On one occasion some people interrupted Jesus’s sleep and He did not quite like it. I guess they had felt they had good reason, they were in danger of death and needed His help. The gospel of Matthew, in very few words recounts the story of the disciples of Jesus as they were caught in a violent storm; the boat was overwhelmed with the waves and all were in terror of losing their lives, all, save Jesus. He, we are told, was sleeping. When they could take it no more, His disciples, feeling lost and abandoned, went and woke Him. Another gospel writer, in his account, says they wondered if Jesus did not care that they may drown. Jesus woke up and stilled the waves, but not before rebuking them soundly for their attitude of fear and faithlessness.
Now that is quite something. Now those poor men were fighting for their lives, Jesus was sleeping, at such a pressing time, and He rebukes them? And, why, one might ask did He feel the need to put His disciples through that trauma? I confess I was in stitches as I reread this story, thinking about how those wretched men must have looked before and in particular after this incident. Lord, I said, rolling in laughter, those poor disciples, that was not ‘nice’. And in essence isn’t that just what we often say? ‘Lord, do be nice to me, do this for me now. Don’t make me have to deal with anything, don’t ask me anything, just be sweet and take care of everything, NOW’ .
It seems to me that NICE means something else to God. I mean, first, Jesus sleeps His way through their ordeal, then He scolds them for lacking faith. Question, why on earth was Jesus sleeping? I rather think the answer to that questions opens a window into understanding how God deals with His children.
I believe Jesus was sleeping because:
- He needed rest. He had just finished ministering, it must have been exhausting.
- He had no reason not to, He had no fear of danger. People stay awake when they fear harm or worry about the future. Jesus was secure in who He was and in divine protection
- He knew exactly what He was going to do, still the waves.
- And this is crucial, he expected His disciples to handle whatever came up.
- He wanted to test His disciples and see how they would react in a tight spot, if they would have faith
- He wanted to teach them about the power of God
- He wanted to reveal His greatness to them, same reason He let Lazarus die before going to rescue him.
Secondly, the fact of His scolding them when He woke up rather than, perhaps apologising, for not being their for them! Afterall, they felt hard done by. Frankly, we sometimes feel the same. We sometimes wonder if God is not in some deep sleep totally indifferent to our lot whereas the waves are moving in on us and we are in danger of drowning in the midst of the vicissitudes of life. We cry and accuse Him of insensitivity, remember dear Martha, ‘Lord if you had you been here my brother would not have died.’ This is real, and despite my moment of mirth at their expense those poor disciples really were in a life threatening situation. These were no wimps, they were hardy men, some of them fishermen well accustomed to storms and sea, yet they were terrified. And in that very tight spot Jesus expected them to believe that He, who at that time was in deep slumber, would save them.
Remarkable yes. Insensitive perhaps? No, most certainly not. God knows what we don’t know. He knows what He has put in us. We have the ability to believe beyond what we can imagine. We must take God’s word for it that in a potentially life upsetting situation, in the face of intractable and apparently irresolvable difficulties, in the seeming absence of divine activity, God will make it right. That blesses me. That God would expect me to be able to look danger in the face and trust Him excites me, tells me there are resources inside of me that are yet untapped, that I have some more growing to do, and some more amazing good to experience.
I don’t think, oh no, I can’t do that, I think, I am in for a very exciting ride with a remarkable deity. One who grants great authority and great responsibility to man. One who develops the potential He has put in man. And when I read of Jesus rebuking this lot for fearing and having little faith. I say wow! Perhaps we have limited people’s growth by expecting so little of them. Jesus basically told these men who were in danger of death that they were wrong to fear. He did not say, oh you poor things i understand, it’s really dangerous out here. Oh no, He expected better of them and made that clear.
They were already terrified by the storm and then He terrified them even further by stilling it, then they were terrified in the calm that followed. And then they thought to themselves, but who on earth is this man, even the wind and the sea obey Him. Just an aside, what exactly did they expect, after all they went to ask Him to save them! How I would have loved to see Jesus’s face and share His joy much later, after His ascension and Pentecost, when Peter and John stood boldly and fearlessly before the very same people who had had Jesus crucified and despite possible heavy reprisals stated boldly ‘we cannot but speak of the things we have seen and heard’. So Jesus was right to expect more of them, because they eventually got there. And so will we. After all we have drunk of the same Spirit.