I’ve been studying up on the Feast of Tabernacles lately ’cause I was leading a small group through John 7 and into chapter 8. It’s good stuff. You don’t really realize how dramatic Jesus was unless you understand the cultural practices of the Feast of Tabernacles. Let me explain:
The Feast of Tabernacles was a holiday which celebrated the time when God provided for the Israelites during their time in the desert. For the holiday they were required to travel to Jerusalem which meant that they weren’t going to sleep in their normal comfortable accommodations. The festival is also called the Feast of Booths ’cause they were required to build tents like the ones their ancestors would have used in the desert. This festival coincided with the end of the harvest and so it was truly a celebration. Not only were they celebrating the way God provided for them in the desert, but also how He provided for them that year. It is likely that tents were set up all over the countryside just outside of town during this festival.
Some even believe this may have been why there was no room at the inn for Jesus’ birth. The same word we translate “tabernacle” is also the word used for “stable.” It is also likely that Jesus’ birth happened during the time this festival took place (Fall: Oct-Nov) because there were shepherds in the fields just outside of Jerusalem. Based upon their normal travels from field to field throughout the year, they would not have been there very often, but certainly were during that time.
It is also notable to recognize a couple of other specific practices:
1.) On the last day of the festival the priests would pour water over the altar and the people would celebrate how God provided water for them in the desert. John 7 describes this very same scene on the last day of the festival as the very time that Jesus calls himself the “living water.” This would have been highly dramatic under these circumstances. While the people celebrate God’s provision in the past, Jesus stands before them as if to say, “I’m the new living water. I’m God’s provision. You should be celebrating me.”
2.) Huge lampstands were set up for the Feast of Tabernacles which required a ladder to light. The idea was that these lights could be seen throughout the city of Jerusalem. In John 8:12, Jesus refers to Himself as the “Light of the World” with these lampstands as a backdrop. As an answer to the priests questions about whether or not a prophet could come from Galilee (John 7:52), He recalls Isaiah 9
Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan-
Isa 9:2 The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death 
a light has dawned.
God makes it clear in this passage that a prophet will come from Galilee and even more importantly, he will come “for” Galilee. When Jesus calls Himself, “Light of the World” this seems to be His intention. There we see it all again – Drama.
Jesus is not just a guy who spouts words. He is not just a preacher. He is a master at the dramatic. He’s great at capturing attention and causing people to think. It’s no wonder that the Pharisees were so threatened by Him. He doesn’t miss any “teachable moment.” He takes advantage of every opportunity and even uses object lessons to reveal Himself to the people. Jesus could take any regular moment and turn it around so that it reflected something about His own character. And since He is the Creator of everything, it makes sense that this was possible – the Creator is always revealed in His creation.
Anyway, these were just some thoughts today.