The Gospel According to Star Wars, Episode III
What Would Jesus Say to Darth Vader?
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
May 22, 2005

 

Main Passage: Ephesians 1:3-10 (NLT)

 

I finally saw it this week. The 28 year old questions have finally been answered. Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith is the latest and final movie of the Star Wars series, and it hit theatres this past Thursday, setting a new one-day record by bringing in over 50 million dollars on opening day. (Spider-Man 2 is now in second… bringing in just over 40 million on its opening day.) By the end of business on Friday, it had climbed to the fourth top grossing movie so far in 2005. And I like to think I was a part of that.

You know, it’s amazing when I think back and realize that I was only 6 years old when the first movie was released. I wasn’t even allowed to go to movies then… I had to wait a couple of years until Star Wars was broadcast on TV. And, of course, I had to watch it every time it was broadcast on TV. And here I am, almost three decades later, still talking about Star Wars and yet another movie.

But here I am doing just that, and Episode III which I saw this week is critical to the series as a whole. Why? Because this is the one where Darth Vader turns to the Dark Side. Until now, it’s always been such a mystery how Darth Vader became such a villain. But now we know. Or at least I do… you’ve gotta pay your ten bucks to find out.

Of course I had to go to see the movie this week. Partly because I wanted to see it… okay, mostly because I wanted to see it… but also because I needed to do some research for the message this morning. Because today we’re continuing our series on The Gospel According to Star Wars as we address the question, “What Would Jesus Say to Darth Vader?”

Now, I was talking with someone this week and I asked him if he had ever seen a Star Wars movie. And he said, “What’s that?” So for those of you who aren’t aware, this is Darth Vader… [PowerPoint Image]…one of the main characters in the Star Wars series. In fact, he is widely recognized as the greatest movie villain of all time. He is the very epitome of evil.

But it wasn’t always that way. When the Star Wars saga begins in The Phantom Menace, we’re introduced to a young boy named Anakin Skywalker. Anakin is an innocent, well-meaning boy who apparently has what it takes to become a great Jedi knight, defending the Republic from evil wherever it may arise. This youngster eventually grows up and has a son named Luke. But along the way Anakin becomes deceived and corrupted by the Dark Side. As Obi-Wan later explained to Luke…

“Your father was seduced by the Dark Side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed.”
~ Obi-Wan Kenobi in Return of the Jedi

And he becomes Darth Vader, the embodiment of evil. What is it that turns him from good to evil? Well, I know and I’m not tellin’. That’s what Episode III is all about, and I’m not going to ruin it for you. You’ll have to see the movie for yourself.

So what would Jesus say to this Dark Lord of the Sith? I think he may start by telling Vader…

 

What Would Jesus Say to Darth Vader?

1. You have been deceived by evil.

Again, this deception is the plotline for Episode III so I’m not going to get into details. But suffice it to say that when Anakin Skywalker turned from the good side to the Dark Side, he thought he was doing the right thing. He had been told lies that he accepted as truth. That’s the strength of the Dark Side… it’s never more powerful than when you’re not even aware that it’s there.

Let me tell you something about evil. If you could ever see the corruption… the utter repugnance… of evil, you would never be tempted by it. But most times, evil is wrapped up in such a nice pretty package that it looks good. It seems right. It appears to be what will bring you happiness. And only when it’s too late do you discover its true nature.

In the Bible, Satan is referred to as the deceiver of the world. In fact, the word “Devil” literally means “Deceiver.” The name “Satan” means “Adversary.” But his skill is that he’s able to masquerade as your friend.

The Bible also calls Satan an Angel of Light (2 Corinthians 11:14). He can make evil appear so beautiful. He can manipulate you to think that sin really isn’t all that bad. And that’s the power of temptation.

