‘Lord Save Me’ painted by Sylwia Perczak, 2019

Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” – Matthew 14:22-33 ESV

“Woah, another post about another camp – so unoriginal Bryan” is something you might say. Well, you may be partly right, but once again, I would say that each camp I’ve attended this year has been very different, with each camp possessing distinct objectives, and hence outcomes. Despite being on the same campsite as in a previous Christian Union camp earlier this year, Mini-summit took on a different vibe, with people coming from different life stages, walks of life, as well as universities. What is pertinent to mention, however, is that this camp left a special impression on me, being the 1st ever camp that I’ve ever taken part in organising. (Special shoutout to the mini-summit committee as well as the mini-summit band, y’all know who you are if you are reading this – you guys are absolute legends!)

After more than 2 months of weekly meetings of planning, envisioning, advertising, delegating, and admin work, it was an inexpressible joy for me to see 1st hand how this camp came to fruition – from the dust to the refreshing camp experience that it came to be. Yet, more importantly, it was a delight to see how God had providentially worked throughout the camp in the various scheduled activities.

The subject matter discussed in the talks, “From Lowliness to Glory – God and The Human Body” by Robert Miller, was deeply fascinating. The theology of bodily life was something that I had never really considered, yet being something so intrinsic and fundamental to the Christian faith. When I saw the painting titled “Lord Save Me” by the Polish Artist Sylwia Perczak (as above) which was used in the talks, my jaw fell agape. I have always been a person that never really knew how to appreciate visual art, as I always found visual art incredibly vague and ambiguous. This, however, was really something. This very painting, I believe, aptly encapsulates the essence of this camp from my point of view.

Considering the composition of the painting, we are inundated with the vastness of the ocean, in all its various nuances of blue. An impending dread seems to pervade its speckled shading, where hidden in this vastness comprises a sense of mystery – a sense of the unknown. This is not the only mystery of the painting, however, with the other mystery being the portrayal of Jesus – in which we only observe his hands and feet hovering above the waters. The apostle Peter seems to gaze upwards with an intriguing complexion, where in this snapshot of time, his guise appears to be in the process of shifting from impending doom to that of immense joy. In this seeming transition, the artist has painted Peters’s gown to be a translucent white, suggesting the fragility and ephemeral nature that describes our human existence.

(As art is very ambiguous, I may well be reading too much into it and you may have different insights to share too, do comment below!)

Though this may seem like a blatantly obvious statement, what it means to be human, must involve the physical human body. This is why science fiction has the attention that it does – where much of science fiction is at the interface of a human race being some part alien or cyborg, hoping to transcend what it means to be human. Human existence is defined with certain defining sets of limitations. We are neither omnipresent, omnipotent, nor omniscient. We are contained in a physical geographic space, in which we can only be in one place at one time, and not everywhere at once. Because we can only be in one place at one time, we cannot even come close to having the capacity of being all-powerful, where each of us possesses our own respective sphere of competence. Some things in life are in our control with varying degrees, while there are other things that we simply have no control over. Similarly, the limits of geography consequently suggests that we cannot know everything. The following philosophical thought experiment demonstrates this limitation:

“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

Because we are fixed in one space, we cannot observe nor perceive everything, and hence, the knowledge that we acquire from a finite set of observations and perceptions is thus also finite. Tying all of this, is the notion that we are beings that travel in spacetime, possessing limited time on this earth. Bluntly put, there is simply not enough time to know everything.

Returning to the painting, there is an immense mystery to the portrayal of Christ in the painting, conveying an ethereal quality. You may have heard of the ‘Jesus Christ Lizard’. Interestingly enough, a Fluid Mechanics subject in my final year of my undergrad covered this phenomenon. They concluded that it was not surface tension that was allowing the lizard to run, due to the Bond number being much higher than 1 – indicating that surface tension forces did not dominate over gravitational forces. Calculations were performed, and apparently, humans would need to run approximately 100 km/h to mimic the same phenomenon of generating enough upwards force by our feet to counteract the gravitational force downwards as of this lizard.

Besides the physics behind it, however, we observe that Jesus did bypass the natural order by walking on water – performing the supernatural. In this, we come to a 2nd key idea I took away from Mini-Summit, where I came to a fuller realisation that Jesus is fully God, and fully man. Theologians refer to this as the hypostatic union, of which being perfectly divine and perfectly human, Christ possesses two natures, but one substance. Whereupon Christ entered the world, He became God incarnate, ‘enfleshed’ with a 2nd human nature, all the while being without sin. This may beg the question – if God took on human flesh, how can he still be God? A good analogy may be considering a talented pianist such as Vladimir Horowitz. Horowitz was one of the greatest pianists to have ever lived. What made him so great was his ability for immense dynamic contrasts, possessing the ability to play exuberant fortissimos to the most delicate of pianissimos. What is important to note however, is that it was not necessarily his ability to play extremely fast or loud that made him great. Rather, it was the degree of control he exhibited, being able to produce nuanced tonal colours from the piano that other pianists can only dream of. (Some examples are the Étude in D-sharp minor, Op. 8, No. 12 by Alexander Scriabin or the Impromptu in G flat major Op.90 No. 3 by Franz Schubert)

In a similar vein, Christ exhibited full and perfect control to take on human nature with all its multifarious limitations, stooping down to us, just as Christ stooped down to clasp Peter’s hand to raise him up from the waters. Upon taking human nature, He was not omnipresent as he could only be at one place at one time. In His earthly ministry 2000 years ago, there were no cars back then –  where he either had to walk or ride a donkey from one place to another to preach to the neighbouring towns that “the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:15). He was not omnipotent, as he noticed that power went out from him upon healing a woman (Luke 8:46), where at multiple times of his life, he became hungry (Mark 11:12), thirsty (John 19:38), and even tired (Matthew 8:24). Jesus was not omniscient, where throughout His childhood “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man ”(Luke 2:52).

It was necessary for Christ to come in human flesh, such that he may be the perfect sacrifice once and for all for our sins, as mentioned in Hebrews 4:

“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” – Hebrews 4:14-16 ESV

How beautiful, and glorious it is. To end, here are some timeless words from Paul the Apostle from Philippians 2:

“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” – Philippians 2:1-11 ESV