This is post 2 of 2 in the series “STAR WARS AND THE GOSPEL”
- The Force, The Phantom Menace, And Faith
- Anikan Skywalker, Darth Vader And Jesus Christ
Star Wars and the Gospel: Anikan Skywalker, Darth Vader And Jesus Christ
To be perfectly honest, I am preaching these “Star Wars” sermons for our son, John David, who was killed in 1994. I believe that he is listening from heaven right now as I preach this sermon to you. You see, he was just a boy when the first three “Star Wars” movies appeared, and he loved them. He filled his room with “Star Wars” posters and paraphernalia. Among his possessions, which we kept after his death, was this Darth Vader case containing miniature “Star Wars” characters. He spent hours and hours playing with this as a child and that’s why we have chosen to keep it. So, John David, my young Jedi knight, you chose “the good side” and therefore, this sermon is for you…
By now, I suspect that most of you know that the current blockbuster movie, “Star Wars: Episode 1- The Phantom Menace” is called a “prequel”- not a sequel, but a prequel to the first three “Star Wars” movies. In other words, this movie is designed to begin telling the origins of the story contained in those other “Star Wars” movies. And like George Lucas’ other film epics, this one is technically quite amazing and it intriguingly tells the earliest chapters of the “Star Wars” saga. However, the new movie seems to me to be a prompter of thoughts which are perhaps deeper than it is. For example, when you take the key elements of the story contained in “Episode 1” and add them to what occurred in the three other “Star Wars” movies, you wind up capturing some powerful Biblical truths which actually carry you right up to the foot of the cross of Jesus Christ. In fact, there are three stages to that journey. There is the decline of Anakin Skywalker; there is the despair of Darth Vader; there is the deliverance of Jesus Christ.
The Decline of Anakin Skywalker.
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, there was a little boy named Anakin Skywalker. While we do not know much about him, we do know that apparently he was virgin-bom and that he was unusually bright and precocious. In fact, he caught the eye of the great Jedi warrior, Qui-Gon Jinn, who sensed in him the potential to pursue his destiny as a Jedi knight. However, when Qui-Gon Jinn introduced Anakin to the supreme Jedi master, Yoda, Yoda discerned a troubling possibility in young Anakin’s bright promise. Yoda, in one of the movie’s most powerful lines says: “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger; anger leads to hate; hate leads to suffering.” The words turn out to be prophetic.
Now we know that ultimately Anakin married, had two children, and did become one of the Jedi knights, the noblest people of their age. He was taught by one of the great leaders of the Jedi, a man named Obi-Wan Kenobi. But then something happened to Anakin Skywalker- he turned from pursuing good to pursuing evil. He became Darth Vader, the Lord of Sith, the servant of blackness- a masked, cruel character, whose every breath was like a hollow wind, full of secret lusts and consuming evil.
Now it seems to me that in the decline of Anakin Skywalker from bright, promising young Jedi knight to the despicable lifestyle of Darth Vader there is a solemn truth for us to learn. Here it is: no matter how brightly a star might rise, it can still flame out in storm and darkness. Here I am speaking to us all, but especially to our young people. We may be seeking to be very good now. We may have given ourselves to the service of God in life now. But the real issue is not what we are doing with our lives now, but will we hold fast to our goodness and our godliness for the long haul. Will we spend all of our lives living on “the good side”, or will we, like Anakin Skywalker, surrender to “the dark side”.
When I think of this, I think of Aaron Burr. If you were to go to Princeton University in New Jersey, you would find an old cemetery where the former presidents of the university are buried. Off to the side, you would find a lonely, isolated grave marked by a small stone which reads: “Aaron Burr, Colonel in the Continental Army, Vice-President of the United States.” Now Aaron Burr’s father was the second president of Princeton University. Aaron Burr’s grandfather was Jonathan Edwards, whom many believed to be the greatest thinker and preacher America has ever produced. In other words, Aaron Burr had a magnificent ancestry. Aaron Burr went on to compile an academic record at Princeton which has never been surpassed. He was a genius. And yet, ultimately, he turned away from God and from that point his life began to disintegrate. He is, of course, best known for the duel in which he killed Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton frustrated Burr’s political desires on several occasions, and Burr, filled with hatred, killed him. Aaron Burr became an outcast, scorned by all. Everything he touched withered and died. He even described himself as “one severed from humanity”. When he finally died, he was taken to Princeton and buried in an unmarked grave. The day after he was buried, an unknown woman came and placed the stone on his grave which is there today.
Here’s the point: Aaron Burr was the best that Princeton University ever produced. Magnificent lineage and heritage. Bright promise and potential. Every advantage. His star soaring. But then he turned toward “the dark side” in life, and he went down in storm and cloud and darkness. And even as he fell before temptation, so can we.
The Despair of Darth Vader.
