The Sleeping Savior
“Peace. Be still.” With these words, Christ in this week’s Gospel calms the storm that threatens His disciples, and calls them to deeper faith in Him. This striking scene of the storm on the Sea of Galilee prompts us too to confront our own faith. Who is it that we believe Christ to be? What do we believe He can do or wants to do with the storms in our lives? Who should we see in Jesus Christ when we see Him arise and act?
In the Gospel episode, the disciples show yet again that they do not clearly understand the identity of Jesus of Naza-reth. When the storm arises, and their teacher sleeps in one of the boats, they are moved to wake Him. They apparently believe that He must be awake and active in order to save them from harm, implying that He will have to exert Himself to some degree in order to calm the storm. They still see Him as a miracle working Rabbi, even if a unique one, someone with super-natural abilities not unlike magic, and so therefore on the same scale as the maladies and dangers He confronts. Because of this, they believe that His silence and sleep means death and destruction for them. Unless He arises, the storm will consume them all.
We may find ourselves in a similar place with the Lord. How do we react when storms arise in our lives? How do we approach the Lord? How do we react to His silence? Perhaps sometimes, when trials or crises confront us, we feel as though we have to wake the Lord, employing different types of prayers and devotions, making deals with heaven, in an effort to draw the attention of God to our difficulties. We can imagine that maybe God is not powerful enough to heal or calm the storms in our souls, families, nation, Church or world, or if He is, He is only just mighty enough. When it seems like He is sleeping in our boat, we can interpret it as an indication that He does not care, or that perhaps He cannot help us. We, like the disciples, may cry out to Him in fear, hoping to provoke an unlikely act of salvation.
The truth is that all the world belongs entirely to Christ Jesus, and nothing in this world, natural or spiritual, even re-motely approaches His power and glory. He does not sleep out of indifference or out of powerlessness, but because He does not need to wake in order to bring everything to its proper end. He acts even when silent, and His action in hidden quiet is mightier than all our waking efforts could ever be. He awakes and rebukes the storm for the sake of His disciples, so that they might believe and no longer fear, but not because He needs to do so to make all things calm. Had one of the disciples simply said, “we need not fear, for the Master is with us,” the storm would still have come to nothing.
In our lives too, when the Lord appears to sleep, it is never because He has abandoned, forgotten, or rejected us. Even in silence He acts with inexorable authority and power. In those moments, He calls us to trust that He is with us, and that He can and will work good from all things, no matter how hopeless they might seem in the moment. He asks us whether or not we really believe that He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. As we ask ourselves that question this week, let’s also ask Christ for that grace of seeing Him with the eyes of real faith, as He truly is, and the God who has loved us, and cares for us in all things.