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JESUS ASLEEP ON A PILLOW”And He was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake Him, and say unto Him, Master, carest Thou not that we perish? And He arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.”—Mark iv. 38, 39.
JESUS ASLEEP ON A PILLOW
OUR Lord took His disciples with Him into the ship to teach them a practical lesson. It is one thing to talk to people about our oneness with them, and about how they should exercise faith in time of danger, and about their real safety in apparent peril; but it is another, and a far better thing, to go into the ship with them, to let them feel all the terror of the storm, and then to arise, and rebuke the wind, and say unto the sea, “Peace, be still.” Our Lord gave His disciples a kind of Kindergarten lesson, an acted sermon, in which the truth was set forth visibly before them. Such teaching produced a wonderful effect upon their lives. May we also be instructed by it!
In our text there are two great calms; the first is, the calm in the Saviour’s heart, and the second is, the calm which He created with a word upon the storm-tossed sea.
I. Within the Lord where was a great calm, and that is why there was soon a great calm around Him; for what is in God comes out of God. Since there was a calm in Christ for Himself, there was afterwards a calm outside for others. What a wonderful inner calm it was! “He was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow.”
He had perfect confidence in God that all was well. The waves might roar, the winds might rage, but He was not at all disquieted by their fury. He knew that the waters were in the hollow of His Father’s hand, and that every wind was but the breath of His Father’s mouth; and so He was not troubled; nay, He had not even a careful thought, He was as much at ease as on a sunny day. His mind and heart were free from every kind of care, for amid the gathering tempest He deliberately laid Himself down, and slept like a weary child. He went to the hinder part of the ship, most out of the gash of the spray; He took a pillow, and put it under His head, and with fixed intent disposed Himself to slumber. It was His own act and deed to go to sleep in the storm; He had nothing for which to keep awake, so pure and perfect was His confidence in the great Father. What an example this is to us! We have not half the confidence in God that we ought to have, not even the best of us. The Lord deserves our unbounded belief, our unquestioning confidence, our undisturbed reliance. Oh, that we rendered it to Him as the Saviour did!
There was also mixed with His faith in the Father a sweet confidence in His own Sonship. He did not doubt that He was the Son of the Highest. I may not question God’s power to deliver, but I may sometimes question my right to expect deliverance; and if so, my comfort vanishes. Our Lord had no doubts of this kind. He had long before heard that word, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased;” He had so lived and walked with God that the witness within Him was continuous, so He had no question about the Father’s love to Him as His own Son. “Rocked in the cradle of the deep,” His Father keeping watch over Him,—what could a child do better than go to sleep in such a happy position? And so He does. You and I, too, want a fuller assurance of our sonship if we would have greater peace with God. The devil knows that, and therefore he will come to us with his insinuating suggestion, “If thou be the son of God.” If we have the Spirit of adoption in us, we shall put the accuser to rout at once, by opposing the Witness within to his question from without. Then shall we be filled with a great calm, because we have confidence in our Father, and assurance of our sonship.
Then He had a sweet way—this blessed Lord of ours—of leaving all with God. He takes no watch, He makes no fret; but He goes to sleep. Whatever comes, He has left all in the hands of the great Caretaker; and what more is needful? If a watchman were set to guard my house, I should be foolish if I also sat up for fear of thieves. Why have a watchman if I cannot trust him to watch? “Cast thy burden upon the Lord;” but when thou hast done so, leave it with the Lord, and do not try to carry it thyself. That is to make a mock of God, to have the name of God, but not the reality, of God. Lay down every care, even as Jesus did when He went calmly to the hinder part of the ship, and quietly took a pillow, and went to sleep.
But I think I hear someone say, “I could do that if mine were solely care about myself.” Yes, perhaps you could; and yet you cannot cast upon God your burden of care about your children. But your Lord trusted the Father with those dear to Him. Do you not think that Christ’s disciples were as precious to Him as our children are to us? If that ship had been wrecked, what would have become of Peter? What would have become of “that disciple whom Jesus loved”? Our Lord regarded with intense affection those whom He had chosen and called, and who had been with Him in His temptation, yet He was quite content to leave them all in the care of His Father, and go to sleep.
You answer, “Yes, but there is a still wider circle of people watching to see what will happen to me, and to the cause of Christ with which I am connected. I am obliged to care, whether I will or no.” Is your case, then, more trying than your Lord’s? Do you forget that “there were also with Him many other little ships”? When the storm was tossing His barque, their little ships were even more in jeopardy; and He cared for them all. He was the Lord High Admiral of the Lake of Gennesaret that night. The other ships were a fleet under His convoy, and His great heart went out to them all. Yet He went to sleep, because He had left in His Father’s care even the solicitudes of His charity and sympathy. We, my brethren, who are much weaker than He, shall find strength in doing the same.
