Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us… (Heb. 12:1)
I spent a lot of time in a graveyard as a boy. On Thursday afternoons my grandmother would take me to the family burial plots to cut, rake, trim, weed, water, and plant.
The whole time we worked she would be sharing stories about those who were buried there. As she talked about her family members, she would be crying and wiping her nose on her work-shirt.
Even though I’d never met those she was talking about, I felt like I knew them, was connected to them, and must not disappoint them. She would constantly remind me that our family had certain standards I was expected to fulfill—be honest, hardworking, responsible, dependable, faithful.
Every time I read the above passage—“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses”—I return to being in the graveyard with my grandmother. Those family members witnessed to me in how they had lived. They also witnessed in how I felt they expected me to live.
The author of Hebrews was writing to a discouraged community. Their faith was flagging. Their commitment was drifting. Their service was dwindling. The author is trying to encourage them by saying that this “cloud of witnesses,” that is those who had died but who are now alive in Christ Jesus, were watching them, cheering for them, and expecting them to persevere.
I encourage us to think about the great cloud of witnesses in our life. I’m not simply referring to our own family members, but also to all those who have died and been raised by Jesus. That great cloud is pulling for us and expecting great things from us. They’re cheering because we can all sometimes drift, flag, and tire.
As a kid, it seemed perfectly normal to have such close relationships with those who had died. As a disciple, it seems perfectly necessary that the “great cloud of witnesses” be there for us.
- Who has served as your “great cloud of witnesses?” Who has encouraged you, witnessed to you, inspired you?
- We can all lose our way. That is the reason why we all need the “great cloud of witnesses.” Do you know this about yourself, or do you have some magical notion that you alone are exempt from needing such help?
- Have you ever thought about being part of the “great cloud of witnesses” for someone else? If not, is it time to do so? If so, who might you be called to encourage and lift up?
Click here to watch this video –> “Look Up Child” by Lauren Daigle