Fall in America is known for festivals, football, and family events such as Thanksgiving. Jesus, as a Jew, would have been looking forward to the fall feasts of ancient Israel. The first was the Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah), which was the start of the Jewish New Year usually held around our September, followed ten days later by The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). Five days after this was the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot).
The reason Sukkot is referenced a “feast” is this was the time when the crops were harvested and thanks was given to God for all He had done for His people. It was Israel’s Thanksgiving. The Feast of Tabernacles was also a reminder of when God delivered Israel, through Moses, out of slavery in Egypt and their time in the wilderness or desert. The Israelites lived in tabernacles or booths on their 40-year journey to the Promised Land. “Sukkot” is the plural form of “sukkah” which literally means booth or hut. Many people, even today, celebrate this feast and build their own sukkah in their yard.
In John’s gospel, this disciple of Jesus tells us about an important time when Jesus went to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles. This festival was one of three pilgrimages a Jew would take to Jerusalem throughout the year. Therefore, the city would have had many more people in it than usual and everyone was expected to be there.
By this time in Jesus’ ministry, the Jewish leaders were considering ways to kill him because they believed he was falsely claiming to be their Messiah and leading others astray. According to John 7, Jesus stayed back and his disciples went to the Feast without him. Later Jesus did slip in to the Feast mostly unnoticed for a while. This celebration lasted for several days and around the middle of the week Jesus made himself known and began to teach (John 7:14). Finally, on the last day, Jesus made a bold proclamation: “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” (John 7:37b-38)
Sukkot or the Feast of Tabernacles is a great reminder to us that it was here that Jesus told His listeners about the Spirit who was to come. What a great cause for celebration! Think where we would be without the Spirit of Christ living in and through us. Thanks be to God for all He has done!