Another Temple tradition that had developed during the Feast of Tabernacles was the Temple Lighting ceremony. This was not commanded by God but pointed to God as the source of light.
Giant Candles lit the Temple
On the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles, three seventy-five-foot-high candles were constructed in the court of the Women of the Temple. This is an outer court where all people could come and is also the place of the Treasury. These candles had several ladders. The young priests would climb to the top to fill a reservoir with olive oil. The wicks were made from linen from the priests’ old garments. These candles would light all of Jerusalem.
These lights commemorated the glory of God that filled Solomon’s Temple at its dedication. 2 Chronicles 5: 14 The priests could not continue their service because of the cloud, for the glorious presence of the Lord filled the Temple of God. These giant lights also anticipated a time when God’s glory would return as Ezekiel predicted in 43:1-6.
Jesus’ Surprising Statement as the Lights are Extinguished
Jesus was standing and teaching near the area of treasury on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles (John 8:20). After these candles were put out, Jesus made a surprising statement. John 8: 12 Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”
The Pharisees listening to this immediately knew that Jesus had claimed to be Messiah. They knew the prophecies of Messiah. Isaiah 49: 6 He says,“You will do more than restore the people of Israel to me. I will make you a light to the Gentiles, and you will bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.”
As 21st century Christians we miss this because we do not understand the Feast of Tabernacles and the context in which Jesus made this statement. Those that opposed Jesus wanted Him arrested but it was not His time yet. (John 8:20)
Later that same day, Jesus reinforced His statement when He healed a blind man. There Jesus said in John 9: 5 But while I am here in the world, I am the light of the world.” The light or salvation that Jesus offered would not light just the Temple as the candles but would light the whole world.
To hear how the Temple lighting ceremony point to Jesus, listen here: