“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. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.”
In this instruction to the Colossians, Paul is trying to assure the church that they need not fear any judgment or condemnation for no longer following the Jewish customs, traditions, and rules that existed before Christ. We know that Christ came to fulfill the law and to set us free from the punishment for sin required by the law by taking it upon himself. We are no longer judged by the law or our ability to keep it, but by faith in Jesus Christ. As such, it was no longer necessary to live by the tedious rules and customs of Judaism.
What is interesting to me is the last sentence in this passage: “These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.”
He’s saying that all of those things were precursors for Jesus, a foreshadowing of what was to come. All along, the Passover feast was a celebration of God’s deliverance of Israel out of Egypt, but it was also a giant neon sign pointing straight to Jesus, the Passover lamb that was slain for the sins of mankind to deliver them from their bondage to sin and death into life and peace. That’s only one example, but the point he’s making is that all of the law and the customs and the traditions were incomplete, imperfect, and unfulfilled until Christ came to fulfill them all.
Today, we don’t so much celebrate Jewish festivals or new moon celebrations, and most of us don’t follow very strict dietary restrictions based on our faith. But the message still speaks to us today. Some of the things that we can get so caught up on, like the denomination of our church, or the particular way we celebrate communion or baptism, or what day of the week we go to church, are just as much a part of what Paul was talking about. When we get so caught up on those things we don’t realize that they are not the end all be all. They are just the shadow of it. Without Christ, none of those things many anything at all. And with him, none of them amount to more than triviality.
Let’s remember the reality. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, lived and breathed among mankind on this earth, did not sin, gave himself up to be sacrificed on our behalf, rose from the grave, and is alive today advocating for us with God the Father. That’s the reality. And when we focus on the reality, it’s hard to even remember why we spend so much time on the trivialities.
Help me not to get caught up in the legalistic details of religion, but to realize that they are simply a shadow of the reality that I should be focused on. Thank you for Jesus. Thank you for setting us free from the law and sin and death. Thank you for the grace you give us day after day.
In Jesus’ Name,