Yeshua and the Feast of Tabernacles: Part Five
by Sue Towne
Last week we looked at a dramatic event in Yeshua’s life that took place in the Temple during the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) and is recorded in John 7.
During the water ritual in the Temple, when the burnt offering had been slaughtered and laid on the altar, two priests mounted the platform on which the altar of sacrifice rested.
Just at the moment of high drama, when the priests were pouring golden pitchers of water and of wine into silver funnels at the altar of sacrifice, Yeshua interrupted the sacred liturgy.
In John 7:37-38 we heard Yeshua declare, “If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.’”
It’s as though the scriptures, songs and rituals that were part of Temple worship during Sukkot were a giant riddle from God. And on this day the Messiah of Israel, the Prophet among all prophets, revealed Himself to be the answer to the riddle.
Why did Yeshua choose that particular moment, while water and wine were being poured over the sacrifice, to make His declaration?
Well, after He said this, the Temple choirs and worshippers would have sung Isaiah 12:2-3, which speaks about drawing waters from the wells of salvation–“yeshuah” in Hebrew. We discussed that in last week’s column.
But here’s an additional thought. John was the only one of the Twelve who stood close to the cross during the crucifixion, and he is the only gospel writer who includes a very peculiar detail in his account of the death of Yeshua.
After Yeshua died, a soldier pierced His side with a spear. John says that “immediately there came out blood and water.” (John 19:34). John says he was an eyewitness of this.
Now we know medically speaking that the “water” was probably the plasma serum, which is part of human blood. The “blood” John speaks of is coagulated blood, from a heart that has stopped beating. The “water and blood” were evidence that Yeshua, the sacrificed Lamb of God, was dead.
When the water and wine were being poured over the dead sacrifice at the water ritual during Sukkot, they symbolized for the crowd water and blood. Furthermore, Leviticus 23 says that burnt offerings are to be made at the Feast of Tabernacles, but it doesn’t specify what kind of animal.
Leviticus 1 describes burnt offerings as being “animals from herd or flock.” But whichever it is, it is to be a “male without defect.”
It seems to me, then, that water and wine poured over the sacrificed animal at Sukkot is a picture of our own dear Lord’s death, portrayed like a prophetic riddle, year after year before all Israel. (Remember that all able-bodied males in Israel were required by scripture to celebrate Sukkot at the Temple.)
If you continue reading past Yeshua’s proclamation in John 7, you can see how His words stirred up the people and even divided them. Some even wanted to seize Him.
The next morning He comes into the Temple, this time to teach. (John 8)
Technically it’s the “eighth day” of this seven-day feast. Leviticus 23:36 says that the “eighth day” of the Feast of Tabernacles should be kept as a Sabbath. So people are not yet leaving town to return to their homes in Israel.
John tells us that Yeshua sits down in a large courtyard in the Temple complex called the Court of Women. As its title says, women could be in this part of the Temple complex, as well as Gentile men. This was the place in Jerusalem where Yeshua could reach the greatest variety of people.
As He is engaged in teaching, He is interrupted by a group of scribes and Pharisees who challenge Him to deal with a woman caught in the act of adultery. The very way He deals with her is a “teaching” that reveals the heart of God towards sinners.
But in verse 12 He is still teaching when He declares, “I am the light of the world!” Does this seem strange to you that He would suddenly make this statement after having dealt with the woman? His statement does not seem to fit in the flow of events at that point.
But here’s why what Yeshua said at that moment was not really so strange or “off the wall.” During Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) four gigantic golden branching lampstands were stationed in the Court of Women, each lampstand having four golden bowls.
The bowls were filled with oil each day by young priests who would have to climb a ladder to do so, because the lampstands were so tall. We could think of these as the equivalent of giant floodlights, to keep the crowds safe at night in the Temple.
So when Yeshua said He was the light of the world, He did so in plain sight of these great lampstands, which were probably only lit at night. It was like saying, “These lamps light up only this courtyard at night. But I will light your path wherever you go, if you will follow Me.”
Remember from our discussion several weeks ago that light is one of the major themes in the celebration of Sukkot. So here, once again, Yeshua is using a thematic element of the Feast of Tabernacles to reveal Himself to the people.
If we, as 21st century believers, will take the time to understand our Jewish roots, a lot of the puzzling statements Yeshua makes in the gospels will become clearer to us.
Yeshua IS the light of the world. But the Pharisees see His statement as arrogant boasting at best, and they continue their verbal wrangling with Him–until in verse 59 of chapter 8, they pick up stones to throw at Him.
But the text says that he “hid Himself.” Or rather, the Greek says literally, that He “was hidden.” Some manuscripts say that He actually walked through the midst of them in this hidden state, as He left the Temple.
This is interesting to me. Is it to you? I wonder…. Since those angry men were spiritually blinded to Yeshua’s true identity, were they perhaps for a few minutes literally blinded to His physical existence also, as He calmly walked out from among them?
That’s a tantalizing possibility. Remember how the men of Sodom were blinded when they tried to seize the angels?
Something to consider.
Next week I want to continue looking at what Yeshua did on that eighth day of the Feast of Tabernacles as we move into the events of John 9. The story continues….