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Monday, September 27, 2010


It was spring of 2005, and we were planning my son's fifth birthday party.
Star Wars - The Saga Collection - Episode III Revenge of the Sith - Basic Figure - EP3 Obi-Wan
He (and every other little boy, apparently) was "into" Star Wars that year, so we were planning a knock-down-drag-out Star Wars party for him. And it also turned out that he was the luckiest kid alive that year, because his birthday happened roughly a month before the final prequel movie, Episode III - Revenge of the Sith, was coming out. Why did that make him lucky? Because a week or so before his birthday, which we had themed around the movies, the new toy line based on Sith came out! By the end of the day he was absolutely drowning in Star Wars toys. I even dressed up like a Wookiee for one part of the party. It was epic!

But we weren't quite sure if we would be able to let him see the movie itself at his age. We knew that at some point, Anakin, who we had watched grow from an innocent little boy into an angsty, troubled teenager in the other movies, was going to get burned beyond recognition, and we weren't sure how violent those images were going to be. So when the movie came out, my wife and I left him with Grandma and went to see it without him to preview it.

My reaction to the movie was unexpected. I knew basically what was going to happen. Anakin was turning bad... really bad. He was going to turn against the Jedi order and have the Jedi all executed. He was going to battle with Obi-Wan and lose. He was going to catch on fire somehow and be left for dead. Then, of course, Palpatine was going to somehow install him into that iconic black suit by the end of the movie. What I was unprepared for was the rush of genuine emotion that was going to occur in me as the movie filled in some of the blanks that had been left by the original trilogy, finally connecting the dots. So this is what turned Anakin into Darth Vader. This is how innocence is twisted into evil... by tainting genuine love with selfishness. Many fans of the original trilogy dislike the prequels very much, but I was genuinely moved by the final chapter in the story of Anakin Skywalker.

That's how I've felt at several times this year as I've been reading straight through the Old Testament for the first time. I already knew the main stories, of course... Adam & Eve, Noah's Ark, David & Goliath, Samson & Delilah, Ruth, Esther, Jonah, and dozens more. I've even read considerable portions of the Old Testament before, including all of Genesis and Exodus, Psalms & Proverbs, and big hunks of other books like Joshua and Judges. What I didn't know was how it all fit together. I had no concept of the length of time between, say, Moses and David, or what exactly happened to make it so that Daniel was in Babylon. The full arc of Old Testament Israelite history had eluded me. The dots weren't connected.

But now many of them are! I understand things about the Old Testament that I never understood before. I understand things about familiar Bible characters that I never understood before. I'm still a long way from being finished, but I'm through the historical books and I think I've got a basic grasp of how the ancient history of the Hebrew people goes.

But the most important part of this whole exercise is that it's not just the history of the Hebrew people... it's the history of God's people. People of faith. Christianity, after all, did spring from the Jewish religion. Jesus and His disciples were all Jewish, as were most everybody around them. And the people of Jesus' day, as I understand it, had a knowledge of the Scriptures that today would be considered quite scholarly. How can we even begin to understand the things that those people said or did in the New Testament without the context of the Old Testament? How can we have a genuine understanding of Jesus' teachings unless we understand the teachings of Moses? When Jesus in the Gospels says "it is written" or even "you have heard that it is said," or when Paul quotes from Psalms or Isaiah, unless you understand something about the way they understood those passages, you can't fully understand the New Testament passage, either.

Now when I watch Darth Vader die in Return of the Jedi, I understand something I didn't before. I understand his love for his wife and family, masked for all those years by rage and hatred. I understand that Darth Vader is a tragic figure, a victim, although he has also been a perpetrator of evil all those years. When the original movies came out, seeing Darth Vader without his helmet was a shock. There really was a human man in there all along! The Anakin that we saw in that brief death scene is actually the return of the Anakin we later met in the prequels. Now we know that. And now that I've gotten familiar with the beginning of the story that is completed in the Gospels, I understand all kinds of things about Jesus' life and death, and the behavior of His followers during His life and after His resurrection.

Until you've read the "prequel," don't assume you understand the "movie"!

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