Hebrews 12:1-2, “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, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (NIV)
This has been an interesting two verses over the years that have had different interpretations. The “therefore” that begins these two verses refers to Hebrews 11. That chapter is the faith chapter in Scripture. The author of Hebrews lists many Old Testament personages who exhibited great faith and then goes into listing nameless people and how they suffered because of their faith. And then chapter 12 opens with, therefore. The author refers to these people as a great cloud of witnesses that surround us. I get the sense that they are above us looking down on how we live our lives in faith to Jesus Christ. Now this can be a metaphor – these people are not really surrounding us – or they are really surrounding us and keeping an eye on us. My preference would be that this cloud of witnesses is a metaphorical one. I’m not sure people in heaven can see what’s happening here on earth. If heaven is a place where all tears and sorrow is gone, then looking down on earth would bring all that back (that’s a topic for another time).
How do we respond to this cloud metaphorical or not? We are given a plan for our response. We are to throw off all that hinders us from following close to Jesus. In a world where distraction upon distraction keeps us from focusing on Jesus this can be a hard plan to follow. In fact I think some of our advancements have replaced the need for the Holy Spirit in our lives. I remember growing up if someone was late, we would pray they were okay. We would ask the Lord to protect them. Today we can take our cell phones and track them and know. No Holy Spirit is needed.
What is your plan today? How are you going to follow strong after Jesus? It will look different for each of us, yet we do have a cloud of witnesses we can take as our role models. We can use them as a guide to keep us close to the one who loves us so dearly that he gave his life so that one day we would join that cloud. Are you ready for that? Let’s work on it together.
Father God, I pray that we – like that great cloud of witnesses – would follow close after you. Please help us to weed out the distractions of this life and do your will in all things. We love you so much. In Jesus strong name we pray, Amen!