I like to think of myself as a fairly optimistic person. The only time my optimism seems to fail me on a consistent basis is the first hour of every day. If you are one of those people who wakes up with ‘Folgers in your cup’ excited for all the possibilities of the day, I have a hard time relating to you. My seven year old son Luke, however, you could be best friends with him. For him each day is an adventure to embark upon. This means that he and I often do better in different rooms in the morning, as I’m not always ready for his level of optimism. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t want him to lose his enthusiasm for life, I just want to make sure that he keeps it to socially acceptable levels. Ultimately my goal is to learn from Luke and to eventually be able to meet him in the middle. Although at times I enjoy my less than enthusiastic approach to the morning (and lets be honest you kind of enjoy it as well, right?); however, I do not believe it is a good thing. Thankfully I think I may have stumbled on a solution that doesn’t involve coffee.
Recently I was struck by how Jesus and his disciples use the word for sleep in the Bible. By my count the words for sleep are used 40 times in the New Testament. 21 times they are used to mean sleep like you and I do every night, well for some of you I should say most every night. However, 19 times the New Testament writers use the words for sleep where the words for death would be much more appropriate. Of course this was as strange back then as it would be now. Imagine if someone close to you died and you tell a friend who responds with the line, “they are not dead they are only sleeping”. (Matthew 9:23-26) One could see how some sarcastic laughter might be in order at such an occasion, which is exactly what happened to Jesus. They laughed at Him for his choice of words because everyone knew that the person wasn’t sleeping. That person had died (Matthew 9:23-25). Only a child would confuse a dead person for a person who was sleeping.
There are some similarities to sleeping and death is there not? As a parent I love to watch my kids sleep, they are so comfortable, beautiful, and peaceful when they sleep. They do not seem to have a care in the world, which is just how a parent wants their child. Plus it is super fun to mess with them when they are asleep by lightly tickling their face, giving them a kiss, moving their arms and legs, or pouring just a small amount of water on their forehead. Try it on someone you live with if you haven’t already, they will love you for it.
If you think about it, it is pretty crazy to lay down each night and allow yourself to slip into an unconscious state where you are totally vulnerable and oblivious to the world. Also amazing is the ability to maintain confidence that each morning you will awake to life. It really is like a miracle! And that is exactly the point the New Testament writers were trying to make. As we approach Easter this spring may you be reminded that each day you wake up and smell that “Folgers in your cup”, remember that death is not the final answer. The miracle of the resurrection is true (John 14:1-3; John 3:16, etc.)! If this reminder each morning of my future does not help cure my morning blues, well, I just might have to start drinking that lousy coffee. Sleep, for Christ followers, is in fact a better word than death. For just as you arise each morning, you will arise again to eternal life. Only a child would mistake a dead person for a person sleeping. May you have the faith of a child.