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The story of the sea storm in the Gospel of Mark picks up right after Jesus has given a series of sermons. He’s preached to a crowd so large that he had to speak from a boat pushed a short distance into the water.
Mark 4:35–41 tells the story of Jesus calming the storm—but, curiously, we find the Lord asleep as the chaos breaks out around him:
Jesus - Asleep - Boat
Why was Jesus asleep in the boat?
There are a few possible explanations. Mark, as well as most of the other biblical authors, is spare with his details—including only those elements necessary to the author’s agenda—so we could assume it’s a salient element to the story. There are three possibilities.
Mark - Jesus - Order - Account - Jonah
Perhaps Mark tells us Jesus is sleeping in order to link the account to Jonah. The story of Jonah shares similar elements and language (in its Greek translation) to the one in Mark 4, which suggests Mark is evoking the story. One is the idea of the main character sleeping in the bottom of the boat during the storm, though the language used to describe Jonah is more vivid and possibly pejorative.
Jesus is fully human: He works hard, does much public speaking, and deals with many different people, all of whom want something from him. Given the strains ordinary ministers experience in their daily work, the fully human Jesus must have suffered from exhaustion during his earthly ministry.
Jesus - Confidence - Divine - Identity - Person
Though Jesus is a human, he also has full confidence in his divine identity. As only the second person of the Trinity can, Jesus sleeps like a baby amid the chaos, secure in the realization that he is one with the Creator, and his time has not come. His sleep signals divine insight: Jesus knows he’s not going to die tonight.
Of course, all three of these explanations are possible at...
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