Having left everything with His Father, our Lord did the very wisest thing possible. He did just what the hour demanded. “Why,” say you, “He went to sleep!” That was the best thing Jesus could do; and sometimes it is the best thing we can do. Christ was weary and worn; and when anyone is exhausted, it is his duty to go to sleep if he can. The Saviour must be up again in the morning, preaching and working miracles, and if He does not sleep, He will not be fit for His holy duty; it is incumbent upon Him to keep Himself in trim for His service. Knowing that the time to sleep has come, the Lord sleeps, and does well in sleeping. Often, when we have been fretting and worrying, we should have glorified God far more had we literally gone to sleep. To glorify God by sleep is not so difficult as some might think; at least, to our Lord it was natural. Here you are worried, sad, wearied; the doctor prescribes for you; his medicine does you no good; but oh! if you enter into full peace with God, and go to sleep, you will wake up infinitely more refreshed than by any drug. The sleep which the Lord giveth to His beloved is balmy indeed. Seek it as Jesus sought it. Go to bed, brother, and you will better imitate your Lord than by putting yourself into ill humour, and worrying other people.
There is a spiritual sleep in which we ought to imitate Jesus. How often I have worried my poor brain about my great church, until I have come to my senses, and then I have said to myself, “How foolish you are! Can you not depend upon God? Is it not far more His cause than yours?” Then I have taken my load in prayer, and left it with the Lord. I have said, “In God’s name, this matter shall never worry me again,” and I have left my urgent care with Him, and ended it for ever. I have so deliberately given up many a trying case into the Lord’s care that, when any of my friends have said to me, “What about so and so?” I have simply answered, “I do not know, and I am no longer careful to know. The Lord will interpose in some way or other, but I will trouble no more about it.” No mischief has ever come through any matter which I have left in the divine keeping. The staying of my hand has been wisdom. “Stand still, and see the salvation of God” is God’s own precept. Here let us follow Jesus. Having a child’s confidence in the great Father, He retires to the stern of the ship, selects a pillow, deliberately lies down upon it, and goes to sleep; and though the ship is filling with water, and rolls and pitches, He sleeps on. Nothing can break the peace of His tranquil soul. Every sailor on board reels to and fro, and staggers like a drunken man, and is at his wits’ end; but Jesus is neither at his wits’ end, nor does He stagger, for He rests in perfect innocence, and undisturbed confidence. His heart is happy in God, and therefore doth He remain in repose. Oh, for grace to copy Him!
II. But here notice, dear friends, The difference between the Master and His disciples; for while He was in a great calm, they were in a great storm. Here see their failure. They were just as we are, and we are often just as they were.
They gave way to fear. They were sorely afraid that the ship would sink, and that they would all perish. In thus yielding to fear, they forgot the solid reasons for courage which lay near at hand; for, in truth, they were safe enough. Christ is on board that vessel, and if the ship goes down, He will sink with them. The heathen mariner took courage during a storm from the fact that Caesar was on board the ship that was tossed by stormy winds; and should not the disciples feel secure with Jesus on board? Fear not, ye carry Jesus and His cause! Jesus had come to do a work, and His disciples might have known that He could not perish with that work unaccomplished. Could they not trust Him? They had seen Him multiply the loaves and fishes, and cast out devils, and heal all manner of sicknesses; could they not trust Him to still the storm? Unreasonable unbelief! Faith in God is true prudence, but to doubt God is irrational. It is the height of absurdity and folly to question omnipotent love.
And the disciples were so unwise as to do the Master a very ill turn. He was sadly weary, and sorely needed sleep; but they hastened to Him, and aroused Him in a somewhat rough and irreverent manner. They were slow to do so, but their fear urged them; and therefore they awoke Him, uttering ungenerous and unloving words: “Master, carest Thou not that we perish?” Shame on the lips that asked so harsh a question! Did they not upon reflection greatly blame themselves? He had given them no cause for such hard speeches; and, moreover, it was unseemly in them to call Him “Master,” and then to ask Him, “Carest Thou not that we perish?” Is He to be accused of such hard-heartednesses to let His faithful disciples perish when He has power to deliver them? Alas, we, too, have been guilty of like offences! I think I have known some of Christ’s disciples who have appeared to doubt the wisdom or the love of their Lord. They did not quite say that He was mistaken, but they said that He moved in a mysterious way; they did not quite complain that He was unkind to them, but they whispered that they could not reconcile His dealings with His infinite love. Alas, Jesus has endured much from our unbelief! May this picture help us to see our spots, and may the love of our dear Lord remove them!
