It was dangerous for Jesus every time He ventured into Jerusalem. Jerusalem was the center of Jewish orthodoxy, the home of the Pharisees, who wanted no challenge to their ideas. It was also the center of the Roman rule of the kingdom of Judah, and the Sadducees (think “old money,” the city sophisticates of the Jewish ruling class) had bought their positions in religious and social life from the Romans. Jewish followers were beginning to call Jesus the “King of the Jews,” threatening to crumble the ruling hierarchy.
Still, Jesus had an important message to impart during the final Feast of Tabernacles (the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, or Booths), held in the fall that preceded His crucifixion the following spring. Remember that the Law of Moses was dictated by Christ, as Jehovah, and recorded in the Old Testament. The oral law and traditions contained many of His dealings with the Israelites not recorded in scripture. During the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, Jehovah ordained seven high holy convocations centered on the temple. The imagery of those holy days not only testified of Christ to come, but laid out the future of God’s religious dealings with His children.
The year began anew with the Passover, representative of Jesus Christ as Savior, Redeemer, and sacrifice. Contained within the Passover eight-day festival were the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Jesus is the Bread of Life) and “Bikkurim” (“honored Son”), symbolizing Christ as the first-fruits of the resurrection. After these holidays, the region enters into a time of fear and trepidation, as crops are planted, and the people know not whether the nourishing breezes from the Mediterranean will bring cool air and rain, or winds from Arabia (“sharav”) will bring dust, sand, heat, and drought. In the middle of summer, the feast of Shavuot (the feast of weeks, 49 days after Passover) symbolizes the gift of scriptures and the Holy Ghost to refresh and guide us as God’s children walk through the wilderness.
Hopefully, the Children of Israel have been sustained through the dry season to arrive at the final harvest in the fall, on the verge of another six months of nourishing rain. As with the eight days of Passover, beginning with the offering of the Passover Lamb, the observance of seven days of unleavened bread, and the wave offering representing a harvest of souls, the fall holidays mirror the spring. As Passover season symbolizes the birth, ministry, the crucifixion, and resurrection of Christ, the fall holidays represent His Second Coming and final judgment.
Preparing for Judgment
The first fall holiday is Rosh HaShanah, “Head of the Year.” Although the Lord had moved the beginning of the year to Nisan, in the spring, and Passover, Rosh HaShanah continued to be the head of the civil year to the Jews and the celebration of the creation of the earth. With judgment nigh at hand, trumpets (shofarim, or ram’s horns) were sounded from the temple ramparts to call the Jews to awake, arise, and gather, for the separation of the righteous from the wicked was about to occur. Jews wish each other “good signature — may your name be written in the Book of Life.”
After Rosh HaShanah come ten days of bitter repentance and introspection called the Days of Awe. Go to your brother and be reconciled; pay your debts; make restitution to those you have offended. The Days of Awe end with Yom Kippur, “Day of Atonement,” when one’s sins are “covered.” In the days of the temple, blood was everywhere on this day, and the symbolism of the blood atonement of the coming Christ was evident. Only on this day could the high priest enter the Holy of Holies, to sprinkle the sacrificial blood. The sins of Israel were transferred to the scapegoat.
Then comes the mirror image high holy week to Passover, with it’s “Last Great Day” the reverse of the first day of the spring holidays, the sacrifice of the paschal lamb. The Jews built and still build booths that are purposefully fragile. God’s children need no protection but their faith. The booths represent the temporary nature of their wilderness camps, but also the temple and the pavilion of God in heaven. The tops of the booths are branches so loosely mounted that you are guaranteed to see the heavens as you look up. Now prayers for rain begin, and the heavens are open for Messiah to come. This is the final judgment. Priests make circuits around the temple altar, waving palm leaves — the triumphal entry assured.
It’s too late now to repent, for final judgment is upon us. We are joyful; we have been gathered with the righteous.
At this time, the temple mount was alight with huge menorah lamps ablaze. Parades of people ascended the stairs to the temple. And there was Christ, in front of these lamps, saying, “I am the light of the world” ( John 8:12–36). And joining the annual water libation, declared Himself the living water.
Christ named Himself as the Son of God, teaching the people who had made pilgrimage to the temple from far and wide. He said,
My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me….Then cried Jesus in the temple as he taught, saying, Ye both know me, and ye know whence I am: and I am not come of myself, but he that sent me is true, whom ye know not. But I know him: for I am from him, and he hath sent me. (See John 7.)
In the spirit of judgment befitting the season, Jesus forgave the woman taken in adultery. (See John 8:4–6.)
Jesus declared Himself at these festivals. Although many in Jerusalem desired to kill Him, and His presence in the city caused great controversy, surely many were converted by Christ’s appearance and testimony of Himself, especially in light of the symbolism of the holiday, meant always to symbolize Him.
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