The sleeping Jesus

the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
Gerard Manley Hopkins

The nap, Gustave Caillebotte

The nap, Gustave Caillebotte

On the evening of that same day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.”  So they left the crowd; the disciples got into the boat in which Jesus was already sitting, and they took him with them. Other boats were there too.  Suddenly a strong wind blew up, and the waves began to spill over into the boat, so that it was about to fill with water.  Jesus was in the back of the boat, sleeping with his head on a pillow. The disciples woke him up and said, “Teacher, don't you care that we are about to die?”  Mark 4: 35-39

What kind of Jesus?

There are many titles for Jesus, and the need for them is great.  Jesus the glutton, Jesus the clown, Jesus the Saviour...In this account we are presented with the Jesus who sleeps. 

Let's stop and ask What do we do with the Jesus who sleeps?

Mark, normally so concise and clipped, adds the description 'with his head on a pillow', reluctantly perhaps like some thriller writer who feels he needs to tart things up a little.   Maybe Mark is being direct, underlining with heavy sarcasm the incredulity of such a posture.  With indignity the disciples cry out, "Don't you care?".  And here is the rub - if he cares aren't there certain expectations contingent upon the Son of God?

I'm not sure that I haven't had this impression, possibly derived from sentences that indicate God 'neither sleeps nor slumbers' and 'He ever intercedes'. Notwithstanding the necessity of sleep, and similarly of food and water, this is not the image we want, much like an employer wants to see time well spent; active, eager and alert employees on company business.  What do I expect of my God?

A closed eye and a pillow

What the story reflects back to me is a picture of a God at peace in the world.  Maybe he's not on the edge of his seat, flinching or complaining about the state of this that and the other. Maybe he isn't like the old woman who draws back the lace curtain to peer out into the street. I think it comes down to this, irked at a composed and uncomplaining Jesus, we are thrown. Aren't we supposed to see, in the main, outrage and opposition?  I don't think Jesus was or is complacent.  It's just that he didn't give the impression he was disgusted or disappointed in a wholesale manner, like a neat and tidy person picking up with pinched fingers a particularly dirty cloth or discarded carry out meal.  

Have we got a Jesus who is never satisfied, and therefore we musn't and can't be?  Have we a Jesus who is always active and hyperalert, and so therefore must we be?   Have we a fearful Jesus, Lord of earth and heaven, uncomfortable in his own world, and so we must reflect this fear?

Jesus did sweep into action, commanding the waves to fall and the wind to die down, and in so doing revealed yet another aspect of his full life. But curiously it is with the closed eye and the hair that falls over a rested face that I am most challenged by, and yet also reassured by.