TURBULENT SEA, SLEEPING JESUS
Even the smallest little incidents of human life are all divine experiences, the difference being in our attitude.
Let us contemplate upon the simple act of ‘sleeping’. Let me ask you, when do we sleep peacefully? Or let me put it this way, when do we lose our sleep? Most of us may contend that it is when we are worried or tensed. Sound sleep provides energy and dynamism. Prophet Elijah, who was enormously tired, could resume his journey after a good sleep (1 Kings 19). In this context, I recall from my seminary days, a fellow seminarian, who upon getting temptations would go to sleep. And when he would wake up thereafter, everything would subside and feels inner peace. Hence, sleeping is vital for rest and recuperation.
We look at Peter in this instance… In the storm the boat was swamped by the waves. One is sleeping calm and quiet. Peter is terrified and screaming. Same sea, same boat, same storm, one is Master and another disciple. The same trouble is being encountered. Yet, how dramatically different was their reaction!
Let me ask, who amongst us may be considered spiritually sound? One who prays for long hours? One who praises to open the sky above? If the yardstick was so, then most of us would win the prize. To fall back or shudder while praying over are the sign of anointing? The real test of our spirituality and faith takes place during trials and tribulations. They prove how we stand, face and overcome it which decidedly points to our spiritual maturity and faith.
In the storm when the boat was swamped by the waves Jesus is asleep as he had the insight that he is in the providential hands of the Father (at the end surrendering of His spirit into the hands of the Father). Even in the Garden of Gethsemane we see the same sense of surrender, which was the peak of all surrenders. We see Jesus courageously going forward without running away from temptations thus fulfilling the will of the Father. The courage to come forward and ask, ‘Whom are you looking for?’ and to say “I AM” to those who had come to arrest him at the Garden of Gethsemane (John 18).
In the same instance we see Peter, drawing his sword and cutting off the ear of the slave of the High Priest, a wholly useless and thoughtless action. It is a reaction that stemmed out of fear to save himself and the Master. We again see a glimpse of Peter denying any knowledge of the man ‘Jesus’ in the courtyard of Pontius Pilate, in a bid to save his skin. A fear wrought Peter, doing and saying things he never intended to say or do.
But we encounter an entirely different Peter in the latter half of the New Testament. Peter is filled with the Holy Spirit and the knowledge of His Master. As Jesus says, “I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father” (Jn 15:15-16).
So, to say about Peter, in Acts 12:6 we read, “The very night before Herod was going to bring him out, Peter bound with two chains, was sleeping between two soldiers, while guards in front of the door were keeping watch over the prison.” Here we see Peter peacefully asleep. In spite of being bound with two chains, the enemies watching over and with an impending decree of death, awaiting him the next day, Peter is sound asleep. He learned to sleep in the arms of the Lord (screaming Peter in the boat!).
Here I would like to quote some verses about sleep from the Bible – Psalm 4:8, “I will both lie down and sleep in peace; for you alone, O Lord, make me lie down in safety.” Psalm 3:5, “I lie down and sleep; I wake again, for the Lord sustains me.” And also Proverbs 3:24, “If you sit down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.” Each of these, points to the Lord, who provides safety, who sustains us, the one who drives out fear to give us blissful sleep. Also Psalm 127:2, “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives sleep to his beloved.”
Coming back to the prison cell of Peter, we see that though there is no visible sign of the Lord’s presence yet Peter is in the presence of God. His attitude in facing the trouble is a sign of it, more potent than anything visible or tangible. We also read of Paul and Silas in Acts 16, who, in spite of being beaten up and thrown into prison are praying and singing hymns. This is the visible sign of the strength of their faith and conviction. Will we be able to offer the fruit of our lips, offering Him praise out of the conviction of His goodness and protection and Lordship over us? Or we will just continue to return from the church singing “I surrender all” without surrendering anything?
Psalm 131 says, “I have stilled my soul, hushed it like a weaned child. Like a weaned child on its mother’s lap, so is my soul within me.” Same Sea – Face it courageously. Don’t complaint to God about the severity of the storm but tell the storm about the power of the God. Death is also like a deep sleep. The one who slept intensely resurrected the third day with glory. Let us adore the risen Lord.
Fr.Dr. John Puthenpurackal V.C.