Colossians 2.16-17 says, ‘Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. They are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.’
When Paul wrote this letter to the church at Colossae, he was writing to people who were neglecting to make the main thing the main thing. False teachings had reached this fledgling fellowship and had caused traditions and rules to take precedence over the centrality of Christ and his finished work. Festivals and food restrictions became a bone of contention among the believers there.
Paul nips this heresy in the bud. He is very clear. Celebrations, feasts and sabbath days were given to us from God. But they were never meant to be more than a shadow of what was to come. They were intended to point us to Christ, not take centre stage.
It is an easy mistake to make.
Jewish feasts are beautiful. They are colourful and joyful and noisy. These celebrations tie generations together as traditions are handed down and memories are made. Anyone who has shared a Passover meal with a Jewish family or witnessed the glorious feast of Tabernacles will know what I mean. They are compelling occasions.
And yet Paul says they are only shadows. They are the muted, blurry outline of something much more glorious. In comparison with Christ they are like a badly taken photo in a dark room on a gloomy day.
Weddings are shadows too.
We are excited for Saturday. We have planned it for ten months and there have been blood sweat and tears! We have designed a wedding cake, chosen flowers, printed menus and hand-lettered until our hands hurt. We have carefully chosen the colours and flowers and the dresses. Suits and ties have been bought and shoes have been polished. I have even tied tiny gold acorns on each place name! It seemed a good idea at the time.
Weddings are funny things, aren’t they? So much fuss for one day. It doesn’t make sense except that the fuss is supposed to equal the significance.
We make a big deal out of weddings because marriage is a big deal. Choosing who you want to be with for the rest of your life is a momentous decision, and so we treat it as such. On Saturday our family will have a wonderful day as we bless our daughter and her new husband and witness them starting their lives together. It will be emotional and beautiful and it will be worth all the time and money because of its significance to us.
And it will be only a shadow.
There is a day coming that is the culmination of everything God has planned and sacrificed for. The preparations for that day have been going on since creation. We cannot imagine the glory and perfection of it. It’s beauty will be unmatched and its joy unending. Every tear will be wiped away, every disappointment will feel like a distant memory, and, love will win.
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”I Corinthians 2.9
Until then we enjoy the shadows that point us to Him.