(Rest by Dowhere, from the album Altar of Love.)
Do you remember the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal? The story is found in 1 Kings 18. Israel had been in a drought for three years, but God told Elijah that He was ready to send rain again. Before the rains arrived, though, a showdown took place between Elijah and 450 prophets of the false god Baal. Elijah challenged the prophets to build an altar to Baal while he built one to God. Both “teams” were to pray for fire to come down and consume the offering place on each altar. The prophets begged Baal for hours, calling out, cutting themselves, and doing anything they could think of to get Baal’s attention. Elijah, meanwhile, mocked them.
It came about at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, “Call out with a loud voice, for he is a god; either he is occupied or gone aside, or is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and needs to be awakened.” Isaiah 18:27
When the time came for the evening sacrifice, it was Elijah’s turn. After dousing his altar and sacrifice with a lot of water, he prayed one simple prayer. God’s response was immediate and thorough. Fire poured down from heaven, not only consuming the offering, but the altar and the water as well.
Fast forward a little bit with me to Luke.
Now on one of those days Jesus and His disciples got into a boat, and He said to them, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” So they launched out. But as they were sailing along He fell asleep; and a fierce gale of wind descended on the lake, and they began to be swamped and to be in danger. They came to Jesus and woke Him up, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And He got up and rebuked the surging waves, and they stopped, and it became calm. And He said to them, “Where is your faith?” They were fearful and amazed, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey Him?” Luke 8:22-25
So, what do these two passages have in common? Sleep. It’s a funny connection, I know, but bear with me a bit.
Years ago, I heard a pastor speaking to a group of children about talking to God. He told them almost exactly what Elijah told the prophets of Baal. He told those children they needed to be as loud as possible so God would hear them. After all, He might be asleep. I cannot tell you how my heart broke that night. I was so crushed I could hardly breathe. I wanted to scream that the God that they were crying out to is nothing like Baal. No, He is the God of this passage in Luke.
Now, on the surface we might react to such a statement by saying that Jesus really was asleep, and the disciples really did have to yell to wake Him up to save Him.
But, did they really?
I would say no.
You see, Jesus was never unaware of the situation. He was never far. He never abandoned them. Yes, He allowed them to sail into the storm. And yes, He fell asleep. But, think about this sleep? Do you really think it was all about His need for rest?
Again, I would say no.
I think His sleep was much more precious than a simple need for rest.
First of all, it was an example. Jesus’ trust in the Father was perfect. He could sleep in peace, knowing that God’s will was going to be accomplished. God the Father, the Creator of everything in existence, was not about to let something He created – the storm – thwart His perfect plan for salvation. Jesus didn’t need to know how they were going to make it through that storm. He just knew that they would. And that was enough for perfect peace.
Secondly, I think Jesus’ sleep was intended to show the disciples the character of God Himself. Jesus, in all His humanity, did need sleep. What if He had fought that? What if He had indicated to His followers that He in His physical form was their only hope? What if He had exemplified to us that rest was impossible to find? But, He didn’t! He lived as a human being, but a human who was fully reliant on God. Why? Because God never sleeps. He is never away. He is never indisposed. He is always perfectly present. And Jesus knew His disciples needed to know that. He knew that they needed to trust in Him, Jesus Christ, as their perfect salvation, but He also knew they needed to trust in Him, God the Father, as the omnipotent, omniscient orchestrator of all life. They needed to know the Father that Jesus fully submitted Himself to.
So, in His physical body He slept.
Do you know what the most beautiful part of this is? We get to sleep, too! We get to rest! We get to follow Jesus’ example! Oh, my precious friend, heed His teaching. Know that God is orchestrating every moment of your life, even the storms. And rest.
“All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:27-28