Jesus on Sukkot
The events recorded in John 7 took place during the Feast of Tabernacles—the Jewish holiday of Sukkot: “Now the Jews’ Feast of Tabernacles was at hand” (v. 2). It was on the last day of this feast that the conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees came to a head.
In the middle of the feast, Jesus began to teach. Some accused Him of being demon-possessed (v. 20), while others believed He truly was the Messiah: “Many of the people believed in Him, and said, ‘When the Christ [Messiah] comes, will He do more signs than these which this Man has done?’” (v. 31).
However, the religious leaders rejected Jesus and were so upset with Him they sent soldiers to arrest Him (v. 32). Ironically, it was that day the high priest traditionally would collect a pitcher of water from the Pool of Siloam, which everyone considered to be living waters. As he collected the water, the people would shout Isaiah 12:3: “Therefore with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation [Hebrew, Yeshua].”
– John 7:37-38
As the high priest poured out the water libation at the brazen altar, other priests would march around the altar seven times, carrying palm branches and singing, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!” (Ps. 118:26).
It probably was during the libation ceremony that Jesus, whose name in Hebrew is, in fact, Yeshua, cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (Jn. 7:37–38).
What was the crowd’s reaction? Many believed Jesus was the prophet like Moses, whom Moses promised would come (Dt. 18:15). Others believed He was the Messiah.
Skeptics argued the Messiah would come from Bethlehem, not Galilee, ignorant of the fact Jesus was born in Bethlehem, as the prophet Micah foretold (Mic. 5:2; cf. Lk. 2:1–7; Jn. 7:40–44). When the chief priests and Pharisees asked the soldiers why they had not yet arrested Jesus, they replied, “No man ever spoke like this Man!” (Jn. 7:46).
So the Pharisees rebuked the soldiers: “Are you also deceived? Have any of the rulers or the Pharisees believed in Him?” (vv. 47–48).
Nicodemus, a man from their own ranks, responded, “Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?” (v. 51). Yet Nicodemus stood alone. They answered him, “Are you also from Galilee? Search and look, for no prophet has arisen out of Galilee” (v. 52).
Jesus had warned His disciples there was a price to pay for following Him, just as there is today:
Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to “set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law”; and “a man’s enemies will be those of his own household” (Mt. 10:34–36).
Jesus was quoting Micah 7:6 in the Hebrew Scriptures. He caused quite a conflict during Sukkot but was not arrested. Not surprisingly, His name continues to this day to cause conflict between believers and unbelievers, even among family and friends.
When Jesus returns to Earth, He will usher in the Messianic Age. Then there will be true peace without conflict. In that day, not only Jews will celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles, but Gentiles as well: “And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles” (Zech. 14:16).