Rise of Skywalker: Biblical Themes (Part III)

So far, I have covered three themes that are in the movie Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker that we also find in scripture. (You can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here). In this third installment, I am unpacking a fourth theme from the movie. [Warning: spoiler alert if you haven’t seen the movie yet.]

4. The power to raise the dead

In Episode III, Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, Chancellor Palpatine tells Anakin a legend about an ancient Sith, Darth Plaguies, who could essentially raise people from the dead. We are led to believe Palpatine was the apprentice who learned this “unnatural” power from Plaguies. Cut to Episode IX, Rise of Skywalker, and it seems as though Darth Sidious (Palpatine) has returned from the dead using this power in a sort of Frankenstein body. Darth Sidious further animates his carcass of a body by using the dark side of the Force to steal life energy from Rey and Kylo Ren.

At the end of the movie, we also see Kylo Ren, who is Ben at this point, use the Force to transfer all of his remaining “life energy” into Rey who is dead. This is essentially force healing on steroids. (I talk about Rey’s explanation of force healing here.) This raises Rey back to life but ends up killing Ben.

Both of these forms of resurrection/resuscitation are very different than what we see in the New Testament. Jesus does, in fact, raise the dead in His ministry and, like healing, passes that calling on to His disciples. We see both Peter (Acts 9:36-42) and Paul (Acts 20:7-12) raise the dead through the power of the Spirit in their own ministries. I write more extensively about that here in a conversational format, but I don’t have the space in this post to get into too much detail.

Suffice it to say that the same differences that exist between praying for healing and force healing exist between raising the dead in the New Testament and using the Force to bring back the dead in Star Wars. Jesus is the resurrection and the life. By dying and defeating death through His own resurrection, He showed His own authority over death. And through the Holy Spirit, the same power that raised Christ from the dead now flows in us as followers of Jesus (Romans 8:11).

Jesus is the source of life. Jesus is the source of resurrection/resuscitation, not our “life energy” getting transferred. We are the conduits of the power of the Holy Spirit, but we are not the source. Jesus alone has that power.

In one instance, Jesus raised a young girl from the dead after her father asked Him to. He apparently had become so well known for healings and resurrections that people had confidence He could do it again upon request.

“My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live.”

Matthew 9:18

In another instance, Jesus raised a young man from the dead right in the middle of his funeral. Can you imagine being at that funeral?

As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow…When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”

Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.

Luke 7:12-15

Far from being an “unnatural” power as described in Sith lore, Jesus, the author of life, releasing life to this young man. Bringing him back from the dead was the most natural thing in the world. In God’s Kingdom, there is no death. Jesus was ushering in the Kingdom of God to invade the kingdom of the world in that moment. The New Testament describes Jesus this way:

For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 

Colossians 1:16-17

The Son of God, Jesus Christ, was the One through which all of creation came to life. He has been bringing things to life from the very beginning of time. In Him all things hold together. So for Jesus to bring this young man, and the young girl, back to life was the most natural thing in the world for Him to do.

Jesus is the Source of Life. He has authority over death. He is the resurrection and the life. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. In Him is life and that life is the light of all humanity. He alone is worthy of our worship, our surrender, our life.

Rise of Skywalker: Biblical Themes (Part II)

In my first post about Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker, I listed two themes that were in the movie that we also find in scripture. The first theme is the idea that there are more with us than are against us (2 Kings 6:16). The second theme is the truth that, as followers of Jesus, we are never alone. Jesus is always with us (Matthew 28:20), and we have a cloud of witnesses cheering us on (Hebrews 12:1).

In this post, I want to examine another theme (#3) that is prominent in Rise of Skywalker that is also prominent in the New Testament.  

