Sukkot as a Picture of the Two Comings of Messiah.
By Barney Kasdan, Messianic Rabbi
We have all heard the questions from our Jewish friends or family: If Yeshua (Jesus) is the real Messiah, why didn’t he fulfill all the promises of the Scriptures? Why are there still wars and problems if the Messiah has already come? Good questions indeed if you stop and think about it! Yet many of us have found sufficient answers as we began to study the Scriptures more carefully. Although many of our people presume that Yeshua cannot fit the description of the Messiah, even the classical rabbis could see that the larger question of Mashiach was not so easily answered. The fact is that there appears to be two contrasting pictures of what the Messiah would do when he comes to Israel. No doubt, the Mashiach would establish an everlasting kingdom of peace and blessing with headquarters in Jerusalem (cf. Isaiah 11; Micah 4). Yet, in seeming opposition to this, many other Scriptures speak of a suffering Messiah who is rejected by many people (cf. Isaiah 53; Daniel 9).
Many of the early rabbis were puzzled by these statements and wondered how could these two aspects could possibly be reconciled in one person. A proposed solution is put forth various times that there must be in fact two different Messiahs coming to fulfill the two differing job descriptions. They called the King Messiah “Mashiach Ben David” since he would be the greater son of David. The suffering one was designated as “Mashiach Ben Yosef” since he appears to suffering much in the same manner as Joseph (Jacob’s son) in the book of Genesis (cf. Babylonian Talmud Sukkah 52a).
As we approach the High Holy Days, I believe there is some important evidence that is often overlooked in regard to Messiah’s two-fold ministry. Sukkot (The Feast of Tabernacles), besides being a celebration of the fall harvest, is also understood to be a prophetic picture of the Kingdom of Messiah. We build our Sukkot/temporary huts to remind us of the great truth that the day is coming when Messiah will “dwell or tabernacle” in our midst and fulfill the promises as the son of David. This must be the reason that Prophets foretell of the kingdom celebration of this feast among all the redeemed, both Jew and non-Jew:
“Then it will come about that any who are left of all the nations that went against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles” (Zechariah 14:16).
It makes sense that Sukkot will be the preeminent feast in the kingdom since Messiah is now dwelling with his people!
Yet within this Fall feast is also hidden the secondary aspect of Messiah’s work; namely his suffering for the atonement of our sins. This means that there must be some kind of connection between Sukkot and the first coming of the Messiah as we Messianic Jews would see it. I find it interesting that there has always been some debate about when Yeshua was actually born in the world. Most Western Christians celebrate Christmas on December 25 as the designated day to remember the Messiah’s first coming. Perhaps many people, both Jews and Gentiles, have overlooked the important holy day of Tabernacles as God’s time to celebrate the first coming of Messiah as well? As the Jewish believer wrote in the first century:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with G-d, and the Word was G-d…And the Word became flesh and dwelt (literally, tabernacled) among us…” (John 1:1,14).
How perfect! As the writer thinks of the first coming of Yeshua, he makes the connection to our ancient feast of Sukkot. Indeed, Messiah dwelt with his people at his first coming to Israel as Ben Yosef. Through his death and resurrection, Yeshua of Nazareth is able to fulfill the other aspect of the Messianic call as Ben David. He is returning soon to complete the whole plan of the Father.
So which is it? Two Messiah’s fulfilling the two missions or one Messiah coming two different times? As we wave the Lulav (palm branch) and dwell in the Sukkah this year, may G-d confirm the answer in our hearts. We at Kehilat Ariel Messianic Synagogue invite you to join us in a joyous celebration of our High Holy Days in light of the fulfillment through Yeshua HaMashiach. Hag Sameyach!