The saints from Israel’s history inspire believers to persevere in faith. Jesus, “the pioneer and perfecter of our faith,” provides the ultimate model and inspiration.
These verses compare Christians to runners in a stadium. The author pictures them surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. These witnesses are not mere spectators but include the whole company of faithful people pictured in the previous chapter. The second son of Adam and Eve who was murdered by Cain. More, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, and many others have already experienced the challenges of living in faith. They now provide inspiration for others engaged in lives of faith. The author notes that athletes lay aside everything that gets in the way of running, so that they will not be tripped up along the way. Similarly, the faithful are called to lay aside the sins that encumber them and seek to trip them up. They are to run the race with perseverance. There is no suggestion that only the fastest runner wins the race or that there is only one prize. Rather, the goal is to persevere, to continue moving forward in faith. Perseverance rather than speed is what is important. Finally, readers are given inspiration by Jesus himself. Jesus entered fully into the human condition, experiencing suffering and death before being exalted to heavenly glory. This in turn assures readers that those who follow Christ through suffering have the promise of everlasting life in God’s presence.