Forrest Gump was on television the other day.
For those of you who don’t remember, Forrest Gump chronicles the life of a man from Alabama who manages to be present for every significant event of the 1960s and 70s. He serves in the Vietnam War, participates in the Olympics, and is responsible for catching the burglars at the Watergate Hotel. Forrest narrates these events as he sits at a bus stop in Savannah, and he shares the stories of his life with his fellow passengers in the most matter-of-fact way possible. It gradually becomes clear that these stories shape the way that Forrest looks at the world and define his relationships with his mother, his friends, and his beloved Jenny. He derives meaning from these stories because they remind him who he is.
In a similar way, the Jewish Sabbath always begins with the telling of stories. Every Sabbath includes the same words: “Hear, O Israel the Lord your God, the Lord your God is one.” The people gathered around that table tell the story of their relationship with God. They tell the story of God’s faithfulness to their people in ages past and remind themselves that God is faithful to them through the changes and chances of their own lives.
This is why the gospels tell us that the disciples are in such a hurry to entomb the body of Jesus. According to John, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus place Jesus in a nearby tomb simply because it is conveniently located. They do this so that they can return to their homes in time to observe the Sabbath, so that they can return to their homes to tell the story of God’s faithfulness, so that they can be reminded that God is faithful even through the changes and chances of their lives. There is something very powerful about this. Even though Jesus Christ had been betrayed, abandoned, and rejected, his disciples reminded themselves that God had been faithful to them in ages past. Even though their world had been shaken to its core, the disciples renewed their trust in the faithfulness of God.
There are times that all of us feel betrayed, abandoned, and rejected. There are times that all of us doubt the presence of God among us. But this Holy Saturday reminds us that even in the face of these challenges, we are called to tell the story of our relationship with God. We are called to renew our trust in the God who is faithful to us even when our whole world has collapsed around us. We are called to be faithful to a God who is faithful to us even to the point of death.