3.  Healing the sick through the laying on of hands

We saw glimpses of what the Star Wars universe calls “force healing” in Episodes III and IV but nothing like what we saw Rise of Skywalker (Episode IX). In Episode III, Revenge of the Sith, Obi-Wan bends down and seems to administer force healing on Padme when she is nearly choked to death by Anakin on Mustafar. We see Obi-Wan do something similar for Luke in Episode IV after Luke gets attacked by Tusken Raiders in the canyon on Tatooine. But in Rise of Skywalker, we get a more in depth look at force healings and an explanation from Rey about how they happen. 

In Episode IX, Rey first uses force healing to heal a sand worm. She uses it again on Kylo Ren after she impales him during their lightsaber fight on the ruins of the old Death Star. In both cases we see Rey lay her hands on the being/person she is trying to heal.

After healing the huge sand worm, Rey explains that, as a Jedi, she is able to use the Force to transfer a part of her life energy to another being in order to heal them. This ends up draining the Jedi because it takes some of their life and releases it to another person. The greater the injury, the more it drains the Jedi trying to heal the person. 

In the life of Jesus, and in the lives of the early disciples, we see people healed through the laying on of their hands. Jesus modeled this for us.

“…the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them.” 

Luke 4:40

Then Jesus tells his disciples that they will continue to heal, through the power of the Spirit, as He had been doing.

“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”

John 14:12

“And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will…place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.” 

Mark 16:17-18

Then we see the disciples do exactly that. One time, when Paul was shipwrecked on the island of Malta, he healed the father of the chief Roman official of the island in much the same way that Jesus healed people.

“There was an estate nearby that belonged to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us to his home and showed us generous hospitality for three days. His father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him.”

Acts 28:7-8

We too are called to lay hands on the sick and see them healed. On a number of occasions, I have laid my hands on people, prayed, and seen the body part that needed healing immediately get healed right under my hands. Members of my prayer team have seen the same thing happen with them. But let’s be clear, we are no Jedi.

Real healing that happens through the power of the Holy Spirit are not like “force healing.” In fictitious force healing, one must be able to connect with or be one with the Force. Then they must use the Force to transfer their life energy to someone else. When we lay hands on people and pray for the sick, we are not connecting with an impersonal force. We are connecting with a person named Jesus. He’s is the one who purchased our healing by His death on the cross and resurrection from the grave. We must be relationally one with Him.

Then, when we pray for the sick, we are asking Jesus to release His healing power, the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, to bring healing. We are inviting the Kingdom of God to come here on earth, in this body, as it is in heaven. We know there is no sickness or disease in the Kingdom of God. So, we are inviting God to bring His Kingdom of no sickness into this broken world.

When power flows through us to the other person, it is not our “life energy” that we are giving away. We are not the source. We are merely conduits of the power of the Holy Spirit. It is a privilege to be a conduit, but the power that brings healing is not ours to manipulate. It belongs to Jesus alone. Jesus sent His own disciples out to do ministry and told them this:

As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.

Matthew 10:7-8

As followers of Jesus, we have freely received the Holy Spirit and all the gifting that comes with Him (read 1 Corinthians 12:8-11). Now we are to go and give it away. We are to step into our authority as ambassadors of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20), as sons and daughters of the King of Kings (Romans 8:14-17), and command demons to leave and body parts to be made well. But we do so based on delegated authority, not our own authority. We do so by the power of the Holy Spirit, not by the power of our own life energy. Again, we are not the source of the healing. We are only conduits.

Having seen people healed right in front of me, I watched the force healing scenes a little differently than most. While many watched in delight and wonder at a Jedi using force healing, wishing they could do that, I was reminded that Jesus did do that and calls us to do the same. While most relegate healing through the laying on of hands to the realms of science-fiction, I have participated in it in real life. So have others at my church and many churches around the world.

The power of the Holy Spirit is real, and you don’t need to be a Jedi to experience it, but you do need to be a follower of Jesus. As followers of Jesus who have fully surrendered to the Lord and have been filled with the Spirit, this is our inheritance. We’ve been given the awesome responsibility of praying for the sick and the amazing privilege of watching as Jesus heals people through us right before our eyes.

