I have never been in a circumstance in which I would be sleeping on a boat. I have never been on a cruise and the only “sea” fishing trips I have taken were in the gulf for six hours. I’m sure it’s pretty easy to sleep on a cruise ship (unless it’s a Carnival cruise ship), but it’d probably take some time to get used to sleeping on a fishing boat. They rock, make noises, and could not be comfortable.
Yet in the Bible, we ready of two individuals who seemed to find it quite easy to go to sleep on a ship. Not only did they go to sleep on a ship, but they were sleeping through terrible storms. The storms were so bad, nobody else could sleep and everybody else thought the ship would be destroyed.
Who were these men? You are probably already thinking about Jesus, but the one that you might forget about is Jonah. In their stories we have two men, sleeping on ancient ships, being sound asleep, a doing so during horrible storm. It sounds like their situations would be very similar, but their state was as different as night and day.
Here is Jonah’s story:
“Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the LORD. But the LORD hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up. Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried out to his god. And they hurled the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down and was fast asleep. So the captain came and said to him, "What do you mean, you sleeper? Arise, call out to your god! Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we may not perish." And they said to one another, "Come, let us cast lots, that we may know on whose account this evil has come upon us." So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah.” (Jonah 1:3-7)
Here is the story of Jesus:
“And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, "Peace! Be still!" And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, "Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?" And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?" (Mark 4:36-41).
Jonah was asleep in the belly of the ship because he was running from God. He was filled with guilt and most certainly anxiety. I am sure Jonah knew deep down inside him that he could not run or hide from God. Yet he was doing it anyway. Jonah was asleep trying to avoid doing what he knew he should do… preach to a lost world. He was sleeping in that ship in disobedience to the Lord. He was sleeping outside of God’s will. The storm died down and the winds ceased that night only because they threw Jonah overboard into the sea where he was swallowed by a great creature.
Jesus was also asleep in the belly of a ship. But Jesus was asleep because He had fully given Himself to doing the Father’s will. Jesus was exhausted from teaching a lost world. He was asleep in complete trust of His Father. He was sleeping free from guilt knowing He was living in obedience to the Father. He was sleeping out of feelings of contentment, peace, and fulfillment. This storm also died down, but because Jesus stood on its deck and commanded the winds and waves saying, “PEACE BE STILL”
We usually don’t find ourselves trying to sleep in the belly of ships that are in the middle of horrible storms. But we do find ourselves every night in bed trying to sleep in the midst of the storms of life. We all lay our heads down on our pillows at night either in peace and or in conflict. We are either worn out from running from God, or we are worn out by running with God. We have exhausted ourselves by trying to avoid serving God or in service to Him. We close our eyes with filled with anxiety and guilt or trust and peace. We fall asleep knowing we are living in God’s will or we fall asleep knowing we are outside of God’s will.
The stories of Jesus and Jonah are very different, but there is a similarity. Jonah spent three days in the belly of that sea creature before God caused it to spew Jonah out on the shore. Jonah became a figure of what would happen to Jesus. Jesus said, “Just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40). Jesus, like Jonah, spent three days in the belly of a beast. The beast for Jesus was the grave. On the third day, Jesus arose from the dead and came forth from the grave. Death could not hold him. Because Jesus conquered death, we change the way we sleep. We don’t have to sleep like Jonah, we can sleep like Jesus.
Peter writes, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (I Peter 1:3-5). And later he adds, “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (I Peter 3:21).