Hebrews 4:1-5, 11; Psalm 77:3-4,6-8 (LXX); Mark 2:1-12
He established a testimony in Jacob,
and appointed a law in Israel,
which he commanded our fathers
to teach to their children;
that the next generation might know them,
the children yet unborn,
and arise and tell them to their children,
so that they should set their hope in God,
and not forget the works of God,
but keep his commandments;
and that they should not be like their fathers,
a stubborn and rebellious generation,
a generation whose heart was not steadfast,
whose spirit was not faithful to God.
And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic lay.
. . .
The beginning of the letter to the Hebrews is a meditation on the past unfaithfulness of Israel, as described in Ps 77. Mark’s gospel shows us that faithfulness has some surprising faces, and reveals again, in the person of Jesus, the steadfast love and compassion of God.
Human faithfulness is only ever a dependence on God’s faithfulness to God’s character and God’s promises. The leper and the friends of the paralytic reflect faithfulness by heeding the command of God to ‘call upon me in the day of trouble’. God promises, ‘I will rescue you, and you shall glorify me’.
I tend to think of faithfulness as a kind of success. To be faithful, that is, is to achieve something. And, I suppose, there are spectacular examples of faithfulness that seem to support that view. But more often faithfulness emerges out of failure: I think of David, of Peter, and of Paul. We follow in the footsteps of disciples like these, who were guilty of adultery and murder, denying Christ, and persecuting the church. What they have in common is not a perfect record, but repentance. Faithfulness, it seems, has more to do with knowing where to turn when you’ve gone wrong than knowing how to get it right all the time.
The writer of the letter to the Hebrews reminds us what faithfulness is for: ‘Let us therefore strive to enter [God’s] rest, that no one fall by the same sort of disobedience’ (4.11). Obedience is entering God’s rest; obedience is not work (v. 10: ‘whoever enters God’s rest also ceases from his labors as God did from his’), but the fruit of resting in God. The spirit faithful to God heeds the words of Jesus: ‘come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest’ (Mt 11.28).