III. I have spoken to you of the Master’s calm and of the disciples’ failure; now let us think of the great calm which Jesus created. “There was a great calm.”
His voice produced it. They say that if oil be poured upon the waters they will become smooth, and I suppose there is some truth in the statement; but there is all truth in this, that if God speaks, the storm subsides into a calm, so that the waves of the sea are still. It only needs our Lord Jesus to speak in the heart of any one of us, and immediately the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, will possess us. No matter how drear your despondency, nor how dread your despair, the Lord can at once create a great calm of confidence. What a door of hope this opens to any who are in trouble! If I could speak a poor man rich, and a sick one well, I am sure I would do so at once; but Jesus is infinitely better than I am, and therefore I know that He will speak peace to the tried and troubled heart.
Note, too, that this calm came at once. “Jesus arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.” As soon as Jesus spoke, all was quiet. I have met with a very large number of persons in trouble of mind, and I have seen a few who have slowly come out into light and liberty; but more frequently deliverance has come suddenly. The iron gate has opened of its own accord, and the prisoner has stepped into immediate freedom. “The snare is broken, and we are escaped.” What a joy it is to know that rest is so near even when the tempest rages most furiously!
Note, also, that the Saviour coupled this repose with faith, for He said to the disciples as soon as the calm came, “Why are ye so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith?” Faith and the calm go together. If thou believest, thou shalt rest; if thou wilt but cast thyself upon thy God, surrendering absolutely to His will, thou shalt have mercy, and joy, and light. Even if we have no faith, the Lord will sometimes give us the blessing that we need, for He delights to do more for us than we have any right to expect of Him; but usually the rule of His kingdom is, “According to your faith be it unto you.”
This great calm is very delightful, and concerning this I desire to bear my personal testimony. I speak from my own knowledge when I say that it passeth all understanding. I was sitting, the other night, meditating on God’s mercy and love, when suddenly I found in my own heart a most delightful sense of perfect peace. I had come to Beulah-land, where the sun shines without a cloud. “There was a great calm.” I felt as mariners might do who have been tossed about in broken water, and all on a sudden, they cannot tell why, the ocean becomes as unruffled as a mirror, and the sea-birds come and sit in happy circles upon the water. I felt perfectly content, yea, undividedly happy. Not a wave of trouble broke upon the shore of my heart, and even far out to sea in the deeps of my being all was still. I knew no ungratified wish, no unsatisfied desire. I could not discover a reason for uneasiness, or a motive for fear. There was nothing approaching to fanaticism in my feelings, nothing even of excitement: my soul was waiting upon God, and delighting herself alone in Him. Oh, the blessedness of this rest in the Lord! What an Elysium it is! I must be allowed to say a little upon this purple island in the sea of my life: it was none other than a fragment of heaven. We often talk about our great spiritual storms, why should we not speak of our great calms? If ever we get into trouble, what a noise we make of it! Why should we not sing of our deliverances?
Let us survey our mercies. Every sin that we have ever committed is forgiven. “The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin.” The power of sin within us is broken; it “shall not have dominion over you, for ye are not under the law but under grace.” Satan is a vanquished enemy; the world is overcome by our Lord Jesus, and death is abolished by Him. All providence works for our good. Eternity has no threat for us, it bears within its mysteries nothing but immortality and glory. Nothing can harm us. The Lord is our shield, and our exceeding great reward. Wherefore, then, should we fear? The Lord of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge. To the believer, peace is no presumption: he is warranted in enjoying “perfect peace”—a quiet which is deep, and founded on truth, which encompasses all things, and is not broken by any of the ten thousand disturbing causes which otherwise might prevent our rest. “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee; because he trusteth in Thee.” Oh, to get into that calm, and remain in it till we come to that world where there is no more sea!
A calm like that which ruled within our Saviour should we be happy enough to attain to it, will give us in our measure the power to make outside matters calm. He that hath peace can make peace. We cannot work miracles, and yet the works which Jesus did shall we do also. Sleeping His sleep, we shall awake in His rested energy, and treat the winds and waves as things subject to the power of faith, and therefore to be commanded into quiet. We shall speak so as to console others: our calm shall work marvels in the little ships whereof others are captains. We, too, shall say, “Peace! Be still.” Our confidence shall prove contagious, and the timid shall grow brave: our tender love shall spread itself, and the contentious shall cool down to patience. Only the matter must begin within ourselves. We cannot create a calm till we are in a calm. It is easier to rule the elements than to govern the unruliness of our wayward nature. When grace has made us masters of our fears, so that we can take a pillow and fall asleep amid the hurricane, the fury of the tempest is over. He giveth peace and safety when He giveth His beloved sleep.30
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