In 1977’s A New Hope, a well-known deleted scene depicts Luke Skywalker looking through a pair of telescopic binoculars while observing the battle between the Alliance and the galactic Empire as it unfolds across a celestial battlefield. There’s also a reference to that moment in the opening of The Last Jedi when a Resistance member looks up and can see the extra-terrestrial conflict between the First Order and the remnants of the Alliance. In Genesis 12, Abram is told to look up at the stars and through this simple gesture, God communicates and translates His gracious promises to His people (inasmuch as they are inculcated in Abram). This also foreshadows a reality on which St John expounds in the Apocalypse, namely a revelation of the conclusion of the redemptive narrative just as the forthcoming 9th Star Wars film TheRise of Skywalker signals the conclusion of the Star Wars saga.
In Revelation 12, we see the depiction of the true Star Wars: Christ ascends having atoned for the world’s sins, the accuser is kicked out of heaven, and a war ensues between Law and Grace. I connect with this real story the beloved Apostle portrays through symbolic, graphic novel-esque imagery because stories are God’s chosen vehicle for alluding to the mystery, Truth, and beauty of who He is. This is one reason cinema is such a powerful medium and why novels, legends, folktales, ballads, and narratives are the very lifeblood of any culture. If you want to find out something about a society, listen to their stories, listen to their legends, listen to their folklore…it’s how we perpetuate legacies and preserve identities and cultural integrity. Even the theologies a culture creates to explain the origins of the universe and their relation to it reside implicitly and explicitly in the stories they tell and transfer to subsequent generations.
One of the things I anticipate most about the final chapter of the Skywalker legacy is finding out how director JJ Abrams will wrap up the story-line and arrive at closure to a nine-episode arc. Similarly, I want to find some closure and make sense out of God’s narrative that perpetually remains larger than (though doesn’t preclude) my story. I enjoy sinking down in plush seats in a darkened theater facing a larger-than-life screen, engulfed in a narrative bigger than myself. Namely, because something in me internally registers with an iconic, timeless transcendent parable and for those 3 hours, I remember there is a grand meta-narrative that defines my present context in this age.
While we are still at least a month out from Rise of Skywalker‘s release date, we don’t have to wait to figure out what happens in the end of The ultimate and most true story whence derive all epic stories. We don’t have to wait to find out how the problem of universal evil will be resolved in the end. The Bible tells us as Christians we have the privilege of working backwards i.e. working out from the redemption we already have. We know the ending of the story and in the economy of God, the ending has already occurred…we won before we had a chance to start…but we still need to be reminded daily that the battle is already won.
Abram looked up in faith and saw the stars in the heaven – he saw a prophetic indication of God’s promise that was yet to be fulfilled. We who have the promise, can look at the Man who was lifted up (cf. John 12:32)… namely, the Christ whose righteousness has become our story…now and forever.
I have heard it said, “…the only sins we can fight are the ones that have already been defeated…on the Cross”. The grace of God though has a better word: because of Christ, the only sins we can commit are the ones that have already been forgiven.
God, who is rich in mercy,made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions…
– Ephesians 2:4-5
Knowing we are loved in our sickness frees us from the present power of our sickness. Fighting and struggling to heal ourselves only increases the misery and exacerbates the symptoms. Let the sickness of sin be a “sickness unto death”… that you might live. That is, that you might remember you are alive in Jesus Christ.
And Moses built an altar, and called the name of it Jehovah-Nissi.
In Exodus 17:15, we read that the people of Israel called God ‘Jehovah-Nissi’ upon defeating the Amalekites who resisted them in the wilderness. Aaron and Hur supported Moses’ arms and thereby ensured the decisive victory that prompted the children of Israel to refer to God as their ‘Banner’. A quick glance in a Bible dictionary revealed that a banner in that culture and time period signified a rallying point, a symbol of national identity, and by implication a refuge. Yes, God came through for His people that day in a mighty manifestation of military might and success.
I want God to be ‘Jehovah-Nissi’ for me as well…in the strong places of life. I want Him to show Himself strong against people who antagonize and annoy me. I want to know He is truly for me when circumstances are working against me – namely, when plans fail, when relationships aren’t working out, when life disappoints, etc.
Later in the Israelites’ sojourning, Moses would hold up a bronze pole (Numbers 21:4-9) pointing to a greater fulfillment of what it means for God to be ‘Jehovah-Nissi’ for His people.
Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up…
In weakness, not power, Christ became ‘a banner to the nations’…Lifted up in ignominy that he might draw all people to Himself (John 12:32). Moses had his hands upheld by men that he might ensure the defeat of Israel’s enemies….Jesus had his arms outstretched and nailed by men that he might intercede to forgive his enemies…especially and including…me.