Festival of Lights

John 8: 12  “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

God never misses a single detail, especially when it concerns Jesus, the Son of God.  In the book of John, Jesus makes several statements proclaiming His Deity.  He said He was God in the flesh.  He reinforces these statements by using the words “I AM”.

By Jewish culture and tradition, the words “I AM” was God’s name.  Moses learned the answer to his question when he encounter God in the burning bush and was given instructions to appear before Pharaoh and tell him to “let my people go”.  Moses replied, who shall I say sent me.  God replied “I AM who I AM” tell the people “I AM”  sent you.

From that time on, Hebrews knew the meaning of these words and their reference to the living God YHWH.  When Jesus spoke these words, the Pharisees and the Sadducees knew exactly what He was referring to when He spoke.  When He said, “I AM the light” they knew He was proclaiming to be God.

This particular passage in John 8 begins in verse 12 with Jesus proclaiming to the God when He said, “I AM the light of the world…”

While preparing to teach a Sunday School lesson, I learned some new facts about the circumstance and background of this passage.  I am fascinated with Biblical history and I love learning new things. So this information was exciting to me.

There were two celebrations/festivals (the Festival of the Tabernacle and the Festival of the Lights) taking place at the time Jesus made this statement.

The Feast of Tabernacles, celebrated the wandering of the Hebrews in the desert and lasted 7-8 days. Thousands of Jews would go to Jerusalem to celebrate.  Temporary shelters made of palm branches and other plant material were built outside the city as the people would reflect on their blessings and bounty of harvest.

At the close of the first day of celebration, the Festival of Lights commemorating the presence of God in the Tabernacle was celebrated. In the days of Moses, God’s Shekinah glory would come down over the Tabernacle in the Holy of Holies for all the people to see.

During Jesus day, the celebration took place in the court of the Women on Temple grounds. Stands were put in place for seating for this grand celebration.  In addition, four lamps 70-75 feet high were placed in the courtyard.  These golden lamps rose high above the temple walls.  At the top of these golden lamps (menorah/candelabra) were golden bowls. In preparation for the celebration, oil with a wick made from the clean old worn-out breeches and girdles of the priest were placed in each bowl by four youths of priestly descent. They would lean a ladder on each of the large candelabras and ascend up the ladder to fill the bowl with oil and light the wicks.

These lamps filled the darkness by lighting up the temple courtyard and every courtyard in Jerusalem as well as the surrounding area for many miles. Symbolically, it represented the Shekinah glory of God that filled the Tabernacle and later Solomon’s temple.

Once the lamps were lit, men dancers carrying flaming torches and Levites with harps, lutes, cymbals, trumpets and instruments of music without number sang hymns and songs of praise.  What a glorious praise feast that must have been!

Isaiah 9: 2 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.”

As Jesus entered into the temple during the Feast of Lights, most likely He entered by Solomon’s Porch that connected to the Court of the Women. Solomon’s Porch was thought to be a remaining part of the original temple Solomon built.

It is here that Jesus referred to Himself as the “Light of the world”.  By making the statement “I AM” the light of the world He not only declared Himself to be God but the very Shekinah glory of God that filled the temple.  He spoke these words as the darkness surrounded the city and the lights burned brightly.

Little did they understand they were standing in God’s presence as the Shekinah glory of God stood before them.

Sandra Hardage