As Jesus celebrates the next Jewish feast, in this case Hannukah or the Feast of Dedication, we get another “I am…” statement: “I Am the Good Shepherd.” This is not only a beautiful metaphor of Jesus’ ministry, but also a public accusation of the temple leadership.
While the Feast of Dedication was a celebration of the anniversary of the dedication of the temple, it also became a feast of remembrance of the Maccabean Revolt. In the time between the testaments, a time not recorded in scripture (except for the Apocrypha, a collection of writings inducted into the Catholic bible but not the Protestant one), a group of Jewish rebels called the Maccabees rose up against the Romans in a successful, if temporary, revolt. Hannukah was a celebration of this revolt.
During this festival, the temple priests read aloud from the book of Zechariah the prophecy of God’s judgement on the bad shepherds of Israel at the time, namely the priests and rulers. It was likely during the reading about God’s judgement on the Bad Shepherds that Jesus stood publicly and proclaimed Himself the Good Shepherd. While the lower class people would love this creative way of calling out their current leadership and likening them to the bad shepherds of Zechariah, it also placed Jesus in a role reserved for God alone, that of Shepherd of His People.
It was yet another way that Jesus identified Himself, through the Jewish feasts, as both God in the flesh and the true leader of God’s people.