"Asleep in the boat?"
June 30, 2002
It had been a long day for Jesus and his disciples.† Of course, long days were the norm for this group, who walked all over the countryside from village to village from city to city.† By the end of the day, their feet were tired, swollen, and cracked.† The heat of the sun had drained every ounce of energy from their tired bodies.† But now the sun had set and darkness was falling upon the land, and as the last bit of light escaped to the west Jesus says to the disciples, ďLet us go across to the other side.Ē† Iím sure the last thing the disciples wanted to do was to get on boats and go across the Sea of Galilee at night.†
Now, being on a boat at night may not have been uncommon for experienced fishermen like Peter, Andrew, James, and John, but to the other disciples and the women going with Jesus I can imagine that this might have been a little scary.† One of my favorite things to do is go out onto the beach at night, look out over the sea and stare into the dark void unable to see where the sky meets the water.† I am reminded how small I am and just how big, and deep, the sea really is.† I too would have been a little nervous to go out across the sea at night, but across to the other side is where Jesus said they were going.†
There is something about Jesusí words, ďLet us go across to the other sideĒ, that beg our attention.† You see, to the casual reader, the meaning behind Jesusí words could easily be missed, and for the disciples it was missed.
If you had to define faith by one word, what would be your answer?† If you think about it, you could probably name several words that come to mind.† Faith can mean different things to different people.† Some people might say faith is belief.† If you believe in God, then that is faith.† Yes, belief is a part of faith, but it is not faith itself.† James 2:19 says, ďYou believe that God is one; you do well.† Even the demons believe Ė and they shudder.Ē† Believing there is a God does not mean that a person has faith.††
Then there are some people who believe that faith is something you do.† These people believe living a pious life, a ritual filled, church filled life is faith.† These people go through all the motions of faith.† They pray, they go to church, and they do everything they are supposed to do.† Well, faith is certainly supposed to be a part of what we do as Christians.† James says that faith without works is a dead faith, yet Paul says we are justified by grace through faith which itself is a gift from God.† Belief and works is all part of faith, but this is not only what faith is.†
I believe faith can be defined simply as trust.† If we define faith as trust, then faith takes on a whole new meaning.† Faith defined as trust changes faith from being an abstract, theological word into a concrete, relational word.† Jesus wanted a trust filled relationship with his disciples.† It would not have mattered if Jesus made the sick well, made the lame walk, made the deaf hear, or the blind see, if the disciples could not trust Jesus, the same way Jesus trusted God, then all that Jesus did would have been in vain, and the gospel would have died on the cross with him.
Trust Ė one of the single most important parts of a relationship.† It doesnít matter how much you love someone, believe in someone, or think how great they are, if you cannot trust them, then you will never have a relationship with them.† A trusting relationship is what Jesus wanted with his disciples, and what he wants with us, a completely trusting relationship.
In our day and age a trusting relationship has a different meaning than the trusting relationship Jesus wants with us.† Today, a trusting relationship is more or less an agreement between two people of what they will or will not do in their relationship.† Yet, in spite of this agreement, each person maintains his or her own individualistic, autonomous lives.†
You see, being in a trusting relationship with someone is risky, it can cost us what we desire the most, the need to be in control.† It is not so evident how risky a trusting relationship is when times are good, but wait until times are bad, and you will see just how risky it is.† When times get tough we have a tendency to rely on only one personÖour self.† Relying on others, trusting others is too costly sometimes.† It is risky.† If we are in a relationship where we continually rely and trust our selves and not others, or not God, then we are not really in a trusting relationship.†
Jesus wants us to be in a relationship with us of complete trust, a relationship that is totally and utterly dependent upon him, a relationship in which we give up our individualistic wants and needs, in which we surrender our autonomy and control of our lives to live fully in reliance and dependence upon Christ.†
But trusting someone, as Jesus wants us to trust him is not easy for us to do, because faith is not a one-time commitment.† Faith is a journey, a journey that is at times very hard, a journey whose path cannot always be seen by us.† When we stand on the shore and look across the sea, sometimes we are unable to see what our journey of faith holds for us.† Jesusí words give us a promise that we are not alone on our journey, that we are going to the other side, that there is an end, a destination, but the pathway to this end is at times dark and void.† So, like the disciples, we too set off into the darkness, all we can do is trust the One who promises to be with us along the way, but we are unable to see what the future holds, unable to see the journey before us, unable to see the storms ahead.
Even the experienced fishermen missed the coming storm which suddenly appeared upon them, and what a terrible storm it was.† Gale force winds turned the tranquil see into a billowing, foaming wall of waves.† The disciples frantically tried to keep the boat upright as wave after wave dumped water into the boat.† As the boat became swamped, fear came over the disciples even over the able bodied fishermen.
The bad storms of life can and do scare us to death.† It doesnít matter how experienced we are in life, it doesnít matter how young or old we are, it doesnít matter how many storms we have already weathered, when storms of this size come upon us in our journey of faith we too become afraid.† Our very life becomes threatened, we question whether we will even make it through.† It is in these times that it is much harder to trust in Jesus.†
Like the disciples, we too cry out to Jesus, ďDonít you care, canít you see that I am drowning.Ē† We donít call on God to save us or help us, instead we resort back to our human understanding of a relationship.† We resort back to questioning Godís part of the deal.† "You said you would never leave me nor forsake me, yet here I am all alone trying to keep my head above water.† And where are you, what are you doing, in the midst of my perishing, you are asleep?† How can you sleep at a time like this?† Look around you, do you see what is going on?† Donít you even care, donít you even know what Iím going through?"†
My friends, being in a faithful relationship with Jesus isnít easy.† Jesus didnít say or promise to his disciples that when they followed him that life would be easier, that it would be smooth sailing.† What he said was that in the midst of the rough times we would never be alone, that he would never leave us.†
A faithful relationship is a journey through life together with God.† With all of its ups and downs, with its calm seas and the wind driven walls of waves.† The disciples didnít understand this.† They never trusted that Jesus was with them in their journey.† Jesus says let us go to the other side, the final destination is assured but the journey along the way is not always easy.† In the midst of the storm the disciples had forgotten Jesus promise that they would make it to the other side.
Jesus could sleep because he had complete trust in Godís faithfulness to see that they would make it to the other side.† Even in the midst of the storm, Jesus was able to sleep.† What an amazing trusting relationship he had with God.† Jesus relationship with the Father is like the relationship between a baby and her mother.† Youíve seen how babies can fall asleep in their motherís arms even when the mother is doing things, walking around, shopping, working around the house, and there is the baby all slumped over in her motherís arms completely oblivious to what is going on.†
Babies can sleep because they have an intimate, personal, trusting relationship with their mothers.† This relationship is not something that can be explained by them or even understood by them, it is just part of who they are as children.† With other people she canít sleep because she does not have an intimate relationship with them.† Jesus in the same way can sleep because of his intimate relationship with the Father above.† If God is not true to his plan and promises, then Jesus had a reason to be afraid, but Jesus could trust God and did.† He trusted God so much that he was able to sleep in the boat.
Will we ever be able to trust God like Jesus trusted God?† Will we ever be able to feel as secure and safe in our relationship with God as Jesus did?† Will we ever get to the point where we too can be asleep in the boat?† Amen.