The JEDI Will HUNT Themselves! What does this mean (and why Jesus says it's good)
Look - this may just be my giant man-crush on Ewan McGregor talking... but I love the latest Star Wars series Kenobi. From the sets to the story to the cast to the cameos - it is my absolute favorite thing that Star Wars has given us in a long time... aside from Visions, that doesn't count. But more than anything, I find myself gripped by Kenobi as a Christian. As usual, there is a severe bit of overlap and faith-based inspiration behind the storytelling - I mean, the force be with you is a bit on the nose - but it's a part of the Christian journey that doesn't get told often enough. Particularly joyful for me - it's downright Methodist.
The phrase that has been planted in my mind isn't spoken by Obi-Wan but is uttered with distaste by the villains over and over again: the Jedi will hunt themselves. What does this terrifying concept mean for us today? Do we want to be hunted? Let's talk about it.
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John 13:33-35 (NRSV)
Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and as I said to the Jews, so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Before we get too into the weeds with this scripture and the story surrounding it, let's talk about Obi-Wan Kenobi and this new series.
Obi-Wan was always my favorite character in Star Wars, which may make me the most vanilla Star Wars fan of all time, but don't you judge me.
Obi-Wan was also one of the more challenging characters to get right for the series. Since the Star Wars films were written out of order, the writers of the prequels had a series of challenges on their hands, keeping up a consistent storyline with the Ben Kenobi we meet at the beginning of the first film.
For starters, as has been famously mocked - Ewan is quite a bit younger than the original actor for Ben, so he has a lot of aging to do in the ten years between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope.
The Obi-Wan of the original trilogy was a bit of a mysterious hermit. We got to hear some names and experience some environmental storytelling, but the Obi-Wan of the prequels becomes a much more fleshed-out character with real depth and weight. But even more than looks, so many moments have to be experienced between these two films.
So, when we pick up this series, we see Ewan's Obi-Wan officially don the name Ben and begin to transform into the O'Toole Ben we met a long, long time ago.
We know that, of course, the real crux of the issue that led to Ben becoming the hermit he was in a New Hope was due to the fact that the Empire had spent decades hunting down and eradicating any remaining Jedi from the days of the Senate, as well as force-sensitive younglings that might be discovered.
It would be easy to assume that Ben did nothing during those years but watch Luke grow up from afar until the day when he would get to train him. But then that pesky line from the Grand Inquisitor rises: the Jedi hunt themselves.
We know that Leia knows who Obi-Wan Kenobi is because otherwise, how else would she know to send the distress beacon from the Rebels to 'Obi-Wan, our only hope!'
But how? Why? Did Luke and Ben bump into each other while Luke was out shopping at the market for the moisture farm? Who knows?
With this series, we get to know exactly what happened, and much as the Inquisitor would have expected, Ben doesn't get to lay as low as he might like, despite his best intentions.
And this is precisely the point of the show and is why these lines are so phenomenal.
The Jedi are notorious for being do-gooders. They can't help themselves but use their incredible powers for the good of others.
Whether protecting an ally or an innocent, the Empire knows that the Jedi cannot evade them forever because they will eventually reveal their location like my three-year-old playing hide-and-seek.
But it is precisely this that makes the Jedi the heroes of the story and so worthy of the title. And it's exactly why I have always found myself so drawn to Obi-Wan.
Obi-Wan doesn’t want to die, and he doesn’t want to be found. This drive is against his control. It’s been ingrained since he was a child. The Jedi are drawn to the light. They are drawn to show strong compassion. And compassion, revealed by our baddies, leaves a trail.
So what does any of this have to do with Jesus’ conversation with the disciples in our selected passage from the gospel of John?
This passage is one of many that the various gospel writers give us regarding Jesus' foretelling of his all-too-approaching death.
Jesus tries to repeatedly explain to the disciples that he will be leaving soon and that they can’t follow him where he goes quite yet. Someday, but not yet.
In the meantime, Jesus offers up a new commandment to the disciples - love one another as I have loved you.
But then he drops the bomb line that this whole sermon is wrapped around - by this, everyone will know that you are my disciples.
How are we known? By our love.
This line perfectly sums up the idea of the Jedi. The Jedi are known; they are downright infamous for their compassion and love.
It is their ultimate aspiration and their inevitable downfall.
It’s a well-known folktale of the foundational church of the first century that outsides used to see the churchgoers as being known by their love, saying, Behold how they love one another.
This infamous love led to the creation of one of my favorite hymns: They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love.
See - it’s a bold declaration and a warning by Jesus. Jesus is about to die, to be murdered because of his love. He will be so well known for his love that he will lose his life. And, while his disciples are not to the point that they will follow him if they live a life with that same unabashed love - they will surely follow him.
What a goal - to be so known for love that we are outright feared for it. We’re so loving that people are in awe of it.
This is the love of the Jedi. The downright foolish follower of the Force.
And it’s this that Jesus calls us to as well. It’s a command, in fact.
So what does that command mean for us today?
We are called to be foolish with our love for others. Even if we disagree with them, can’t see eye to eye with them, are hated by them, or murdered by them.
Lord in your mercy, let us love recklessly and foolishly to the point that we might be known by our love.
We should come out of hiding for the sake of compassion. We should put ourselves in the line of fire for the sake of love.
Thanks for reading!
God loves you.
We love you.
Until next time, BUH-BYE!