Two whole chapters in John’s Gospel, Chapters Seven and Eight, are given over to the weeklong Feast of Tabernacles from September to October in the last year of the life of Jesus.
Today’s First Reading presents us with the background of hateful plotting during that Feast of Tabernacles. Jerusalem’s leaders were repeating, ‘Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us.’”
For that one week each year the people of Jerusalem recalled the forty desert years of their ancestors. They moved out from their houses entirely, filling the streets and squares with tents. John gives us three memorable stories from that year’s Feast of Tabernacles.
The first story was that of the woman caught in the adultery that living in tents could lead to.
The second story came about in the yearly ritual when a temple priest used a golden vase to draw clear water from a spring on the temple hill. The people would let out shouts of joy as they watched the priest spill the water on the alar. As the water splashed onto the altar, Jesus stunned everyone by calling out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me to drink.” John tells us Jesus said that in reference to the Spirit he would give us.
The third story had to do with the great ceremonial torch that represented the flaming cloud that led the people on their night journeys through the desert. At the end of the week, when the priests were putting out the flame for another year, Jesus called out, “I am the light of the world, whoever follows me will not walk in darkness.”