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Why Was Jesus Sleeping?: Lessons on Rest from the Master

I was reading to my kids from a devotional book and we came to the account of Jesus calming the storm in the Sea of Galilee (Mark 4:35-41). We talked about how big and capable Jesus is that even the wind and waves obey him. We talked about how he can do anything – typical children’s fare.

And then the question came.

“Why was Jesus sleeping?”

In the past, I assumed he was tired from all of that preaching and healing. He was fully human as well as being fully God, after all. But the question kept prodding me throughout the day. There is something significant about him sleeping. Not only was the situation in the boat scary, and the weather NOT conducive to nap time, but the person the disciples had come to trust the most was completely unaware.

Or was he?

As someone who struggles with trusting God and letting go of the people and circumstances in my life, I knew this might be the most critical question of the story.

Why, out of all of the men, would Jesus be the one man who was sleeping? What does that tell us about him and what he wants us to learn?

HE WAS PREPARING A REAL-LIFE PARABLE ON TRUST.

I’m going to take a guess that Jesus knew exactly what was about to happen. He’s like, “Enough of the seed stories. Things are about to get real.” These disciples are the men who would soon change the course of history. They would take his teaching and his miracles as far as they could. They would die for their beliefs. They needed to trust as no one had ever trusted before. And what is more scary to most people than the belief that they are going to lose their lives? He was showing them that nothing in the natural world is beyond his intervention. If they could trust him there, in the middle of their worst fear, they could trust him with anything.

HE WANTED US TO KNOW HIS CHARACTER.

Not only did the disciples assume they were dead in this scenario, they pulled out the card that all mothers know well.

“Don’t you care?” (Cue sad music.)

How quick they were to not only fear for their lives but to assume that their troubles meant he no longer loved them. They immediately assumed the worst about him. They had decided that good circumstances equal good God. There was pain in their lives, so it had to mean he didn’t care. They questioned his very nature, the One who is love and through whom we know what love is. The disciples needed to know that love doesn’t always mean ease. God’s character is immutable and his heart is for us even when our boat seems to be filling up with water.

HE NEVER FEARED ANYTHING.

Most of all, I think that Jesus was giving us a great antidote for stress and overwhelm. Rest. He says he will give it to us when we’re weary (Matthew 11:28).

In a world that feeds our busyness and our desire for control and our need to fix, Jesus is STILL resting. He’s not getting into a tizzy over our lack. Having come from heaven, he was certain of his future and he is certain of ours. He knew the love of the Father for him and couldn’t be easily shaken off of it. That knowledge insulated him from fear. What could the sea possibly do to him? Kill him? Even if it did, he would go to heaven. God’s plans cannot be knocked off course.

GOD STILL CALLS US ACROSS THE SEA.

God often calls us to do scary things that are out of our comfort zones. Just as he once said to the disciples, he now says to us, “Let’s go across,” knowing all the while that it’s going to be a bumpy ride. He says that in this world we will have trouble (John 16:33). I don’t believe he intentionally harms us or sets traps for us. But like a good parent, he allows us to find the ends of our own abilities so we can learn, so we can trust, so we can be loved more fully through it. And he always goes with us.

He wants us to know from his example, that we have nothing to fear. What can man or circumstances or sickness or the sea ever do to us? We are guaranteed heaven. We don’t have to be afraid because our master is never afraid. He is always at rest.

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