TO what city did the people of Israel go to their sacred feasts? To Jerusalem. Remember how the city lay on its hills, divided from the Mount of Olives deep Kidron The further Mount Zion, with its forts and palaces; the nearer hill was Moriah, on which was the great temple of marble and gold, with the open courts about it. In the courts there were colonnades or porches where people walked and listened to the teachers. At feast times the temple was gaily trimmed, and thousands of Israelites were gathered there from all lands.
There were three great feasts each year, commanded in the law. One of them was the Passover in the spring, in memory of the deliverance from Egypt. A second was fifty days later, called the “Feast of Weeks” or of “First Fruits.” And again in early October was the thanksgiving feast or “Feast of Tabernacles.”
For this feast, in the bright autumn days, booths of leafy branches were made on the hill sides about the city and in the gardens and on the housetops, in which the the people lodged during the week, in memory of the desert journey when their forefathers came from Egypt. There were offerings each day in the temple courts, and at night they were lighted with high torches. The last day of the festival week was the great day. The people carried in their hands wands of willow, palm, and myrtle twined together. One company prepared the sacrifices at the temple; one went with music from the city and brought willow branches to trim the altar; a third company followed the priest with a golden pitcher, down the hill to the pool of Siloam. There he filled the pitcher with water and brought it back to be poured into a silver funnel at the altar. Then there was singing of Psalms.
The people were starting from Galilee for the Feast of Tabernacles. The Lord did not go with them, but by and by He went up to the feast in secret. Remember what the Lord had done when He was last seen in Jerusalem; how He healed the sick man at the pool of Bethesda, and how the Jews persecuted Him, and sought to slay Him. Now He was again in Jerusalem, teaching in the porches of the temple court in the midst of the throng of pilgrims. Some marvelled at His learning, for He had not, like other teachers, studied the law and traditions with the learned doctors. Even when twelve years old He had talked with the doctors in the temple, “and all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.”
In the last day, the great day of the feast, when the people had trimmed the altar, and with music had brought up the water from Siloam, the Lord cried, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink.” As at Jacob’s well He turned the thoughts of the woman upward, so now He led the thought from the natural water to water which refreshes the soul.
After these things Jesus walked in Galilee: for he would not walk in Jewry, because the Jews sought to kill him. Now the Jew’s feast of tabernacles was at hand. His brethren therefore said unto him, Depart hence, and go into Judaea, that thy disciples also may see the works that thou doest. For there is no man that doeth any thing in secret, and he himself seeketh to be known openly. If thou do these things, shew thyself to the world. For neither did his brethren believe in him. Then Jesus said unto them, My time is not yet come: but your time is alway ready. The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil. Go ye up unto this feast: I go not up yet unto this feast: for my time is not yet full come. When he had said these words unto them, he abode still in Galilee.
But when his brethren were gone up, then went he also up unto the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret. Then the Jews sought him at the feast, and said, Where is he? And there was much murmuring among the people concerning him: for some said, He is a good man: others said, Nay; but he deceiveth the people. Howbeit no man spake openly of him for fear of the Jews.
Now about the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and taught. And the Jews marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?….
…and the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take him…
In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.) Many of the people therefore, when hey heard this saying, said, Of a truth this is the Prophet. Others said, This is the Christ. But some said, Shall Christ come out of Galilee? Hath not the scripture said, That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was? So there was a division among the people because of him. And some of them would have taken him; but no man laid hands on him.
Then came the officers to the chief priests and Pharisees; and they said unto them, Why have ye not brought him? The officers answered, Never man spake like this man. Then answered them the Pharisees, Are ye also deceived? Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him? But this people who knoweth not the law are cursed. Nicodemus saith unto them, (he that came to Jesus by night, being one of them,) Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth? They answered and said unto him, Art thou also of Galilee? Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet.
And every man went unto his own house. Jesus went unto the mount of Olives. And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them.—John VII. 1-15; 32, 37-53; VII. 1, 2.
Author: William L. Worcester 1904
Three feasts of the Jews >> Three stages of progress in heavenly life
The Passover in the early spring >> Repentance and deliverance from falsity and evil
The feast of First Fruits (the feast of Weeks and Pentecost) >> The first doing of heavenly uses as we learn truth and do what we know is right
The feast of Tabernacles, the thanksgiving feast in the autumn >> The spontaneous doing of good uses from a full and loving heart
The Lord’s presence at the Passover at twelve years old >> He was already as a child accomplishing in Himself the release from the power of falsity and evil
“I go not up yet unto this feast, for my time is not yet full come,” >> On the great day of the feast, the Lord proclaimed Himself the fountain of living water of the Holy Spirit which was about to come to men in all fullness when His glorification should be complete
“So there was a division among the people because of Him.” >> Everyone, by his attitude toward the Lord was showing his own character and was determining his own spiritual place
“And every man went unto his own house.” >> Each one settled into the state of feeling that he made his own, in the same way all are judged and find their eternal homes
“Jesus went unto the Mount of Olives.” >> The Lord’s unconditional love standing guard over His people, whatever they thought or said of Him, whether they loved or hated Him
Pictures: James Tissot —-Courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum