With Easter celebrations behind us, we now go backward in our study of the scriptures—back to the autumn before Christ’s crucifixion. We see Jesus testifying of Himself bravely in Jerusalem while the Jews gathered for two important holidays: Sukkoth (the Feast of Tabernacles) and Hanukkah (the Feast of Lights). Sukkoth is a high holy pilgrimage holiday while Hanukkah is traditional but not necessarily commanded by God to be celebrated.
Jesus walked in Galilee (John 7:1):
After these things Jesus walked in Galilee: for he would not walk in Jewry, because the Jews sought to kill him.
Jesus avoided Judea, especially Jerusalem, because it was the seat of the Sanhedrin and the center of influence for both the Pharisees and the Sadducees. It was very dangerous for Him to go there.
The Feast of Tabernacles was at hand (John 7:2):
The Jews made 3 pilgrimages to the temple during the religious year to celebrate 7 high holy feasts commanded by God during the Exodus from Egypt. In the spring, there were 3 symbolic holy days within the 8-day pilgrimage: Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and the Honored Son first fruits offering. During the summer, there was one pilgrimage with one holy convocation, the Feast of Weeks.
During the fall, there were 3 holy convocations: the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles.
The symbolism of the spring holidays testifies of sacrifice and Jesus’ first coming, and the symbolism of the fall holidays testifies of final judgment and His Second Coming. There were symbols in the Feast of Tabernacles that Jesus wanted to associate with Himself to help the Jews believe in Him.
Jesus does not go to the feast with His “brethren” (John 7:3 – 9):
Jesus’ “brethren” were not His apostles. They were family members and/or associates in Galilee. They wanted Jesus to show His power in Judea. Jesus urged them to go and said He would not go, but He went alone in secret.
The Jews seek Jesus at the feast (John 7: 10 – 13):
A huge polarization was occurring among the Jews. Some believed and some reviled. Note the palpable fear in these chapters of John, however. Jews who professed a belief in Jesus were “cast out.” That the Jews sought Jesus may mean that they had spotted His brethren or that they expected His attendance because He was devout. Note that many who made the pilgrimage were from outside the Holy Land. The news of Christ’s miracles and teachings had surely spread, but they would be merely rumors to pilgrims from other areas.
Jesus teaches in the temple (John 7:14 – 44):
When Jesus taught, His wisdom and knowledge were readily apparent, but He was not a scholar and had never been formally educated. The people wondered at this. Jesus told them that God can teach them if they seek Him. The people accused Him of breaking the Sabbath by healing on the Sabbath day. Jesus reasoned with them that if according to the Law of Moses you can circumcise on the Sabbath, what’s wrong with making a person whole on the Sabbath?
Therefore some of them of Jerusalem said, “Isn’t this he whom they seek to kill? (John 7:25).
It was apparent to the pilgrims that the Jewish leaders wanted to kill Jesus. Several times during the feast people or officers of the Sanhedrin tried to take Jesus, but they were not able because His time to offer Himself up had not come.
But of the multitude, many believed in him. They said, “When the Christ comes, he won’t do more signs than those which this man has done, will he?” (v 31).
Use the word “Messiah” instead of Jesus in this verse. The Messiah the Jews expected was not (is not) anywhere near as powerful as Jesus.
Jesus uses the fall holidays to testify of Himself (John 7:32 – 53):
The chief priest was Caiaphas and he was a Sadducee, so both the Pharisees and Sadducees were interested in taking Jesus and doing away with Him. They were even more desperate to do so when they heard the reasoning of the people that Jesus was more powerful and wise than the Messiah they had been expecting.
Jesus told the wicked that they cannot go where He is going, and no one understood that He was speaking of His Heavenly Father’s kingdom, which is only for the righteous. They wondered whether he was talking about Galilee. Their thoughts were bound to the mundanities of this earthly life. They couldn’t think large enough to get the picture.
The symbolism of the fall holidays is as follows:
– Rosh HaShanah (Feast of Trumpets) — Awake, arise, and gather because the wicked are being separated from the righteous; may your name be written in the Book of Life.
– Ten days of repentance called the Days of Awe
– Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) — The day the high priest enters the Holy of Holies; blood is symbolically spread everywhere, including the veil of the temple; the sins of Israel are placed upon the scapegoat.
– Sukkoth, the Feast of Tabernacles — Final judgment; welcoming of the Messiah; booths that represent the booths in the wilderness, but also the pavilion of God; the waving of palm branches in seven circuits around the temple altar.
The final day of Sukkoth is called The Last Great Day. The Last Great Day exactly mirrors Passover in the Jewish Calendar and they divide the year in half (Jesus came in the “meridian of time”). There was a formal water libation at the temple wherein there was a procession from the temple to the Pool of Siloam led by the high priest. The high priest would fetch water and carry it back to the temple altar, representing the water that sprung from the rock Moses struck with his staff in the wilderness. Three trumpet blasts were sounded and Isaiah 12:3 was recited: “Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation!” Jesus inserted Himself into that ceremony. He stood before the high priests and the pilgrims and announced that He is the living water!
Now on the last and greatest day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink! (v 37).
