The Jewish Festival of Sukkoth just finished yesterday. This is a harvest festival where the Jewish people celebrate God’s presence with them in the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.
When Jewish people celebrate this feast, they build a booth or tabernacle, a tented area, like an outdoor eating and living space, in their backyard. Here they will eat meals, and some people even sleeping outside. Sukkoth is the most festive celebration of the year.
Jews still celebrate Sukkoth in Jerusalem. The culmination is the night called Simchat Torah which means, “Rejoicing in the Law,” and is a celebration of God giving the Law to Moses. The Temple area will be lit and there will be parades and dancing.
Now, we remember Jesus is in Jerusalem for the Sukkoth festival. It is now the end of the festival and Jesus has been teaching. In today’s passage, Jesus is at the Temple Treasury which is at the entrance located in the Court of Women. It is called that, because men and women are separated for worship and this is as far as women could go. Both men and women are there, just the boundary for women, as it were.
Here people give their offering. This its also a place of prominence for the Sukkoth Festival. In this replica of the Temple, notice the four big lights in the Treasury area. 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.
So picture sixteen beautiful blazes leaping toward the sky from these golden lamps. Remember that 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, 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 that Temple. And He used that celebration to announce that very fact. He was teaching right here at Simchat Torah time, maybe standing right next to those magnificent candelabras when He declares to all who were gathered there,
“I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”
Read about Sukkoth and watch some travelogue clips of the festival in Jerusalem.