Jesus, Asleep in My Boat
12th Sunday in Ordinary Time
June 20, 2021
“Jesus was asleep in the stern.
They woke him and said, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’”
(from Mark 4:35-41)
How I love the image of Jesus, asleep in the disciples’ boat as it appears to be going down! There is so much we can learn from this passage, for the gospel stories are also windows of God’s actions in our souls. Of
course, the Lord has told us that he is “with us always”; yet, at times, it also can seem that he is truly asleep in our boat, or that he seems to wait too long to act. We want him to “wake up” and do something to help us!
We find the disciples once again out on the sea. Crossing the water plays a large part in the ministry of Jesus in Mark’s gospel. Often we find the disciples and Christ passing from one side to the other; and, in this instance, the gospel action happens while they are in transit. In our lives, too, God often does his best work when we are “in transit” between one place and another, perhaps not realizing that God is more involved while we are on the way to our goal rather than when we actually arrive.
These disciples are no novices when it comes to boats. Yet the Sea of Galilee was known for having squalls that would come up very quickly. We find Jesus sleeping in the back of the boat near the tiller. The boat is getting swamped with water. You would think Jesus would wake up! A normal person, it seems, would wake up. I have a feeling that they looked over at Jesus a number of times while the boat was slowly going down, only to find that Jesus would open one eye and then close it again. They, at any rate, surely suspected that somehow Jesus knew what was going on in spite of being “asleep”.
The issue here, of course, is that Jesus appears to do absolutely nothing, almost as if he doesn’t care. The disciples know better—they know he cares about them. They know that he himself has placed them into this situation; he has accompanied them on their journey; he is “with them always”; and yet now the boat is going down – they are halfway between one shore and the other, and Jesus simply doesn’t appear to act.
How often it can seem as if Jesus prefers to wait until the very last minute in our lives before he acts. Notice the timing of God here. The disciples do trust Jesus, but they finally can't stand it anymore, waking him up and accusing him of not caring! Of course, he does care, but there’s something they have to learn. God's timing is not our own. Can we be faithful to God and wait on his timing? What is he trying to teach us while we wait? God is always faithful, but will we be faithful as we wait on the Lord? Jesus is always with us in our little boat, but he does appear as if asleep, at times, for our own good.