The feast of the tabernacles was originally a harvest festival and was linked to the journey of Israel in the desert after the exodus when they stayed in tents or booths. It was a seven day festival that brought great joy and during this festival people lived in booths to remember their sojourn and God’s graciousness to them. The liturgical rites performed during this festival, included water libation and torch-lit processions. These form the background for the discourse of Jesus during this festival.
The crowds are surprised to see Jesus teaching in public despite the death threats and so wonder if he could indeed be the Messiah. They also wonder if the authorities know that Jesus is the Messiah but are denying it for some reason. Soon, “reasonableness” gives way to insight and intuition when the crowds go back to their stereotypes. They “know” where Jesus comes from and since no one will know where the Messiah comes from, Jesus cannot be the Messiah. The fact is that the crowds know only one aspect of Jesus’ antecedents. Jesus informs them that they are not aware that his real origin is in God. One will only be able to recognize and know Jesus when one realizes that he comes from God and has been sent by him. This upsets the listeners and though they try to arrest him, they cannot do so, because the ordained hour set by God has not yet come.
The crucial question here is whether or not one perceives Jesus as having been sent by God. The answer to this question determines whether one is on the right track or engaged in only superficial reflection. One reason why the authorities’ could not recognize Jesus as having been sent by God was because they had made up their minds already. They refused to let God work in the way he wanted. They decided how God must work and how the Messiah would come. They “knew”. This “knowledge” led to their being closed to the revelation that God made, so that even after he came, they continued to look for another.
God continues to come to us in various disguises and forms. He comes in persons, events and situations. If we decide in advance how he must come, then there is the danger that we too might continue to miss him and not be aware of his presence. The way to be able to find him in all things and all things in him is to be open and receptive and let God be God. It is to open our eyes, ears and every fiber of our being to the revelation that he will make and to be prepared for that revelation in the most unexpected persons, places and events.