We’re surrounded. Run for it!
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus…
Hebrews 12:1-2 (NIV)
Who or what is the ‘great cloud of witnesses’ mentioned in our header scripture above?
Well, it’s not difficult to find the answer. The clue is in the word ‘Therefore’ right at the beginning of the verse. ‘Therefore’ connects chapter 12 to the chapter preceding it: Hebrews 11, the ‘faith chapter’.
So the ‘great cloud of witnesses’ consists of all the faithful men and women whose names are written here. Names like Noah and Abraham, Sarah and Jacob, Moses, Gideon and David. Their faithful examples are documented for a reason: to encourage us to finish the race we have started – our walk of faith as Christians, and to inspire us to press on for the prize – the crown of life (James 1:12).
In Hebrews 12, the writer uses an Olympic Games style metaphor. He’s saying, in effect, imagine you are running in a long race, maybe a marathon and you’re getting pretty beat up and weary and your mind is full of negative self-talk. ‘You’re good for nothing.’ ‘You’re not going to make it.’ ‘You’re finished, why don’t you just give up?’
Then away in the distance, you hear a noise. And it’s growing louder. It’s a roar of voices. It’s people yelling and cheering. And then the lonely road you’re running on passes into a stadium and, suddenly, you’re inside and surrounding you, high up in the bleachers, are all the saints who went before.
The great cloud of witnesses. The Greek word translated here as ‘cloud’ is nephos, which in Classical Greek times was used to depict the highest seats in the bleachers of a sports stadium. The stadium is packed as high as the sky with all these heroes and they are cheering us on. All of those who fought the fight and finished the race are commended here in Hebrews for their faith, and their example is there to encourage us, to spur us on through challenges, trials and persecution.
Their example is saying to us, if we can do it, so can you! And in one sense, we have so much more going for us than they did. The men and women in Hebrews 11 had faith. But we have Jesus! We have Jesus living inside of us, and he’s not going to let us fail.
So let us do as Hebrews 12 verse 2 advises us and let us fix our eyes on Jesus, ‘the author and finisher of our faith…’ (NKJV). With Jesus Christ in front of us and the cheering faithful surrounding us, let us throw off everything that hinders us, run for the finishing line with confidence, and lean forward to break the tape.
Heavenly Father, thank you for the wonderful example of the men and women of faith whose examples are recorded in the Bible to provide us with inspiration and encouragement. And thank you most of all for your son Jesus Christ. Help us always to fix our eyes upon him. Amen.
Study by Peter Mill
About the writer:
Peter Mill is a Minister in Grace Communion International and Regional Pastor for Scotland, Ireland and Northern England
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