So bright, young, Anakin Skywalker ultimately fulfilled Yoda’s prophecy and became dark, fearsome Darth Vader, the embodiment of evil. As the “Star Wars” saga unfolds, there comes a point where Darth Vader meets his son, Luke Skywalker. Now Luke Skywalker is also a Jedi knight and he has been trained by Obi-Wan Kenobi, the very same Jedi leader who trained his father when his father was still known as Anakin Skywalker. Luke has continued to pursue “the good side” in his life so when Darth Vader, now given over to evil, confronts his son, who is totally given over to good, great shame sweeps over Darth Vader. Luke pleads with his father to return to goodness, but Darth Vader replies: “You do not understand the power of the dark side; you do not realize that good in me has long since died. It’s too late for me, my son.”
That’s what I call “the dirty wound of guilt”- it carries within it that which festers and infects. A dirty wound can infect the whole body. That’s what sin really does. It surrenders to the dark side in life and then the infection begins to spread to every aspect of a person’s life, ultimately destroying that life. Now I know it isn’t very popular to talk about sin today. Indeed, some people deny that there is such a thing as sin, but of course their denial does not make it so. I am personally convinced that most of the nervous tension which we encounter in our time, most of the moral breakdown that is part of our society, most of the hatred, enmity and violence infecting our world is because of the seeping of the poison of guilt into our lives and the lives of those about us.
There is no way, you see, in which you can escape yourself. You can cross a city or a county or a country or a continent or, like Darth Vader, you can leap across a galaxy- but you still have to face yourself. The guilt that is in you is still there. You can live without good health, without a good family, without good friends, without good books, without good music. But when you cannot live with yourself, when there is that in you which you despise and detest, then that’s when you hear the voice of Darth Vader: “You don’t know the power of the dark side. The good in me has long since died. It’s too late for me, my son.” That’s the despair of guilt.
The Deliverance of Jesus Christ.
The climactic encounter between Luke Skywalker and his father, Darth Vader, seems headed toward a fight. Their lightsabers are drawn and ready to produce violence. The evil emperor is present and he tries to lead Luke down the same dark path where he has led his father. He says to Luke: “Let hate possess you. Nourish yourself with hate. Then you will be able to bring down your father and take his place at my side.” But Luke, recognizing what the evil emperor is doing, throws down his lightsaber and instead of coming at his father with a weapon, comes at him with a plea of love: “Father, turn with me to the good.” He understands that the plea of love is the strongest thing in the world.
With that in mind, let me set before you this picture of Jesus in the forbidding barrenness of the Judean wilderness confronted by the temptations set before Him by the ultimate evil emperor, Satan. Satan tried desperately to pull Jesus over to “the dark side”. And how did Jesus fight back? Not with weapons, but with love- He claimed the power of the love of God and that was strong enough to defeat the evil one. Carve this truth into your brains. You don’t dominate or intimidate or manipulate or legislate anyone into goodness. You hug them there. You love them there. That’s the reason Jesus chose a cross and not a club. Love is the most powerful, the most transforming thing in the world.
Some years ago now, the nation was horrified by the brutal death of a sixteen-year-old girl in Indianapolis named Sylvia Likens. Her parents were carnival workers and while they were on the road they boarded their daughter at a neighbor’s home. The neighbor’s name was Gertrude Banyshevsky. She murdered young Sylvia in a way so brutal that this nation recoiled in horror. Gertrude Banyshevsky was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. It was at that point that a young preacher took it upon himself to try to reach this monstrously evil woman with Jesus Christ. After three years of tireless work by this preacher, Gertrude Banyshevsky indeed converted to Christianity. She became a model prisoner. Her whole life was changed. In fact, a photograph of her was taken and was then shown to the jurors who had convicted her. Not a single one of the jurors could identify her by that photograph. She was so transformed, so renewed, so changed by the loving power of Jesus Christ that they did not even recognize her anymore. Nothing but love can do something like that. Love is the most powerful, the most liberating, the most transforming thing in the world.
What I find so fascinating is that when you take the “Star Wars” story and peel away all the special effects and all of the high-powered weapons and all of the technological marvels, what you discover at the very center of the story is a message of a single line: Only love can change another human being. Only love. So Darth Vader was changed. He wound up dying on “the good side” defending his son and killing the evil emperor. And in the last scene, Darth Vader is pictured with Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi in the ultimate kingdom of goodness.
One day long ago in a kingdom far, far away Jesus departed on a cosmic journey, leaving the Kingdom of Heaven, soaring across the galaxies to come to this earth. Here He took on human form. Here He became like us so that we might become like Him. By His grace we are saved. By His love we are made whole. By His power we shall live here and hereafter. That’s what He meant when He said: “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.” Dear friends, come to faith in Jesus Christ in your life today, because faith is the path to “the good side”. Faith leads to hope and hope leads to love and love- the love of Jesus Christ is the most powerful force in this world—or in any world.