Warning: Major Spoilers! If you haven't seen the movie stop reading!
Every so often a movie comes along that is more than a movie, it's a "now" message for the Body of Christ. "The Matrix," released in 1999, was one such movie. In that hour the Spirit of God was exposing religious systems and calling His people to freedom from all the machinery. The movie powerfully carried that message and for many it served as a either a catalyst or a confirmation to follow the voice of their Shepherd speaking within their hearts.
In this hour another movie with a "now" message for the church has hit the screen. This time the movie is Star Wars Episode 8: The Last Jedi. Allow me to begin with a confession. I am a huge Star Wars fan. However, I have never felt that any other Star Wars movie contained a prophetic message for the Body of Christ when it was released. Certainly some contained wonderful Christian themes like repentance, reconciliation, perseverance, selflessness. faith, love, temptation, discipleship, etc. But, Christian themes can be found in numerous movies. What causes Episode 8 to stand apart is that it not only contains some Christian themes, but it actually contains a message the Spirit of God is speaking to His church right now. Let's take a look!
Warning: Major spoilers ahead! Stop reading if you haven't seen the movie and plan on seeing it!
Stop Worshiping the Bible and Live From Christ Within You
While living in self-exile at the first Jedi Temple, Luke clearly sees the failings of the Jedi order as well as his own from trying to strictly follow their codes. He realizes those failings paved the way for the dark side to constantly emerge. Out of his frustration and fury, Luke takes up a torch and moves towards the shrine containing the original sacred texts of the Jedi, with the intent of destroying it. Yoda suddenly appears, and to Luke's astonishment, his old master beats him to the punch. Yoda causes lightning to strike the shrine, engulfing it in flames. Yoda then goes on to explain that it's time for the Jedi stop living by the dead letter of ancient texts but to live from the living force within.
Jesus stated to the Pharisees, “You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf." (John 5:39) No matter how many times Christians read that verse, they continue to believe more Bible knowledge will make them closer to God and more like Jesus. Yet, they fail to understand that Jesus is Lord and that means He is even greater than the scriptures. (Oh, how offensive what I'm saying is to many.) He is not equal to the scriptures. He doesn't live inside the Bible. He is the living Word of God and God's first and final Word to humanity. And that living word doesn't live inside a book, but in the hearts of people! How do you think the early believers lived before the Bible was even compiled, and most were illiterate? You think they went from Bible study to Bible study? You think they sat around for hours studying the letters the apostles wrote to them? NO! They lived out of what Paul addressed NUMEROUS times - CHRIST IN YOU. Living in Christ was not about studying a book, it was about the reality Jesus spoke of, "The Kingdom of God lies within." They lived out of a very present reality, that the Spirit of God dwelt within them. This is the whole point of the New Covenant! Of course, many reading this will think I'm disparaging the Bible. That is simply not the case. The scriptures are of great value - in their proper place, which is under the lordship of Christ. For many the Bible has become like the Ephod Gideon made and the Israelites worshiped. The Spirit of God is saying, "Get things back into their proper place. Live from Christ within you!"
"Oh, so you're saying ignore the Bible?" Of course not! But if you aren't living from Christ within, the Bible is of ABSOLUTELY NO USE to you! It will do you as much good as the scriptures did the Pharisees. You'll even find yourself like them, using the Bible to stand against Jesus. But you'll actually be worse because you'll be doing that while you're saying, "Jesus is Lord." It's time for the church to depart from living out of the dead letter and to live out of the powerful, life changing reality of the living Christ in us.
It's time to grow beyond the past
Luke saw the failures of the Jedi and saw that the past must be left behind. But Luke viewed
his feelings about the Jedi Order as being deviant and rebellious. When Yoda appeared to Luke as he was approaching the shrine to burn it down, Luke reacted like he was a defiant child addressing a parent who caught him doing something wrong. Luke was shocked that Yoda not only supported his decision to destroy the sacred shrine, but he did it for him. Yoda spoke about the future Jedi and stated, "We are what they grow beyond." He went on to speak to Luke about passing on what he learned through his failures as well because "failure is the greatest teacher." Luke then went on to lay down his life for the hope of a better future.
Luther, Calvin, Wesley, Spurgeon, Booth, Roberts, and all the other "stars" of the past are dead. Billy Graham's day is done. The Reformation and the Jesus People Movement are over. If you're clinging to the past you're living in a frustrating place. The Spirit of God, like the wind, has moved on. We have a generation who clearly sees the failures of Christianity. They look upon hierarchies, institutionalization, religious obligation, Bible worship, sexism and racism in the church, the Americanization of Christianity, and the scapegoating of gays and undocumented workers with disdain. They see that God is love and are angered that much of the church has not reflected that. They have their torches in hand and are ready to burn it all to the ground. All one has to do is spend a few minutes on social media to see this is the case. What we have to understand is THEY'RE RIGHT! They may respond to us like defiant children thinking they're in the wrong. But, they're actually expressing the very heart of God! We are what they grow beyond. We need to understand that. It's time for the church to let go of it's desire to cling to it's dead past and start acknowledging our failures so the next generation can out grow us. We need to beat them to the punch and torch the failures and legalism of the past for their sake. Love must become our priority. We need to free them from the chains and burdens of the past so they can move on to the future unhindered. Our vision needs to see beyond ourselves. Like Luke, we need to lay down our lives for a future we will most likely never see.