Mediation

So he said to them, “Why do you do such things? I hear from all the people about these wicked deeds of yours. No, my sons; the report I hear spreading among the Lord’s people is not good. If one person sins against another, God may mediate for the offender; but if anyone sins against the Lord, who will intercede for them?”

1 Samuel 2:23-25

Eli had his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, ministering with him as priests. But these two sons were engaged in the two most notorious scandals a minister can be involved in. They were stealing from the offerings people were giving to the Lord and they were sleeping with women who were serving at the place of sacrifice. Money scandals and sex scandals have long been tabloid fodder for people in positions of power.

Eli finally confronts his sons and, even though they don’t listen, Eli’s confrontation is a foreshadow of Christ. It is one thing to ask God or a judge to mediate conflict between two people. But who mediates the conflict when we’ve sinned against God? God has become the one who has been sinned against and the only one who has enough authority to mediate between Himself and other. The implication here from Eli is that there is no one to intercede for us if we sin against God and so a guilty verdict will surely be the result.

The beauty of the gospel is that God saw this reality and decided to do something about it on our behalf. He loves us so much He couldn’t leave things this way. So He sent Jesus–God in the flesh–to become the mediator between us and God. Jesus took our guilty verdict upon Himself and in turn gave us the inheritance that was His alone. He took upon Himself what only we deserved and then gave us what only He deserved. He identified with the consequence of our sin–the crucifixion, death, and burial–and then gave us the opportunity not only to identify with Him in the resurrection–giving us new life–but also the chance to be seated with Him in the heavenly places–allowing us to reign with Him–receiving His inheritance and authority.

For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus…

1 Timothy 2:5

…Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.

Hebrews 9:5

Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

Romans 6:3-4

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus…

Ephesians 2:4-6

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God…The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

Romans 8:14, 16-17

Can you see that the Mediator Jesus did not come to make sure both sides, us and God, got a fair deal? What Jesus got was not fair. It was sacrifice. What we got was not fair. It was grace. Justice was satisfied as our sin was paid for, but the gospel goes way beyond justice. Because of His great love for us, God put all of His chips on the table. He went all in to bring about our reconciliation to Him.

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 5:18-21

This is why we call it good news! In moments where I am just quietly driving and reflecting on the goodness of God, there are times when the absolute beauty of the gospel hits me. I become overwhelmed with the grace and kindness of the Father. I become undone by the reality that God gave me what only Jesus deserved because Jesus took upon Himself what only I deserved. The weight of the love involved in that exchanged becomes so real that I break down crying in the car.

This is the gospel! We don’t earn it with good works or religious duties. We simply believe it. We believe and trust in what Jesus did for us, and it changes everything!

Jesus, thank you for this beautiful exchange! I don’t deserve all that You’ve given me, but I receive it by faith. I surrender my life to you, Jesus, and I invite the Holy Spirit to come and change me from the inside out. Your love for me is overwhelming! Your grace toward me is life-changing! Help me to live from that place of being seated with you at the right hand of the Father. My life is Yours! Amen.

As They Saw Fit

In those days Israel had no king;everyone did as they saw fit.

Judges 17:6

This verse in scripture is so powerful for being so short. And it resonates with the situation we find ourselves in today. When there is no recognized authority and truth, everyone just does as they see fit without regard to the word of the Lord. At this time in Israel’s history, people would just melt silver, cast an idol, hire a priest and set up a shrine to their own gods. This is exactly what a man named Micah did in Judges 17.

This is also something we see people do in our own culture when they claim to live according to what they call “my truth.” They might as well say, “my gods.”

In order to avoid this kind of post-modern polytheistic relativism, we must surrender our lives to Jesus. Surrender always requires obedience. But recognizing Jesus as King of Kings is only the beginning of obedience. There are at least three phases of obedience, each one progressively getting closer to what God intended for us.

