disciples there.

It was Hanukkah and it was winter. Inside the porticos, in a corner of the eastern courtyard stood a pile of rubble. It was not part of the construction yard for the building operation that had been going on almost fifty years, and which would continue for over thirty years more. It was not the trash pile for the masons and carvers, although it consisted of a pile of stones. It was more significant than that. This pile of rubble had once been part of the Temple itself. In fact, it had been the altar. It now lay in ruins because it had been replaced. Antiochus IV Epiphanes had defiled this altar by sacrificing swine on it. When the Temple was rededicated the old altar was torn down. Because it had been the altar, though, nobody knew just what to do with the stones. So they piled them here "until Messiah will come and tell us what to do with them."

It was Hanukkah and it was winter. This was the time of the feast commemorating the rededication of the Temple. It was an anniversary of that pile of rubble being placed there. And the rabbi was walking near that place. This was the one some said was Messiah. And now he could be found near the stones that awaited the coming of Messiah.

It was Hanukkah and it was winter. Naturally some people were thinking of the meaning of the stones. Naturally, when someone saw the rabbi walking there he gathered a group of people and went to ask the rabbi a question. "Are we going to have to keep waiting for Messiah, or are you going to tell us clearly that you are he? If you are Messiah, what shall we do with this pile of rocks?"

It was Hanukkah and it was winter. The rabbi paused, and then answered. "I have told you already, but you didn't listen. I showed you by signs, and you did not see. You don't want to listen because you don't want to hear the truth. I and the Father are one."

It was Hanukkah and it was winter. Somebody in the crowd said, "Now we know what to do with these rocks. Use them to stone this blasphemer." Many joined him in taking up the very rocks they had been asking about. When the rabbi asked for which of his good works they stoned him they replied, "It is not for your good works, but because you applied the Sh'ma to yourself." [The Sh'ma reads: Sh'ma Yisroel, Adonoi eloheinu, Adonoi echad; Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God, the Lord is one.]

It was Hanukkah and it was winter. The rabbi answered, "You don't even know your own scriptures. But if you won't listen to them, at least pay attention to what I do." Then he escaped from them.

It was Hanukkah and it was winter. It was forty years later. The rabbi had been executed on a cross. He had come out of the grave and returned to his Father. People no longer asked what to do with the pile of stones because they were now part of a larger pile. They had not been used to stone the Messiah. They had seen the Messiah and nobody needed to worry about them any more, because the Temple was gone. It was Hanukkah and it was winter. And God now dwelt in the hearts of His people and not in a house made by a tyrannical half-breed Jewish king.

(Based on John 10:22-39)

(Hanukkah begins on November 30, 2002)