Sleepy Jesus

A windstorm arose on the sea, so great that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but Jesus was asleep. The disciples woke him up, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a dead calm. – Matthew 8:24-26 (NRSV)

When was the last time you heard “sleepiness” used in a positive light? I thought so.

Sleepiness tends to be equated with mindlessness; sometimes benign, more often destructive. Just ask a Buddhist. The word Buddha means, “one who is awake.” Wakeful, watchful, awareness is the ideal state for meditators. Not to be outdone, Jesus urges his followers, “Stay awake!”

Except when he doesn’t. Napping in a boat during a life-threatening storm looks like another example of apathy in the midst of tragedy, like Nero fiddling while Rome burns. So much for watchful attentiveness!

Or maybe not. Maybe Jesus is so attentive, so rooted in divine presence, he is not bothered or blown about by every breeze and gale that comes along. Maybe Jesus can sleep in heavenly peace while waves swamp the dingy because Jesus has power over the storm rather than the other way around.

Many of us could use more sleep, and not just those who struggle with insomnia. We could all learn to be faithful nappers, more relaxed, more rested, and more ready for action in the midst of the crises that assail us.

God of holy rest, give me enough faith to engage the spiritual practice of napping, especially when the storms rage and my boat is about to sink.

ddauthormattlaney2014.pngAbout the Author
Matt Laney is the Senior Pastor of Virginia Highland Church UCC in Atlanta, GA and the author of Pride Wars, a fantasy series published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for Young Readers. The first two books, The Spinner Prince and The Four Guardians are available now.