1. Obedience out of sin avoidance: This kind of obedience is about trying to do what is right and avoid doing what is wrong. It is a sin-conscious approach to living for the Lord. The focus is on our actions and trying to do the right ones. This approach tends to focus on the cross but doesn’t go much beyond it. This is the lowest and weakest form of obedience to the Lord.

2. Obedience out of identity: This kind of obedience is a step up from the last kind. It is about knowing who we are in Christ. It is about recognizing that we are new creations in Christ. This approach to living for the Lord doesn’t just avoid sin because it is wrong. Instead, the person doesn’t choose sin because they know that is not who they are. It is not focused on action but on identity. It is an obedience that comes from the heart. This approach tends to embrace the cross but then also move into a focus on the resurrection. The fact that we have been made new by Jesus is the primary concern. Rather than trying to avoid sin, it is about being who you really are in Christ.

3. Obedience out of love: This is the most complete kind of obedience. This kind of obedience embraces the death and resurrection of Jesus and continues by focusing on our identification with Jesus in His ascension. We are now seated with Christ in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6). It is an obedience born out of an intimate relationship with Jesus. It not only focuses on who we are as new creations in Christ but also on the interactive communication between us and Jesus.

Obedience is seen not just as sin avoidance or living out of your true identity but as actively joining God in what you see Him doing. It is actively listening to the Holy Spirit and doing what He says to do. It comes from a love for God and an experience of His love for us. Obedience then becomes a way to honor that relationship. It becomes a joy, not a burden. This is what Jesus was talking about in John 14:15 when He said, “If you love me, keep my commands.” Obedience that is born out of love is the highest form of obedience and what God always intended for us.

What kind of obedience are you living in?

Left Foot. Right Foot. Feet. Feet. Feet.

Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior…

After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body.

Ephesians 5:23, 29-30

speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 

Ephesians 4:15

the body is not made up of one part but of many. Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

1 Corinthians 12:14-15, 27

Over and over again, the apostle Paul reminds the early church that Christ is the head of the church and they are the Body of Christ. We are His body, His hands, His feet. He is the head. With that in mind, read what Paul says in this next passage:

…he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

Ephesians 1:20-23

Jesus was crucified, buried, raised from the dead, and then ascended to the right hand of the Father. There Jesus is far above every other demonic power and political power. Again we are reminded that Jesus is the head over everything for the church and that we are His body.

We are also told that everything was placed under the feet of Jesus. But the question we must ask ourselves is, “What or who is the feet of Jesus?”

We just learned from a number of other passages that we, the Church, are the Body of Christ. We are the hands and feet of Jesus. WE ARE THE FEET OF JESUS! And that has profound implications. It means God placed everything under us, the Church. And we are under Christ, our head.

God placed all things under His feet. God placed all things under (the Church). This is what Jesus was saying to his own disciples:

He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy

Luke 10:18-19

To trample something means that it is under your feet. It means you have authority over it. Jesus has given us authority over the things He has authority over!

God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus

Ephesians 2:6

When Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father, He brought with Him everyone who would be found “in Christ.” And as His Body, His feet, everything has been placed under us. It is our job to exercise the authority we’ve been given. It’s our job to defeat the enemy with the authority Jesus has given us. In fact, Jesus is waiting on us to do just that!

But when this priest (Jesus) had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. 

Hebrews 10:12-13

Again, we see that a footstool is something that sits under feet. We are the feet of Jesus, His Body. He could make the enemy His footstool with the snap of His fingers, so what is He waiting on?

He’s waiting on us!

We’re the ones charged with the task of making the enemy a footstool for Jesus. We are His feet that have been given the authority to trample those things in the spirit realm that stand against the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Are we living out of this truth? Are we living like all things have been placed under us, Church? Or, are we living like we are buried under all things?

Do you know the authority you’ve been given? If so, how are you exercising that authority?

