Yesterday, I suggested that the most accurate view of the “cloud of witnesses” in Hebrews 12:1 may be to see these heroes of faith as “witnesses of God” rather than “spectators of us.”  By their lives and examples, they testify to God’s faithfulness and verify for us that the race of faith can be run successfully.  This view puts more emphasis on the meaning of martus as a witness/testifier, rather than imagining a celestial stadium full of spectators watching and cheering those who are still running the race here on earth.  I also believe that this view better fits the context of Hebrews 12:1-3 in keeping “all eyes fixed on Jesus” rather than having the gaze of departed saints trained toward us.      

Yet, there is indeed a “cloud of witnesses” which exists to encourage, cheer, strengthen, and motivate us in our race of faith.  It is the body of believers that surrounds us in the church of Jesus Christ.  Consider the vast volume of “one another” passages in the New Testament.  We have a huge responsibility for one another in the here and now.  Suffice it to say that the hands, shoulders, words, and compassion of my contemporary fellow traveler/disciples is of far greater practical benefit to me than the notion of quasi-omniscient departed saints and martyrs who have a full view of my life through a two-way mirror that divides the seen from the unseen realm.  This latter concept might be more unsettling than comforting at times.  

Though Christian singer/songwriter Mark Schultz ultimately gets to the idea of a glorious reception by those who have gone before us as we finish our race, most of his song, Cloud of Witnesses, focuses on the blessing of fellow believers that we have in the here and now.

Cloud of Witnesses
(Words and Music by Mark Schultz)

We watched them runnin’ down the aisles
Children’s time, Sunday morning
The preacher asked them who they loved
They all smiled and started pointing to their mom, their dad
The teacher from their kindergarten class
And each and every one had just come from

A cloud of witnesses that would see them through the years
Cheer them with a smile and pray them through the tears
A cloud of witnesses that would see them to the end
And shower them with love that never ends
A cloud of witnesses

They stuck together through the years
The best of friends faith could foster
So when they found out one of them
Had heard the news he’d lost his father
They ran to him and prayed
And put their hands upon his head
And slowly one by one they’d all become

A cloud of witnesses
As they sent above a prayer
They took hold of hands and
circled ’round a friend
A cloud of witnesses with a faith just like a rock
They helped him give his father back to God
As a cloud of witnesses

So when it comes the time that heaven calls
They’ll come running to see the ones who’ve gone before
And made the journey home to find waiting for them at the finish line
Cheerin’ happily they will run and they will see

A cloud of witnesses
Lined up on a street of gold
As they run the final mile
That leads them to a throne
And through the cloud of witnesses
They see God upon the throne
And as they fall into His arms
They know they’re home in
A cloud of witnesses
Surrounded by a cloud of witnesses

We watched them runnin’ down the aisles
Children’s time, Sunday morning