Mark 4:35-41

Jesus was asleep in a boat during a storm.  Asleep.   ASLEEP!

While my wife is a member of the U.S. Sleep Team and “works out” regularly. For me, sleep is a valued friend who does not stay as long as I would like.  

But Psalms encourages us: 

 I lie down and sleep. Psalm 3:5

I will lie down and sleep in peace, for You alone make me dwell in safety.  Psalm 4:8

Most of us do not have to worry about safety as a pre-condition of sleep.  But David, the Psalmist, did.  Surrounded by Saul’s army and pursued, David had more reasons not to sleep than most of us do. Yet he wrote of sleeping. 

How does our Lord sleep in a storm?  We think,  “Lord, I want to abide with You in the midst of my storms – but – You seem to be – no, in fact You are!  You are asleep!”  

Anyone here looking for some rest?  Sleep?  Anyone feel like they are being chased by a tidal wave?  Weighed down with responsibilities and ministry.  Jesus was (John 4:6) so He slept.   

Peace I give to you, my peace I leave with you – not as the world gives….  Peace be with you (John 14:27)  How many times did He say that to His disciples?

Professor by Christopher DeWelt, of Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri, imagines Mark being interviewed about this experience on the Sea of Galilee and saying,  “I am telling you man – I was in that boat! And I know something about boats and I especially know something about that lake – and it was terrifying!  I know those waters – and I thought – we all thought — we were going to die!  You know I wouldn’t wake Him up when He had been working so hard –  we did not understand what was really happening  – but I am telling you we were terrified!   There was a boat that went out several years ago – and it just disappeared!  The whole boat – and those were experienced men!!”  

Christopher further imagines Jesus waking up and remonstrating with the disciples,  “What’s the matter with you?  Suffering from that amnesia thing again?  Didn’t you remember when I . . . .” 

When we abide in Jesus we rest in Him the way that He rested in the Father’s hands in the boat – and when we do, we sleep.

Jesus is asleep. No, He did not have one eye half open, pretending to sleep while watching until the disciples called out to Him.  He was asleep. And water was coming into the boat to a dangerous degree!  

Sleep was and is His idea. He invented it. Now (at the time of our text) in His incar-nation, He is doing what He created – sleeping.  Sleep makes a statement about security and safety e.g. a child sleeps because he is secure and feels safe.  So do we.  

 A brief theology of sleep. 

  • A Companion   It was while Adam was sleeping that God was working, fashioning a companion for him.  
  • Seed  In the passage just before our text, we are told that seed in the ground is growing, even if the farmer is asleep.   All by itself – when he is sleeping – the soil produces “though he does not know how” (Mark 4: 26-28).  
  • Evening & Morning was the rhythm of God’s creation.  The creation narrative is told in an evening and morning sequence (suggesting that Adam and Eve slept).   “And God saw all that He had made, and it was very good.”  This is the Hebrew way of understanding day, but it is not ours. Our day begins with an alarm clock ripping the predawn darkness and closes, not with evening, but several hours past that, when we turn off the lights.  Our definition of day is so different from God’s.  

In the evening,  God begins, without our help, His creative day.  In the morning, God calls us to enjoy and share and develop the work He initiated – most of it, while we were sleeping!  This is His rhythm! The rhythm of the creation.

 Some Thoughts About Sleep 

Sleep could be called non-productive time, reminding us that God is God   A sleeper has no cash value at the moment. It is odd, don’t you think, that our Lord gives us life and then requires us to spend a significant part of it basically inert?

Before death came into the world, sleep was already an established part of the Master’s design … For many years I have thought about this subject of sleep and how curious it is!  How is it that God created us to be unconscious for ¼ to ⅓ of our lives?  

When we sleep,  we are acknowledging that He is God and we are not!  After all, we are “off duty” (As zealous Christians, we sometimes get into the whole deal of, “I am more spiritual than you because I sleep less” No, you’re just more tired). 

John Piper puts it this way: “Sleep is a daily reminder from God that we are not God. Once a day God sends us to bed like patients with a sickness. The sickness is a chronic tendency to think we are in control and that our work is indispensable. To cure us of this disease God turns us into helpless sacks of sand once a day. In sleep, I am forced to acknowledge my 100% dependency on my Lord.”

D.A. Carson puts it this way – “Sometimes the godliest thing you can do in the universe is get a good night’s sleep!”  Sleep is a parable that God is God and we are merely men. God handles the world quite nicely while an entire hemisphere sleeps. A huge reason why we sleep is to understand who He is and to understand who we are.  We are not God, so we can and should sleep.  

Living Within Your Limitations   Our dear heavenly Father is not some sort of sadistic life coach driving us to do what we can’t manage with the bodies He created for us.  Yes, we have all heard of denying our flesh.  That has to do with sin, not being blurry-eyed and exhausted from sleeplessness. Know your limitations – they are also God-given. The work will still be there tomorrow.  The war won’t be over before you get there. 

Sleep is a Gift   Scripture conveys that sleep is a gift from God.  The Creative One thought up the idea of sleep itself – out of nothing – and then gave it as a gift to us!  

Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil;  for he gives to his beloved sleep (Psalm 127: 1-2). 

When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet (Prov. 3: 24). See also Jeremiah 31:26,  

The sleep of a laboring man is sweet  (Ecclesiastes 5:12). 

Conclusion  If you are a Christian work-a-holic, give up the god complex and award yourself the time you need to sleep. Then ask God to change time in the rack into refreshing sleep so that you will be at your best as a Christian.  As a father.  As a mother.  As a missionary. 


Credit:  The majority of this devotional is from a fuller message by Chris DeWelt, a teacher at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri.  A number of Actions MemberCare workers were present at a Barnabas International Pastoral Training in MemberCareconference near Asheville, North Carolina, in early October, 2018, to benefit from this message. Thank You Professor DeWelt. 

Mr. DeWelt was gracious to send me his notes from his message about Abiding in Christ. Since I have not slept well in decades, I have always been interested in God’s perspective on sleep.  And Mr. DeWelt gave me the fullest discussion on sleep I have heard. I have lifted his thoughts about sleep out of his fuller message.He goes on to comment on rest, sanctuary and sabbath.  

Regarding sabbath, Mr. DeWelt imagines commenting to his son:   We [non-legalistic Evangelicals—k.g.k.]  kind of don’t know what to do with sabbath – We tell our kids funny things –“Dad, do we believe in the 10 commandments?” – “Well, junior, yes, but well, not exactly, well yeah, I guess you could say that we believe in the Nine Commandments” – but the Sabbath thing, that was for the Jews – Yeah, yeah, I like that: “the Nine Commandments.” 

I would add that some missionaries can’t imagine resting one day in seven, even though God did and doing so pre-dated the law. Check out the first chapter of the Bible!

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