It’s hard to believe everything to which we’ve dedicated our lives is gone.
For over a thousand generations, the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the old Republic. Before the dark times. Before the Empire.
We’ve passed on all we know. A thousand generations live in you now.
Much has been made about The Rise of Skywalker as the final entry in this generation-spanning, genre-spawning media franchise. Does it conclude the story well? (I think so.) Is it a good story on its own? (I think the story would suffer without the weight of eight preceding films.) Is it a mangled, garbled mess? (I think it’s a bit overstuffed, but not at all difficult to follow.) Does Jar Jar Binks emerge as the final hero of the entire saga? (I don’t want to spoil it for you.)
In a lot of ways, the bittersweetness of the Star Wars saga’s end echoes the endings that the characters in the Galaxy Far, Far Away experience: Padme’s rueful rumination on the end of what she’s devoted her life to is familiar to those who grew up with the franchise and who must now face a life without the hope of more. Obi-Wan’s wistful wondering at the end of the peace that the Jedi brought calls to mind the conclusion of this cornerstone of epic storycraft. And Luke’s hopeful herald to Rey casts us forward to the future stories that others will tell, buoyed and inspired by the saga which began forty-two years ago.
This film encapsulates sorrowful regret, wistful nostalgia, hope for the future. It examines the saga’s themes of darkness, light, right and wrong, good vs. evil, a connection with the universe, and family. And it gives a rip-roaring action ride in the meantime. But the past and the future are all about one person, here; and that’s what Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker is really all about.
Spoilers for the entire Skywalker Saga follow; you have been warned.
The thousand generations of the Jedi’s past and future are swirling around Rey; we see this (or, rather, hear it) quite literally in the climax of the film, when she calls out to the spirits of the Jedi and ten of them respond audibly. Luke bestowed upon her the mantle of the Last Jedi during that eponymous film. But it wasn’t just hope he saw in her; she was drawn toward the darkness, and he saw it in the visions she experienced.
As it turns out, that’s because a thousand generations of the Sith’s past and future are swirling around her, too. She was being pulled, seduced, drawn toward the dark side. A dark man had a dark plan for her life, and it all began with her parentage: Rey is a Palpatine, the granddaughter of the cruelest despot to ever rule the galaxy, and he wants her to take his place on the throne of the evil Sith.
Palpatine’s plans for Rey are an inversion of the life of the Christian; rather than being a plan of “future and hope” (Jeremiah 29:11), he seeks to possess her, along with the spirits of all the Sith who have come before him. Rather than a winsome call to claim Christ’s death for our salvation and be raised with Christ to a newness of life, it is a vile seduction to cause the Emperor’s death for his salvation and be subsumed with him into the depths of evil. Palpatine seeks only his own good, while Christ seeks for us to be reconciled. The Emperor seeks power and wrath, while Christ calls us to servanthood and peace whenever possible.
Thankfully, Rey wasn’t the only one being called.
A Hostile-Minded Lie
That “future and hope” verse is used a lot in Christian circles; usually incorrectly. It’s not directly a promise to us in the west, though it does illustrate the character of God as He relates to His people. But it is interesting to note that the problem being dealt with in Jeremiah 29 is that God’s people are being lied to. The voice seducing them was a false prophecy telling them they should be selfish, while God wanted them to be a blessing.
Ben was swayed by a similar voice from the dark; a lie that told him he could be a selfish ruler. He bought into it enough to take control of the First Order at the end of The Last Jedi, even assuming the title “Supreme Leader.” He believed that the entire galaxy lay at his feet, if he could only destroy the Resistance. “I have been every voice you have ever heard inside your head,” Palpatine reveals to him; the lie has convinced him, and it is only the truth, spoken by Rey and by Han, that turns him back. He was seduced into being selfish, when what he was really supposed to be was a blessing.
In between the voice of lies and the voice of truth, Ben becomes Kylo—what the book of Colossians would call “alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds” (Colossians 1:21). But there was a way out for him; a way to truly finish what his grandfather started by killing Palpatine. And that way was to believe the truth and reassume his true name.
An Unashamed Name
Ever since a Tatooine farm boy told a princess, “I’m Luke Skywalker and I’m here to rescue you,” three generations of fans have known the power behind that name. It’s hopeful and wistful and powerful and portentous; it brings with it a sense of aid and help in need. The name itself has connotations beyond just the mere sounds and syllables. It has a history, a legacy. It connotes heroism and sacrifice and derring-do; and, yes, failure. Immense, galaxy-endangering failure twice over. Yet, when Rey hears that Luke Skywalker is real, she almost dares not believe it. When the Emperor says the name, he almost spits it. Names are powerful.
In Acts 11:26, the Bible innocuously says that “in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.” Like with Rey receiving the name “Skywalker,” the name “Christian” was originally given after a vociferous enemy became a staunch and powerful defender. And Jesus, like the spirits of Luke and Leia, gives approval for us to use His name; He “is not ashamed to call us brothers,” Hebrews 2 says.
Christ bestows His name upon us. We bear the righteousness He won as a result of His sacrifice; and our comfort and confidence can flow from that name because God Himself has adopted us into His family.
“Christian” is a name with a legacy. It should bring with it hope, aid, help in need. It should connote sacrifice. It should be a blessing to those who hear it. And, yes, it bears the baggage of our many failures; even immense and painful ones. But by the grace of God, our alienation and wrath is blasted away by His eternal truth, and the empowerment of His Spirit to be good to those around us; so that when we rise to introduce ourselves as “Christian,” He looks on in delight as a thousand generations of His faithfulness live on in us.