Jesus and the Feast of Tabernacles


One of the most dynamic Festivals of God is the Feast of Tabernacles. It occurs in the autumn in late September or early October. What is fascinating about this Festival is that in the New Testament, in the Gospel of John, and in chapter 7, the apostle John records that Jesus kept the Feast of Tabernacles.

The Feast of Tabernacles is an eight day festival that begins at sundown on the first day of the feast as recorded in Leviticus 23 verses 33-44. Leviticus 23 tells us about the Holy Days of God, starting with the weekly (Saturday) Sabbath, and continuing with the seven annual Holy Day Sabbaths. God reveals His plan of salvation to us through His Holy Days.

Jesus Goes to the Feast of Tabernacles

"After these things Jesus walked in Galilee; for He did not want to walk in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill Him. {2} Now the Jews' Feast of Tabernacles was at hand. {3} His brothers therefore said to Him, "Depart from here and go into Judea, that Your disciples also may see the works that You are doing. {4} "For no one does anything in secret while he himself seeks to be known openly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world." {5} For even His brothers did not believe in Him. {6} Then Jesus said to them, "My time has not yet come, but your time is always ready. {7} "The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil. {8} "You go up to this feast. I am not yet going up to this feast, for My time has not yet fully come." {9} When He had said these things to them, He remained in Galilee. {10} But when His brothers had gone up, then He also went up to the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret. {11} Then the Jews sought Him at the feast, and said, "Where is He?" {12} And there was much complaining among the people concerning Him. Some said, "He is good"; others said, "No, on the contrary, He deceives the people."

Letís notice a few things in this passage. In verse 1, it says that the Jews sought to kill him. This is speaking of the Jewish leaders, the scribes and Pharisees, not necessarily the common people.

In verse 2, it says "The Jews' Feast of Tabernacles." Letís see what God called it? Leviticus 23 is the chapter that deals with all of Godís Holy Days In Leviticus 23 verses 1 and 2 it says, "And the LORD (YHVH, Yehovah or Jehovah) spoke to Moses, saying, {2} "Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: 'The feasts of the LORD, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, these are My feasts." Whoís Feasts are these? The LORD said that theses feasts are His feasts. Letís notice how this chapter closes in verse 44, "So Moses declared to the children of Israel the feasts of the LORD."

Why did John call it the Jews' Feast of Tabernacles? The answer is that at that time when John wrote his gospel, the only people keeping the Feast of Tabernacles were the Jewish people.

Now letís notice verse 5 in this passage, "For even His brothers did not believe in Him." Jesus had four brothers whose names were James, Joses, Simon, and Judas (Matthew 13:55) and it sounds like none of them believed in Him. In Matthew 13 and verse 57, it says that a "prophet is without honor in his own country." This would also apply to His own family.

In verse 7, Jesus said, "The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil." On several occasions John in his gospel talked about how the evil of the world is compared to darkness and Jesus is the light of the world (John 1:5, 8:12, 12:35 & 46.) Letís notice John 3:19, "And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil." We will see more about this analogy as we continue.

Jesus Teaches at the Feast

Letís continue in verse 14 of John 7, "Now about the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and taught. {15} And the Jews marveled, saying, "How does this Man know letters, having never studied?" {16} Jesus answered them and said, "My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me. {17} "If anyone wants to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority. {18} "He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him. {19} "Did not Moses give you the law, yet none of you keeps the law? Why do you seek to kill Me?" {20} The people answered and said, "You have a demon. Who is seeking to kill You?" {21} Jesus answered and said to them, "I did one work, and you all marvel. {22} "Moses therefore gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. {23} "If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath, so that the law of Moses should not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made a man completely well on the Sabbath? {24} "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment."

Notice that in verse 23 that Jesus was talking about healing a man on the Sabbath. This account is in John 5.

