Thursday, April 28, 2016


There's a very good reason why we can't just jump from Jesus sleeping on the boat to calming the waves, as if that were the entire point of the whole story. (It is but one of many rich threads woven into this particular narrative.) That very good reason is this:

Because the tables were about to be turned.

It's not long after Jesus is found sleeping when the disciples seem to need Him most that it will be the disciples' turn to sleep, at a moment when Jesus confesses that He needs them. Just a few turns of the page and we find ourselves in the garden of Gethsemane, moments before Jesus is betrayed into the hands of those who have spent His entire ministry chasing Him.

He goes to this garden, one of His go-to spots, to pray. It may be, He knows, one of His last chances to get away into a quiet place before the noise will be nearly unbearable. Before He will hear the taunting crowds. Before He will hear His disciples' denial. Before the sound of the hammer striking the nails pierces more than His hands. This is it. He needs this prayer. 

The disciples, as they are accustomed to by now, go with Him. Several stay near the edge of the garden; a few go deeper with Him. He turns to the few and says, "Stay awake and keep watch (pray) with me." In other words, I really need you guys right now. Please, please be my guys right now. 

Okay, Jesus. No problem. We got this.

Then He steps deeper still into the garden and begins to pray. After a short time, He comes back to the few and finds them...sleeping. Wake up, guys! I need you! Can you not just stay awake and pray with me? Keep watch. I need you.

Okay, Jesus. Sorry. No problem. Here we are. We got this. Keeping watch. Right-o.

Then He steps again into the depths of the garden and begins again to pray. After another short time, He comes back to the few and finds them...sleeping. Again. Wake up, guys! I need you! Why is this so difficult? 

Right. Sorry. You're right, Jesus. It's not so hard. Okay. We're awake. We got this. Go pray.

So Jesus steps away again to pray. And a few minutes later, He comes back one more time and discovers, you guessed it, sleeping disciples. But this time, it's too late. Wake up, guys. It's time. The betrayer is coming with the mob; this is my moment.

Good thing Jesus thought to come back when He did or the disciples might have slept through the whole thing. After all, if you can sleep through your Teacher crying out in such agony that He drips beads of blood from His brow, you can probably sleep through the moment when He makes no noise at all, when He quietly goes with those who have come to capture Him. 

And that's why we have to let the question of the boat linger a little bit. Because it's not just about some sleeping God that we wake up when we need Him to calm the waves; it's about our falling asleep on Him, too. It's about this time that's coming when God will have to wake us up.

Because we're sleeping. 

And He needs us.

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