"Yeshua and the Feast of Tabernacles: Part Four"
by Sue Towne
Last week we looked at the daily water ritual which was performed in the Temple during Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles). After water and wine were poured into silver funnels on the altar of sacrifice, the people would sing these words from Isaiah 12:2-3:
And we noted that the word “salvation” in this passage is the word “yeshuah” in Hebrew, from which comes our Lord’s name, “Yeshua.” So today let’s begin to connect all this to the life of Yeshua in the gospel of John.
This passage, beginning in chapter seven, describes a particular Feast of Tabernacles (or as is says in the text, Feast of Booths) where Yeshua did something special. It begins with verse 1:
I used to puzzle over this last sentence, because, as I mentioned in the first week of this series, all able-bodied Jewish men were commanded in the Torah to attend the Feast of Tabernacles. Yeshua surely was not thinking of disobeying the command of God.
We need to put that command in the context of the real danger He faced in going to Jerusalem in a public way, as He did on Palm Sunday later on. It would not do to be arrested and crucified at Sukkot and not fulfill scripture!
Apparently the Holy Spirit gave Him instruction about how to proceed. We pick up the story again in verse 10:
I’m going to stop here and comment again. You notice that throughout this passage it seems as though “the Jews” are opposing Yeshua and challenging His ministry, indeed His very life.
Yet we know that Yeshua and all His disciples at that time were Jews. The key to understanding how this word “Jews” is being used by John (who was a Galileean Jew himself) is in the first verse. “Jews” here really means “Judean Jews” or “Judeans.” Judea is the southern part of Israel near Jerusalem.
So for Yeshua to go into Jerusalem would be to enter Judea, where certain religious enemies were waiting for Him, in order to kill Him.
He did not go “publicly”--that is, with much fanfare, surrounded by His disciples. Instead He went “secretly.” The text does not say whether the Twelve were with Him, but I suspect they were. After all, John is writing about this in much detail. He was probably an eyewitness.
Let’s continue with verse 14:
It was common for famous rabbis of that day to come up to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles and teach in the Temple. Groups of disciples and listeners would gather around these men in the outer courts of the Temple as they exchanged questions and answers which revealed their wisdom and teachings.
Now in chapter 7 of John follows an interesting debate about the origin of Yeshua’s teachings, which I urge you to read on your own. But let’s go down to verse 37.
Yeshua spoke these words about water while the water was being poured out by the priest from the golden vessel. (If you did not read last week’s column, please read it now in the archives so that you can follow this.)
Picture this. He hangs back in the shadows, not making Himself known at this special meeting on the last day of the feast. The choirs and the multitudes sing Psalm 118.
Then as the crowd watches in silence and the water is being poured out by the priest over the sacrifice, Yeshua breaks the silence and with a loud voice cries out, “If any man is thirsty, let him come to ME and drink!” Then He refers to several scriptures in Isaiah that speak of “living water” flowing out of the belly of those who believe in--Yeshua!
What a statement! What “holy chutzpah!” Do you understand that Yeshua interrupted this Temple service? Do you understand that He stood up as a prophet of God and revealed Himself? It’s as though for years and years God had been giving the people a riddle about the Messiah through the elements of the water ritual done at Sukkot. And on that particular day He stood up in the Temple and shouted out the answer to the riddle.
Do you recall what comes right after the water and wine (signifying blood) is poured in the water ritual? The multitude sings Isaiah 12:2-3--
As John writes about this scene for us, he tells us in verse 39 that Yeshua’s reference to living water was a reference to the Holy Spirit, who would come to dwell in believers. But understand this, many of the people who stood there that day would not have needed this explained to them. Some rabbis were already saying that the use of Isaiah 12 in the water ritual was a picture of the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
So some people in the crowd that day felt the power of Yeshua’s dramatic words and were really drawn to Him. Others became angry, because of what He was saying about Himself.
We’re going to continue in John next week to see what else happened to Yeshua at that Feast of Tabernacles. There’s so much more to share here.