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At the Feast

by Tim O'Hearn

“You’re not going to the feast?” We were incredulous. Everyone went to Jerusalem for the Feast of Booths. They might celebrate the other feasts at home, but for this feast Jerusalem was “the” place to be. How could the Teacher not go to the Feast of Booths? And what did he mean by saying, “I’m not going yet, because my time hasn’t come.” Surely anyone with whom he had an appointment would be at the feast.

Granted, we had had some problems in Jerusalem. Some people didn’t seem to like the Teacher, or what he said. But what could they do, with all the crowds that would be in town? Anybody could disappear in Jerusalem during this feast.

I always enjoyed the feast. What was not to like? After the Days of Awe we were all tired of doom and gloom. We were ready to party. And what a party! Eight days of visiting friends and relatives, eating and drinking. Not having to worry about finding an inn to stay in; who stays in an inn when everyone is sleeping under the stars? Then there is the last, great day of the feast, the Great Hosanna. The high priest leads a procession to the pool of Siloam, where he gathers some of the water in a gold pitcher. He then leads the people back to the Temple. He pours the water into a special bowl on the south side of the altar to symbolize the final sealing of our atonement for the year. The people shout, “Hosanna, please save us.” Oh what a shout! God has saved us for another year!

How glad I was, then, when the Teacher changed his mind after his brothers had left. We might be late, but we were going.

As I walked around Jerusalem I saw and heard some things. The temple guards were everywhere, looking for anyone who looked like the Teacher. Sure, they tried to be unobtrusive, but have you ever seen a temple guard trying to look unobtrusive? You might as well try to hide a camel in a sheepfold. The people were taking sides, too. Some called the Teacher “a good man;” others called him a liar. Because of the guards, nobody said either thing above a whisper.

Even when he taught in the Temple nobody seemed to recognize him. Some asked how a Galilean could know how to read. A few asked, “If this is the man the rulers a looking for, might they not think he is the Messiah? After all, they let him speak openly.”

About that time the guards came for him. He disappeared into the crowd. That, and the rumors that he might be the Messiah, angered the rulers, but the Teacher just appeared somewhere else and taught.

On the last, great day of the feast we went to the water ceremony. All was going well until after the priest poured the water behind the altar. Imagine our surprise and embarrassment when the teacher stood up. H had the right to get up and teach. It was just what he said.

“If any man believes on me, from within him shall flow rivers of living water.” Such chutzpa! By saying that he was claiming to be Messiah. Zechariah, talking about the Feast of Booths in the Messianic Age, said living waters would go out from Jerusalem, and here the teacher was, saying that they went out from him. He was comparing himself to the water ceremony. I later found out that he had said the same thing to that Samaritan woman we had seen him talking to.

Many people thought he might be Elijah, or even Messiah. Others, forgetting Jonah, asked if a prophet could come from Galilee. Still others tried to hold him for the Temple guards. Nobody was able to hold him.

That was a long time ago, now. We know he was Messiah. The living waters of the Spirit came from him, as we know so well. We couldn’t grasp it then, as the people couldn’t grasp him. Now we can. And that was a Booths to remember.

Taken from John 7.

The Feast of Tabernacles this year is October 11-17.