Sleeping Jesus

It is a great comfort to me to know that when I’m sleeping, the Lord is taking care of business. As the psalmist says: He doesn’t sleep or take naps (Ps. 121:4). He goes and goes and goes. But if the Lord doesn’t sleep, what are we to think of sleeping Jesus in Mark 4:35-40?

For various reasons, I’ve been prompted to read the passage several times this week. Different truths about the Lord’s sovereign care for His own come to me each time. But, I must say that I’ve been puzzled, and at times a little amused by some things. Of course, it was not a funny situation for the disciples. It was life-threatening. But, in the middle of it all, there’s Jesus asleep on a pillow.

The passage doesn’t offer a lot of detail, so imagine with me the fishing boat in the midst of the storm. It’s dark, very dark. The boat is not very big. It’s got a mast and some oars. It’s packed with disciples. There’s probably little room to stand or to sit comfortably. The wind and the waves are throwing the boat out of control so that everyone is in danger of falling into the sea. And there are no life jackets!

Jesus, seemingly aloof to the possibility that he or his dear friends could be suddenly lost in the darkness of the storm, is asleep. And, mind you, He is not just catching a few winks slumped over on one of the disciple’s shoulders. The passage says that He was asleep on a pillow. He is totally out!

I don’t know about you, but I would not have waited until the boat was knee deep in water to wake Jesus up. I would have been freaking out as soon as the first big wave splashed over the side. But, I’m no fisherman. And I have no real experience with sailing.

Some of the disciples, however, were experienced fisherman and knew well the dangers of sailing. And so, perhaps this is why they waited to wake Jesus. Maybe they thought the storm would soon pass? Maybe they just figured that Jesus would eventually wake up on His own?

“Teacher,” they finally called to Him. “Do you not care that we are about to die?”

Jesus, I imagine, did not even stand up. Perhaps from His place on the pillow, He looked out on the violent waves and said firmly but did not shout, “Quiet! Be still!”

It is not difficult to imagine the shock, and even the horror, the disciples must have felt when suddenly the boat beneath them became perfectly still and the wind immediately ceased to howl.

“Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” Jesus said to them in the silence.

“Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey Him!” they said to each other.

“Teacher! Get up!” they had yelled at Him in the storm. But now it was they that had been awakened. This Man that lay on the pillow was no mere expounder of truth, they suddenly realized. Only God Almighty could have stopped the storm. Only God Almighty could have slept in the midst of the storm.

“Let us go over to the other side,” Jesus had said to the disciples before they had entered the boat. It was not a suggestion, or even a wish. It was a promise. Jesus slept because there was no doubt in His mind that they were going to make it to the other side.

Dear Christian, do not look at the violent waves all around. Do not look at the winds that threaten to rip the sails from the mast. Do not even pay attention to the water that is filling the boat. Look at Him who is in the boat with you. See the peace in His face and rest in the certainty that the Lord—mighty to save—has said to you: Let us go over to the other side (Mark 4:35).

[Book excerpt from Take Me Deeper: Reflections and Prayers from the Edge (2017).]