After the first day of the Feast of Trumpets (which was a High Sabbath), and from that day on, pilgrims would ascend the steps to the temple with music and celebration. In the temple courtyard were 4 huge menorot (but these were 4-branched rather than 7-branched candlesticks) which were set alight as part of the festivities. After calling Himself the living water, and after the experience with the woman taken in adultery, Jesus stood in front of these giant, fiery lamps and stated to the Pharisees,
I am the light of the world. He who follows me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life (John 8:12)
The Pharisees and chief priests send officers to take Jesus:
This act caused a huge stir among the people. Some wanted to believe that Jesus was the Messiah, but He was a Galilean and the Messiah was supposed to be from Bethlehem.
The officers reported to the chiefest among the Sanhedrin empty-handed. They couldn’t bring themselves to arrest Christ. Nicodemus happened to be there for this event (perhaps as one of Christ’s “brethren” from Galilee) and defended Jesus: “Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?” The priests proclaimed, “…out of Galilee ariseth no prophet.”
The woman taken in adultery (John 8: 1 – 11):
Jesus went to the Mount of Olives (to the east of the temple) and then went down onto the temple grounds. When the woman taken in adultery was brought to Him He looked downward and wrote on the ground twice. Some have speculated as to what He may have been writing. Take a look at this image…
Hebrew has no numbers. Hebrew letters represent numbers and have numerical values alone or in combinations that make words. Any Jew seeing this list of Hebrew letters would know that they represent the 10 commandments and most would know what those commandments are. It’s possible that Jesus wrote these letters in the sand or on the stones and the men reviewed their own behavior in relation to each commandment. One by one, their guilt caused them to depart. (From the top right reading downward — aleph (1); bet (2); gimmel (3); dalet (4); heh (5); and the left column top to bottom — vav (6); zayin (7); het (8); tet (9); yod (10).) [There’s actually an error in this image. The vav and zayin are switched.]
Jesus explains that He is the Son of God (John 8:12 – 59):
To some who heard Jesus, the Spirit witnessed that He was the Son of God. But those without the Spirit were absolutely confused. Christ seemed to be speaking in riddles. They couldn’t open their minds and hearts enough to admit that Jesus was God’s Son and the Messiah. They thought the Messiah would be a king, not a humble Son of God.
Jesus went farther to separate those with the Spirit from those without the Spirit when He began to talk about Abraham. Abraham was a prophet who rejoiced in Christ’s prophesied coming and sacrifice. “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.” In this sentence, Jesus showed His Divine Sonship by revealing that He had seen Abraham and known that Abraham had visions of the future arrival of Jesus. This would only be possible if Jesus had divine power, so this really confused the Jews who could not perceive by the Spirit.
The man who was blind from birth (John 9):
Jesus healed the man who was blind from birth and the Jewish leaders went to great lengths to get the whole story. First of all, Jesus healed him on the Sabbath. Secondly, people wondered if the blind man or his parents had caused the blindness because of their own sins. Jewish leaders interviewed the man, his associates, and his parents (vs 20 – 22).
His parents answered them, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but how he now sees, we don’t know; or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. He is of age. Ask him. He will speak for himself.” His parents said these things because they feared the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that if any man would confess him as Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue.
That last phrase “he should be put out of the synagogue” means that if a man confessed that Jesus is the Christ, he would be disfellowshipped. The parents were too fearful to confess, but the son freely did so and was indeed kicked out (vs 30 – 34).
The man answered them, “How amazing! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, he listens to him. Since the world began it has never been heard of that anyone opened the eyes of someone born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”
They answered him, “You were altogether born in sins, and do you teach us?” Then they threw him out.
Jesus heard that the man had been cast out, and He sought the man (vs 35 – 38):
Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and finding him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of God?”
He answered, “Who is he, Lord, that I may believe in him?”
Jesus said to him, “You have both seen him, and it is he who speaks with you.”
He said, “Lord, I believe!” and he worshiped him.
“And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter” (John 10:22):
The scriptures don’t tell us whether Jesus stayed in Judea after the fall holidays or returned to Galilee and went back to Jerusalem again for Hanukkah. He may have spent the months (September – December) in Bethany with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.
Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights or Feast of Dedication, celebrates the rededication of the temple after the Maccabees defeated a Greco-Syrian alliance under Antiochus around 160 B.C. The Greco-Syrians had murdered the Jews, forbade them to worship, and desecrated the temple. When the Maccabees triumphed, they cleansed the temple and rededicated it. The oil for the sacred lamps (menorot) was depleted and there was only enough to keep the eternal light burning for 1 day, but the oil miraculously lasted for 8 days.
Jesus was walking on Solomon’s porch of the great temple of Herod. The Jews said He should just tell them outright if He was the Messiah (John 10:25–27):
Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you don’t believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name, these testify about me. But you don’t believe, because you are not of my sheep, as I told you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
The Jews tried to stone Him, but since it was not Jesus’ time, He left Jerusalem and went down into the Judean desert where John had been baptizing. He performed miracles and taught there (vs 41-42):
Many came to him. They said, “John indeed did no sign, but everything that John said about this man is true.” Many believed in him there.