More in Death than in Life

Samson said to the servant who held his hand, “Put me where I can feel the pillars that support the temple, so that I may lean against them.” Now the temple was crowded with men and women; all the rulers of the Philistines were there, and on the roof were about three thousand men and women watching Samson perform. Then Samson prayed to the Lord,“Sovereign Lord, remember me. Please, God, strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.” Then Samson reached toward the two central pillars on which the temple stood. Bracing himself against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other, Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” Then he pushed with all his might, and down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it. Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived.

Judges 16:26-30

Deliliah cut Samson’s hair thus nullifying his Nazarite vow. When this happened, the Spirit of the Lord left Samson and, with Him, all of Samson’s supernatural strength. The Philistines captured Samson, gouged out his eyes, and made a mockery of him among the Philistine elite.

Physical obedience impacts spiritual realities. So does disobedience. When Samson’s hair was cut (physical reality) it impacted what was happening in the spirit realm. The Spirit of the Lord no longer rested upon Samson in power.

Samson’s death was a foreshadow of the death of Christ. Samson destroyed many more of the enemy’s minions in his death than he did in his life. The same is true of Jesus. Jesus healed and cast demons out of thousands of people. He dominated the enemy in his life on earth. Yet, His death on the cross and resurrection from the grave gave us access to His power and authority. More minions of the enemy have been destroyed because of Jesus’s death than were destroyed in His life. It happens through you and me.

Once again we see physical obedience impacting spiritual realities. Jesus’s ultimate physical obedience of going to the cross forever changed the spirit realm. In rising from the grave, conquering sin and death, Jesus now has all authority. And He chose to delegate His authority to those of us who have the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us.

With every act of obedience on our part, the power and authority of the Kingdom of God is released in the spirit realm. With every act of disobedience, the lies and deception of the enemy gain ground. Living the Christian life has never been about vain attempts to “be a good Christian boy or girl.” Walking in step with the Holy Spirit out of obedience to the Lord has always been about the Kingdom of God coming to earth. It’s always been about the battle happening in the spirit realm. It’s about “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Your obedient actions matter more than you know!

The Amazing Father

After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light… 

…a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”

When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.

Matthew 17:1-2, 5-8

When Jesus was transfigured before Peter, James and John and they saw Him talking with Moses and Elijah, they were amazed–full of awe and wonder. But when the Father spoke from heaven, they were terrified. Yet, notice that Jesus, the One who knows His Father the best, says, “Don’t be afraid.”

Because of our dysfunctional relationships with our own dads, we can feel more comfortable interacting with Jesus, even Jesus in a glorified body, than the Father. I have a great relationship with my dad, but I can still remember a time in my life when I did not want to sit and listen in prayer for the Father to speak to me. I was afraid that the Father would only speak words of criticism, judgment and disappointment. For some reason, that same fear wasn’t there with Jesus. Maybe because He is always portrayed as full of mercy, grace and compassion.

Yet, if we’ve seen Jesus, we’ve seen the Father. If we know what Jesus is like, we know what the Father is like. The apostle Paul wrote to the church in Colossi, “The Son is the image of the invisible God…“(Colossians 1:15). Jesus had to remind His own disciples of this truth.

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”

Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.

John 14:8-10

Jesus is just like the Father. If we feel comfortable praying to and interacting with Jesus but not the Father, then we don’t know who the Father really is. The grace, love and compassion of Jesus comes from the heart of the Father.

We need to be reminded that the Father is not like our earthly dad. He’s not removed and distant. He’s not angry or hot-tempered. He’s not disapproving and hard. He’s not an addict. He’s not passive and weak. He’s not irresponsible or flighty. And even for those of us who had amazing dads, the Father is even better than that!

We don’t need to be terrified of the Father. He is slow to anger and abounding in love. He is full of power and yet full of peace. He is majestic and mighty and yet full of kindness. We are free to approach the throne of grace with confidence (Hebrews 4:16) knowing He will be present for us in our time of need.

What’s keeping you from spending time with the Father?

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights…

James 1:17