Letís see what else Jesus taught at the Feast of Tabernacles. John 7 and verse 28, "Then Jesus cried out, as He taught in the temple, saying, "You both know Me, and you know where I am from; and I have not come of Myself, but He who sent Me is true, whom you do not know. {29} "But I know Him, for I am from Him, and He sent Me." {30} Therefore they sought to take Him; but no one laid a hand on Him, because His hour had not yet come. {31} And many of the people believed in Him, and said, "When the Christ comes, will He do more signs than these which this Man has done?"

Notice in verse 30, that it says, "they sought to take Him; but no one laid a hand on Him, because His hour had not yet come." Jesus had to be careful what He did because He knew that He would have to die for all of mankind and the timing of His death was to be at the Passover which is in the spring. The Feast of Tabernacles is in the autumn, so here is a six month period of time between these two festivals.

On the Last Day, that Great Day of the Feast

Verse 37 of John 7, "On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. {38} "He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water." {39} But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified."

Jesus was glorified after He had been crucified at Passover and resurrected after three days and three nights in the grave (Matthew 12:40.) The Holy Spirit was not given to Jesusí disciples until Pentecost (Acts 2) which was 50 days after the Sabbath during the Days of Unleavened Bread.

Now letís back up to verse 37 where it says, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.{38} He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water."

During the Feast of Tabernacles there were special observances and traditions. The most spectacular of these was the water drawing ceremony.

In order to understand Jesus' teaching here, we need a bit of background from Leviticus 23. There, Moses instructed the people that the first day and the eighth day of the festival were to be special high Sabbath days, holy convocations, set apart from the others. But the seventh day became known as "the Great Day of the Feast." The Jewish people developed special observances and traditions to mark this special day in Israel. The most spectacular of these was the water drawing ceremony.


Imagine a whole parade of worshipers and flutists led by the priest to the pool of Siloam (where Jesus told the blind man to bathe his eyes after He put clay over them). The priest has two golden pitchers. One is for wine. He fills the other with water from the pool. As the flutes continue to play, a choir of Israelites chants Psalms 118. The whole procession heads back to the Temple through the Water Gate. A trumpet sounds as the priest enters the Temple area. He approaches the altar where two silver basins are waiting. He pours wine into one of the basins as a drink offering to the Lord and water from the pool of Siloam into the other.
The whole ceremony, with the parade and the flutes and the singing, was such a joyful occasion that one of the ancient rabbis wrote: "Anyone who has not seen this water ceremony has never seen rejoicing in his life."

The ceremony was to thank God for His bounty and to ask Him to provide rain for the crops in the coming year. Today, many people take water for granted. We simply turn on the tap and instantly we have water! Not so in the Middle East during the first century. Water was often scarce. The people were very much aware of their dependence on God for the rains that were so vital for the preservation of life. No wonder the prophets came to see rain as a symbol of salvation and the work of God's Holy Spirit: "I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be cleanÖ" (Ezekiel 36:25).

No wonder then that Jesus stood in the Temple on this great day of the feast and cried out: "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water" (John 7:37-38).

It is very possible that during this water ceremony Jesus was inspired to talk about water and thirst.

What did Jesus tell us in the ĎSermon on the Mountí that we are to thirst after? "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled" (Matthew 5:6). What is righteousness? "All Your commandments are righteousness" (Psalms 119:172). Jesus said, "If you love Me, keep My commandments" (John 14:15).

Letís digress for a moment and look at the discussion that Jesus had with the woman of Samaria in John 4 verse 9, she said to Jesus, "How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?" For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. {10} Jesus answered and said to her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water." {11} The woman said to Him, "Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? {12} "Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?" {13} Jesus answered and said to her, "Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, {14} "but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life."

Notice in verse 10 the phrase "gift of God." The apostle Paul tells us in Romans 6 verse 23, " For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."

In verse 14 of John 4, Jesus said, "Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst." Why? Because the water that Jesus offers represents eternal life.

How do we drink of the water that Jesus offers? A good place to begin is in the ĎSermon on the Mountí in Matthew chapters 5 through 7. Read it and apply it to be a good Christian.