And he’s also called a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44). Feeding you lies is his specialty. He knows just how to manipulate you into wanting evil without even realizing that it’s evil. That’s why the Bible warns us…

Hebrews 3:12-13 (CEV)
My friends, watch out! Don't let evil thoughts or doubts make any of you turn from the living God. You must encourage one another each day… If you don't, then sin may fool some of you…

1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 (CEV)
Put everything to the test. Accept what is good and don't have anything to do with evil.

Do you realize that when God looks at our sinfulness, He’s repulsed by it? That’s why when Jesus was dying on the cross and took upon Himself all of our sinfulness and moral filth, God the Father had to turn His head. He couldn’t stomach it. But at the same time, as we commit ourselves to Him, He will take us through a process of purification that will completely decontaminate the “moral filth” from our lives. If you could see sin through God’s eyes… if you could see sin for what it really is… you would understand that it is a disgusting and repulsive thing. There would be nothing attractive about it. Don’t allow Satan to convince you otherwise.

Anakin Skywalker was deceived by the Dark Side. But it wasn’t a sudden thing. Even in Episode II, we see Chancellor Palpatine starting to take an interest in Anakin and starting to plant seeds of doubt. Over time, Palpatine gradually introduces Anakin to the Dark Side… in such small doses that Anakin doesn’t realize the danger. Until finally, when Anakin switches sides, he thinks he had no choice. He thinks he’s doing the right thing. But if he had paused long enough to consider the consequences… if he had been able to see the deception for what it was… if he could have understood the immeasurable pain he was going to cause to himself and everyone he loved… he never would have given in. And if he had recognized it early on, he would have been able to resist. But he had ignored the warnings of the Jedi council and of Obi-Wan and found himself trapped, not being able to tell right from wrong.

You know, sometimes we get ourselves all caught up in a sinful pattern in our lives. We struggle with the same issue over and over again. But when you think back, it all started so innocently. It didn’t seem so bad at first, so we allowed ourselves to enjoy it. But that seed of sin grows in us until it overwhelms us. And only through prayer and the power of God, and usually over a period of time accompanied by a great struggle, can we regain control of that area of our lives.

So when you are tempted by sin that appears so appealing, pause long enough to consider what it will cost you. Weigh the temporary pleasure of giving in with the eternal consequences. Look behind the attractive mask of evil and see it for the disgusting thing that it is. And understand how utterly repulsing it is to God.

 

2. Your evil ways will lead to death.

The Book of Proverbs in the Old Testament stated it simply…

Proverbs 11:19 (NLT)
Godly people find life; evil people find death.

In the Star Wars saga, after Anakin becomes Darth Vader and throughout the rest of the series, Vader seems to be surrounded by an aura of death. There’s physical death… we see Vader killing people on a whim. We even see him blow up an entire planet! Then there’s the death of freedom… the death of hope… the death of purpose.

That was true for those around Vader, and it was true for Vader himself. Again, think about how Obi-Wan described it. He said that when Anakin was seduced by the Dark Side, he stopped being Anakin and became Darth Vader. The man he used to be died at that moment. And all that was left was Vader. He had already suffered a kind of death.

In the Bible, there are three kinds of death described.
 

  • Physical Death

    Physical death entered this world because of the Fall of Humanity in the Garden of Eden… because Adam and Eve disobeyed God and sinned against Him. Physical death is the kind of death that’s the most obvious to us right now. It’s the death referred to in Hebrews 9:27…

    Hebrews 9:27 (CEV)
    We die only once, and then we are judged.

    That’s the death of our physical bodies… through old age, through illness, through an accident… whatever. This tends to be the kind of death we fear most right now, but in reality this is the least serious kind of death. Here’s a much more serious kind of death…
     

  • Spiritual Death

    This is the kind of death we suffer here and now because of our sinfulness. And we’re all born into sin. No one is exempt from sin, so we have all died spiritually. Some of us have also been restored to life, but I’m getting ahead of myself. What is spiritual death? It’s the death of communion with God. It’s the death of understanding our life purpose. It’s the death of the image of God in us. It’s the death we deserve because of our rebellion against God.