The difference between Luke and Yoda was Luke simply saw that it all must end. Yoda saw that it all must end for the sake of creating a better future. Luke caught Yoda's vision and that's what motivated him to lay down his life. We need to support the desire of the next generation to torch the failings of the past, but with a vision for the future that is so contagious they become beacons of hope, not agents of destruction.
The Day of the somebodies is over! This hour belongs to the nobodies.
Star Wars started out being about "nobodies." The first movie released (now Episode 4: A New Hope) centered on a nothing farm boy who had special abilities, a cocky smuggler with a heart, and a princess with lofty ideals up against insurmountable odds. These three shaped the future and defeated the darkness of their day. Then Star Wars changed. It became all about family lines and everything being linked. Luke and Leia are siblings. Vader was their father. Obi Wan was both Anakin's (Vader's) and Luke's teacher. Yoda trained Luke and Obi-Wan, advised Anakin, and fought along side Chewbacca. Jango Fett was Boba Fett's dad. The Emperor (Palatine) served in the Senate with Luke and Leia's mother, Padme, and also trained their father, Vader. Han and Leia's son, Ben, is the villain in the new trilogy (Kylo Ren) and is obsessed with his grandfather, Darth Vader. The series went from being about nobodies to becoming a tight circle of "elites" where everybody who matters is connected to a "somebody."
Episode 8, to the frustration of some Star Wars fans, blows up the "somebody"
paradigm and returns the reigns to the "nobodies." After spending two years pondering the heroine's (Rey's) parentage, fans were shocked to learn she wasn't a Skywalker, Solo, Kenobi, or even a Papaltine. Rey was just the abandoned daughter of drunks. The brave Finn is a First Order deserter. The best pilot in the galaxy is just some guy named Poe. And those who we were certain were "somebodies" turned out to be "nobodies." The powerful and terrible Supreme Leader Snoke, who we were certain was the Emperor of this trilogy, was quickly snuffed out by his pupil, Kylo Ren, in only the second movie without even a fight! And Kylo abandons his attempts to be a somebody from the past (Vader) and comes into his own. The movie ends by giving us a glimpse of the future Jedi's. They're slave children!
The church started out being about "nobodies." Jesus, the founder, was a nobody from Nazareth. The Apostles were nobodies. Much of the New Testament was written by an abandoned prisoner. But then, somewhere along the line, it became about being a "somebody." Climb the ranks, be in charge, make a name for yourself, gain a following, and on and on it goes. The Spirit of God is saying, "Get ready for a twist!" The twist is simply that, like Episode 8, we're going back to the beginning when it was all about the "nobodies." If you're trying to be a "somebody" in this hour you're on the wrong path. It is the "nobodies" Father is working through. They are the ones who are shinning. Father has hit the reset button and we're getting back to the way the church was meant to function.
This generation doesn't fear the darkness like those of the past - that's by design!
When Luke began training Rey, he was terrified at how fearlessly she dove into the dark. He was bothered that she didn't even hesitate to travel into places filled with the dark side of the force. We found ourselves troubled along with Luke. We pondered whether Rey would be lured to the dark side. But as the movie progressed we realized she wasn't drawn to the dark at all. Rather, she was completely unafraid of it. It had no hold on her so she didn't fear it.
The church has existed in a state of "sin management" for centuries with Christians fearing the dark. Christians have spent their time obsessing over what's right and wrong and splitting hairs over what one should and shouldn't do. They've been reluctant to love the outsiders. They've been hesitant about moving beyond the walls of their institutions. Christians have behaved like the world is a contagious disease and if they live in it they'll be contaminated. Even many of those with huge hearts of love have been hesitant to immerse themselves into the worlds of others. But now we have a generation that is so fearless of the dark that they've been viewed by many Christians as being immoral or tainted. They are so fearless of the dark they actually have genuine friendships with people who aren't Christians. And they are so confident in Christ's love that they aren't afraid of other religions. They study them, glean from them, and have friends who belong to them. Just that sentence made some of you shutter like Luke. We expect some kind of fear and hesitation to be present. We have not learned that there is no fear in love. By design this generation is fearless because they get it. They understand people aren't projects or agendas but God's good creation who are meant to be loved. So they dive right into the darkness without hesitation and love them. Get used to it!
These are the things I heard our Shepherd speaking through this movie. It's humorous to me that many of the die-hard Star Wars fans reacted to this movie the same way many Christians are reacting to this season.They were frustrated that the nobodies took the stage and the somebodies' day is over. They were upset that none of their theories of how things should go panned out. They didn't like the way it shifted away from the past towards a future in which many of the things they held dear are being left behind. They didn't like that it didn't play by their "rules" or fulfill their expectations. Instead it took many unsuspected turns towards a destination they didn't see coming. For these same reasons, this is a season of intense wrestling for many believers. But remember, this is all by God's design. It's His church and the government rests upon His shoulders.