Every fall Jesus’ family would celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. It was one of the happiest of the feasts of Israel. This was a time, set by God, when all of the people of Israel remembered to thank Him for bringing them safely through the wilderness from Egypt to their home in Israel. They would gather in the harvest and enjoy it with thanksgiving and praise.
Jesus probably would have helped His father and mother gather palm leaves and willow branches to drape over a three-sided booth or dwelling called a sukkah. There they would eat the fruit of the harvest and celebrate for seven days. On the eighth day they would have a quiet day of rest.
To the children of Jesus’ day, it was a time which they looked forward to with happiness. They knew it would be a time when their families would stop long enough to love and enjoy each other and everything that God had created. The fathers had time to play games with them, and the mothers had time to look into their eyes and listen to them. They all had time to sing and pray together.
They likely would have slept under the canopy of branches where they could see and enjoy the beautiful night sky that God had provided for them. Can you picture the boy Jesus resting on a blanket spread on the floor of the booth watching the stars twinkling through the branches? It would have been like camping out! Do you suppose he saw the Big Dipper and the North Star?
Jesus’ earthly father, Joseph, was a carpenter. But, he would have put away his carpentry tools for the next seven days for it was a holiday and no one worked. When the first day of the feast began, they brought in etrog fruit which is like a lemon, which God called the “beautiful fruit.” They also brought in dates, figs, pomegranates, grapes, olives, and special breads to eat with honey. They loved to share these good foods with friends and family who would also be celebrating.
Music from lyres (harps) and flutes would have filled the air. There would have been dances of praise, and stories told about the tabernacle in the wilderness. And they would have offered the best of their harvest back to God.
Every morning they would pour water to represent the pouring out of God’s protection and care, and every evening they would light many candles and oil lamps to represent God’s light that was provided for them in the wilderness.
The boy Jesus lived in a place called Nazareth in Galilee. Many of the people of Galilee, and especially Jesus’ family, were different from the Pharisees in Jerusalem at that time. They were more righteous and obedient than the Pharisees, because they understood that the Feast of Tabernacles was meant to help them become close to God and to each other by remembering how much He had done for them.
There must have been a lot of love and joy shared between the good people of Nazareth at this time, kind of like the love we share at our camps and reunions. Jesus must have felt very close to His friends, family, and to His Heavenly Father.
As Jesus grew into a young man, He studied all of these things. He came to understand and remember the true meaning and purpose of the Feast of Tabernacles and other feasts. He understood that we cannot grow closer to our Heavenly Father without realizing how much He has done for us and thanking Him. Jesus knew that He was the one who was sent to be the real living water that is poured out for us and the true light that is lit for us. He would use these feast experiences to teach His followers about God’s love and truth.
Before Jesus comes again, if we are obedient, we will gather together in love, much like the Feast of Tabernacles, and also like our camps and reunions. But it will be even better! And we will praise Him and be thankful, because He will be our light.