Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. – Matthew 8:24-26 (NIV)
The idea of Jesus sleeping seems … bizarre. It is hard to imagine God asleep. With eyes closed. Did Jesus snore? Did he kick in his sleep? Did he wander about in holy somnambulance? If so, did that make the disciples nervous?
Even asking the questions of what Jesus asleep might look like feels … irreverent. For me, imagining the contours of Jesus’ humanity makes him feel more human than my faith has prepared me to consider.
But the Gospel tells us that Jesus slept.
The story of Creation tells us that on the seventh day, God rested and Shabbat – or sabbath – was introduced. The Decalogue made it a commandment: Remember the sabbath and keep it holy.
So if rest is so holy and if God has rested since the dawn of Creation, then why do I have such a hard time letting Jesus sleep?
Could it be because there’s always a storm raging somewhere? Could it be that I worry that God will sleep through my own storms and ignore my pleas for help? Might it be all well and good that God rests, but what about when the waves sweep over my boat and I fear it will pitch over and take me under? God can rest except when I need my rescue, I feel.
Jesus’ words to the anxious disciples in their own “furious storm” are instructively salvific. Rest matters so much that even God does it. But faith means knowing that when we need to be saved:
God will calm the lake.
Maybe we think, O God, that you are sleeping away our salvation. Thank you for sending Jesus to show us better. Amen.
Kaji Douša is the Senior Pastor of The Park Avenue Christian Church, a congregation of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ, in New York City.