    Romans 6:23 (NLT)
    “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.”

    And the ultimate conclusion of spiritual death is…
     

  • Eternal Death

    What is Eternal Death? It is eternal separation from God. It is an eternity removed from the Source of Life. We’ve already seen that when we die physically, we will face the Judgement. If our names are written in the Book of Life, we will be pardoned and welcomed to eternal life in Heaven. But if we are still spiritual dead, we will be sentenced to eternal death in Hell. But that does not mean that we cease to exist. It means that we spend eternity removed from our Creator and source of life. That was the kind of death that Jesus was talking about in John 3:16 when He said…

    John 3:16 (NLT)
    “God loved the people of this world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who has faith in him will have eternal life and never really die.”

    Is He saying that we’ll never physically die? No, that’s just part of life. Is He saying, then, that we’ll never spiritually die? No, it’s already too late for that. We’re all born into that. So what He’s saying is that there is an eternal death which involves being judged and sentenced, and then separated from God forever.
     

The third thing I think Jesus might say to Darth Vader is perhaps the most profound, and it’s this…

 

3. I still love you.

Despite everything you’ve done, despite all of the death you’ve caused, despite the fact that you’ve given yourself over to the Dark Side… I still love you.

In the movies, Luke exemplified this kind of love. He knew just what his father had become, but he still loved him. He still hoped for him. He still wanted him to turn from what he was doing and return to the man he used to be.

That’s a son’s love for his father. But you know what? God’s love for us is even greater. As a race, we have rebelled against God. Individually, every one of us has sinned and has turned away from God and gone our own way. But God still loves us. And He has proven it by becoming a Man and dying for us…

Romans 5:8 (NLT)
But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

Ephesians 2:4-5 (NLT)
But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so very much, that even while we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead.

That’s the extent of God’s love. It’s measureless. It’s beyond comprehension. And nothing you could ever say, think or do could ever eliminate it.

Romans 8:38-39 (NLT)
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can't, and life can't. The angels can't, and the demons can't. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, and even the powers of hell can't keep God's love away. Whether we are high above the sky or in the deepest ocean, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

And it’s because of this great love that Jesus would also say…

 

4. No matter what you’ve done, you can be redeemed.

There’s a scene in Return of the Jedi where Luke confronts his father and tried to convince him to turn his back on the Dark Side. He tries to tell him that he still has the potential for good. What does Vader say in response?

“It is too late for me, son.”
~ Darth Vader

But later on in the movie, when the evil Emperor is literally zapping Luke with bursts of energy trying to kill him, we see Vader looking on. And even behind the mask we can tell that he’s conflicted. Watch this…

VIDEO CLIP – Return of the Jedi (Title on DVD - "Vader's Redemption")

In a sense, Vader redeems himself at that moment. It’s the climax of the entire Star Wars saga. And if I were to identify the grand over-aching theme of the Star Wars movies, I would sum it up in the word, “Redemption”. We go from seeing Anakin as an innocent little boy, we watch him gradually give himself over to the Dark Side until it consumes him, and then finally we witness his redemption at the climax of the saga. And then at the very end of the movie we see the fulfillment of his redemption as Anakin is reunited with Yoda and Obi-Wan in the Star Wars version of the afterlife.

This theme resonates with all of us. Why? Because we've all been corrupted by evil. Maybe not to the degree that Darth Vader has been, but we all do things we know we shouldn't do but we do them anyway. We all think things we shouldn’t think, but we think them anyway. We all say things we shouldn’t say, but we say them anyway. We all fall short of our own expectations and our own standards of behaving in life. That's why we feel so guilty half the time. And if we're falling so short of our own standard, just think how far we’re falling short of God's standard, which is much higher. We've all been corrupted by evil. But the message of Star Wars is this: Even for someone as thoroughly corrupted as Darth Vader, there is still the hope of redemption for him. No one is too far lost to be saved. And that's also the theme of the Bible.

