Mark 4:35-41, “Jesus Asleep”
On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
In ancient times, the sea, a great source of income for many, was also a source of anxiety and fear. The disciples knew the sea well. They had grown up on its waters, plying their generational vocation with great skill and competence. But, for all of their nautical prowess, for all of their tried and true wisdom, they regressed into a state of fear and panic when the winds began to blow and the waves began to swell and roll. And truth be told, there is little one can do, however skilled, when God’s creation rebels, as it most certainly will.
And so, what begins as a routine trip across to the other side, quickly turns ugly when a windstorm arises. As the chaos surrounds their modest fishing vessel, panic ensues. In the blink of an eye, these weather-worn and savvy fisherman, so confident a moment ago, resort to blame and accusation. Their target: a sleeping Jesus. “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” It’s an incredulous and accusatory question. How could this Jesus, able to heal a man with a withered hand, able to cleanse the unclean, drawing crowds of thousands, how could he be sleeping so peacefully when certain death was on the horizon?
It’s a question we all ask at some point in our lives. Where was Jesus when this child, so new to the world, took an unexpected turn for the worse and was taken from this life? Where was Jesus when we cried out to him as our abuser had his way with us? Where was Jesus when I was hanging on his every word and my life was in shambles? Does he not care? Is he really sleeping? Far from being disappointed in our questions, Jesus actually greets them head on.
Think for a moment about the space and time between crucifixion and resurrection. Even Jesus, himself cries out from the cross, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” But think about that darkness between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. The disciples were certain Jesus was the one (see Luke 24:13-35). They weren’t wrong in this hope. Far from it. Jesus conversed with them on the road as they fell into sorrow and disappointment. And yet, he greets them and opens the Scriptures to them, and shows them all that was said “concerning himself.” And then their hearts “burned within” them because they had come into an encounter with the risen Christ! Jesus was not sleeping. He had died, but had been raised by the power of the Holy Spirit!
He knows intimately all of your fears. He prayed and pleaded with his Father in heaven, and yet he faced his fears and took all of our fears with him on that cross. Hebrews 4 even tells us he is able to sympathize with our weaknesses in every respect.
In this season of uncertainty, there is a once-for-all reassuring hope. When the uncertainty of disease and death are all around us, we serve a risen Christ who calls out to us, “Peace! Be Still!” Look to the tomb no longer. Jesus is not there. He is alive and he greets you and bids you to go and tell others. So, tell your brothers and sisters who are in fear and are in doubt. We will all need to be told again and again, “He is alive!”