Commented Bible Passages

These Bible meditations are meant as a way of seeking God in silence and prayer in the midst of our daily life. During the course of a day, take a moment to read the Bible passage with the short commentary and to reflect on the questions which follow. Afterwards, a small group of 3 to 10 people can meet to share what they have discovered and perhaps for a time of prayer.

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Hebrews 12:1-2: A Great Cloud of Witnesses
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, 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. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

The believers of the early Church were not numerous, but they knew that they were surrounded by a great crowd of witnesses to faith of all the ages. The previous chapter (Hebrews 11) mentions some of them, beginning with Abel, Enoch, Noah and Abraham, and alludes to others.

There is nothing more intimate than faith. But is it not true that we believe as others do, and because others believed in God before us? At key moments of my life I met believers. Their life seemed authentic to me. I saw that they were like me, with questions and struggles like mine. And they believed in God.

Arguments for or against faith are a bit like particles and antiparticles in physics. They mutually annihilate one another. Almost every argument in favor of God has its opposite argument. That is why discussions about God’s existence generally end up as a tie.

With believers in person, things are different. The existence of a person cannot be refuted as an argument can. Their simple existence raises the question: “If faith in God has shaped the life of that man or woman and made it authentic, cannot that same faith give authenticity and meaning to my life too?”

The “great cloud of witnesses” that surrounds us are people from every age whose lives were determined by their faith in God. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews compares them to sports fans in the stands of a stadium. They have already finished their race. But they do not lose interest in those who are still struggling and running. They urge them on and applaud them. That is how witnesses support our faith.

But however encouraging the presence of these witnesses is, we are not called to look at them but at “Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” Jesus himself agreed to run a difficult race, to keep going in suffering and in shame. He agreed to be himself a simple witness and not a judge. Before Pilate, “in his testimony he made the good confession” (1 Timothy 6:13).

- Do I know, personally or through books or films, people whose lives were shaped by their trust in Christ? Who are they? At what times of my life were they particularly important for me?

- What does it mean for me that I do not walk or run alone, but am surrounded by a “great cloud of witnesses”? How are they our supporters? How can we become aware that we are supported by witnesses to faith of all the ages?

- How do I see Jesus? How does the fact that he was not only a popular teacher but also a controversial witness affect my relationship with him?

Other bible meditations:

Last updated: 1 May 2024