Ask the question, What Would Jesus Do? How would you know what Jesus would do? You can not go on your own assumptions of what Jesus would do. You may be wrong because of your lack of knowledge of the Scriptures. You have to read the words of Jesus in the Bible. (Many Bibles have the words of Jesus in red lettering. )

The apostle Peter said in 1 Peter chapter 2, verse 21, "For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps."

Jesus is the Light of the World

"Now early in the morning Jesus came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them" (John 8:2). Continuing in verse 12, "Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life." ..... {28} Then Jesus said to them, "When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things. {29} "And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him." {30} As He spoke these words, many believed in Him."

There was another event that happened at the Feast of Tabernacle that Jesus used to point to Himself as the fulfillment of Scripture.

There were gigantic candelabras that stood within the court of the women. Each of the four golden candelabras is said to have been 50 cubits high. A cubit is somewhere between 18 and 22 inches, so we're talking about candelabras that were about 75 feet tall! Each candelabra had four branches, and at the top of every branch there was a large bowl. Four young men bearing 10 gallon pitchers of oil would climb ladders to fill the four golden bowls on each candelabra. And then the oil in those bowls was ignited.

Picture sixteen beautiful blazes leaping toward the sky from these golden lamps. The Temple was on a hill above the rest of the city, so the glorious glow was a sight for the entire city to see. In addition to the light, Levitical musicians played their harps, lyres, cymbals and trumpets to make joyful music to the Lord. What a glorious celebration! The light was to remind the people of how God's Shekinah glory had once filled His Temple.

But in the person of Jesus, God's glory was once again present in the Temple. And He used that celebration to announce that very fact. He was teaching in the court of women, perhaps standing right next to those magnificent candelabras when He declared to all who were gathered there, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" (John 8:12).

Throughout the Bible, "darkness" is used to refer to evil things that go against Godís plan and way of life. "Light" is used to refer to the good things that please God. There is a lot of "darkness" in this world, all kinds of evil, hatred, war, murder, violence, drugs, rape, sex, adultery, lying, cheating, stealing, abortion, and SIN.

"For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed" (John 3:20).

The apostle John started his gospel with the analogy that Jesus is light. " In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. {2} He was in the beginning with God. {3} All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. {4} In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. {5} And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. {6} There was a man sent from God, whose name was John (John the Baptist). {7} This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. {8} He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. {9} That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. {10} He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. {11} He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. {12} But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name."

Letís notice that light and truth go together, "Oh, send out Your light and Your truth! Let them lead me; Let them bring me to Your holy hill And to Your tabernacle" (Psalms 43:3). Notice what John says in chapter 3 verse 21, "But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God."

Truth is to be sincere and honest in your actions, character, and speech. It is based on facts, true statements and propositions.

When Jesus began to preach, Matthew recorded in chapter 4 and verse 12, "Now when Jesus heard that John the Baptist had been put in prison, He departed to Galilee. {13} And leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali, {14} that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: {15} "The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles: {16} The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned." {17} From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

Notice that in this passage that people of Israel are mentioned, but in verse 15 the word Gentiles is mentioned. All of these people sat in darkness, deceived, not knowing about Jesus Christ, not knowing that "there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). In verse 16 of Matthew 4, Matthew says, "The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light" The Ďlightí refers to Jesus (verse 17) and His beginning to preach about repentance and his gospel or good news of the kingdom of God (Mark 1:1-2, 14).

In the ĎSermon on the Mountí Jesus said, "You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. {15} "Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. {16} "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:14-16).

Jesus is saying that we are to be lights in the world of darkness. So how can we be a light? Letís think about the moon. It is a big rock. Our sun is a star emitting light. When we look at the moon, we are seeing reflected light from the sun. Therefore, Jesus is the Son of God and we must let His light reflect from us. How? We must set a right example, keeping His commandments (John 14:15), and following in His footsteps (1 Peter 2:21).

Many have refused to have their own darkness exposed by that Light. But there were those who were drawn to the Light, whose hearts burned with the truth of Jesus.

In Conclusion: We are to follow Jesusí example and walk in his footsteps (1 Peter 2:21). Since Jesus kept the Feast of Tabernacles, donít you think you should too?