1 Timothy 1:15 (NLT)
This is a true saying, and everyone should believe it: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--and I was the worst of them all.

Redemption. It’s the grand over-arching theme of Star Wars and it’s the grand over-arching theme of all 66 books of the Bible. Even the very worst of us is not beyond hope. We all have the potential for redemption and restoration to a relationship with God. With one major difference. In Star Wars, Darth Vader accomplishes his own redemption by what he does. But the Bible makes it clear that we can't accomplish our own redemption. Why? Because Jesus Christ has already accomplished it for us. He says, “It’s not what you do; it’s what I’ve already done.”

Ephesians 1:7; 2:5 (NLT)
He is so rich in kindness that he purchased our freedom through the blood of his Son, and our sins are forgiven… It is only by God's special favor that you have been saved!

Jesus Christ died on the cross as our substitute to pay the penalty for the sins that we've committed. And today He reaches out with this free gift of forgiveness and eternal life. You don’t deserve it, you can’t earn it, but He offers it anyway. He says, “It' s yours if you’ll come to Me in repentance and faith and receive this free gift of forgiveness. And then you and I can spend eternity in Heaven.”

Are some people beyond hope? Are some people beyond redemption? As you scroll through the activities of your life… the evil, the misdeeds you've done in your life the things that you've done wrong… if you were to stand up here and confess them you'd be humiliated. The things that nobody knows you've done wrong. The thoughts that you've had that are so evil sometimes you wonder, “Where did that come from?” The words that you've said that have stung other people and you've never said you're sorry. The times you should have reached out to help someone but you've turned your back and walked the other way. All of those times that you’ve let yourself down and you’ve let God down… Could it be that Jesus says to everybody else, “Here’s this gift of forgiveness and eternal life. It's yours. It's free. Except for you. You're beyond hope.” Where does He draw the line?

Well, the fact is, he doesn’t. His free gifts of forgiveness and eternal life are offered to all who will simply believe that He is who He says He is… God… and who will receive Him into their lives and choose to follow Him. Believe and receive. That simple.

John 1:12 (NLT)
“But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.”

Believe and receive. Your redemption is as simple as that. But I do believe there’s one more thing that Jesus might say to Darth Vader after his redemption. And it’s this…

 

5. Change your ways.

He might say, “Your redemption is already paid for. But once you experience it, don’t keep doing the same things you did before or you will end up in the same place again. Change your ways.”

Acts 3:19 (CEV)
So turn to God! Give up your sins, and you will be forgiven.

In other words, “Do not do the things you used to do. Don’t say the things you used to say. Turn to God and change your ways.”

There’s a word that you hear once in a while and it’s a word found in the Bible. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t understand what it means. It’s the word “Repent.” For a lot of people, when they hear the word repent, they immediately think of a guy wearing one of those sandwich signs that says, “turn or burn,” or, “you're going to die and fry.”

Actually, the word “repent” literally means, “to change your mind.” It means when I repent, I change my mind. First, I change my mind about God, I change my mind about myself, I change my mind about others, I change my mind about life. And a lot of people look at repentance as a negative thing… “I'm going to have to give up this, this, and this, and this…” And they see repentance as if it's something terrible.

But repenting is simply changing your mind away from the thoughts of this world to the thoughts of God.

“When I repented… I basically turned from hopelessness to hope, from darkness to light, from guilt to forgiveness, from loneliness to a family of God, from purposelessness to purpose, from having no meaning in my life to having meaning. It was the most positive change in my life.”
~ Rick Warren on Larry King Live, March 26, 2005

So once you’re redeemed, you have to repent… you have to change your mind and turn away from your old way of life and turn to a better life with God.

 

Would you close your eyes for a minute? Is there anyone here this morning that needs to be redeemed? You need to be made right before God? You need to repent and turn from your old ways and turn to God? Just raise your hand and I’ll pray for you.
 

 

 

 

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