Judas, John the Baptist, and Obi-Wan Kenobi
A Theological Holiday Special
“You were the chosen one! It was said that you would destroy the Sith, not join them. You were to bring balance to the force, not leave it in darkness,” a distraught Obi-Wan Kenobi yells at his former pupil Anakin Skywalker, now mostly limbless on the ground.
This moment from the Episode III of the Star Wars series is pretty rough. Probably because of Hayden Christensen’s acting. Nevertheless, it is probably the most quoted line of Revenge of the Sith.
Recent retellings of the gospel story recast our view of Judas Iscariot, the Great Traitor, one of the three in the inverted trinity in Dante’s innermost circle of hell.
According to some interpretations, Judas wanted a politically revolutionary Jesus to free the land from Roman oppression. Thus Judas’s “betrayal” was a way to force Jesus’ hand as the leader of a Jewish nation. It is this Judas I see in Obi-Wan yelling at limbless Anakin. “You were supposed to be the chosen one!” Disappointment, dissatisfaction, and despair fill his voice as he looks at his defeated friend. Judas, along with all the other apostles looks to the defeated Jesus on the cross. Wasn’t he the chosen one? The anointed one? What happened to that Jesus? You were supposed to bring justice to the world, not leave it in darkness!
Where is the anointed one who proclaimed himself to be the Messiah to the imprisoned John the Baptist? This past week’s reading was from the gospel of Matthew. John the Baptist was asking, “Are you the chosen one?” To which Jesus, in his usual way of avoiding straight answers, replied, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.”
Jesus’ answer was in his actions. The proclamation of his status of the anointed did not need words, for his actions, healing the blind, raising the dead, cleansing the lepers, making the lame to walk, and proclaiming good news to the poor, told the truth about who Jesus was.
But now Judas is at the cross, screaming, “You were supposed to be the chosen one!” You were supposed to be the one to deliver us from oppression. You were supposed to usher in a time of peace and salvation from our enemies.
And I’m right next to Judas. At the foot of the cross, I scream, “You were supposed to be the chosen one! You were supposed to heal the wounds of the world. Not leave it in darkness.”
Like John the Baptist, I ask Jesus, “Are you the chosen one?” And I hear Jesus’ response. But I have to ask. Are the blind receiving their sight? Are the lame walking? Are the dead being raised? Are the lepers being cleansed? What good news is being proclaimed to the poor? If this is the proof to the impossible claim that Jesus is indeed the son of the only God, what does this mean in a dark, death-ridden, and limping world? What happened to the greater things that we were supposed to do in this world?
Like Judas, I see the crucified Jesus.
But unlike Judas, I wait for the resurrection. I wait for the return.
Judas gave up before seeing the risen Christ.
But I refuse to give up.
Advent is a season that reminds us of the time between Jesus’ death and his resurrection.
We are familiar with the pain, the suffering, and the darkness of this world. We are all too familiar with the crucified Jesus.
But there’s more to the story.
At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Christ, but we also celebrate the risen Christ who will come again. Christmas is a time of wonder, magic, and uncommon generosity. Every year, we hear stories of some extraordinary kindness. My favorite Christmas movie is not Home Alone or It’s a Wonderful Life. It’s Joyeaux Noel, a lesser-known movie about the cease-fires that took place across the front lines on Christmas Eve during World War I. Amidst the darkness of one of the worst wars the world had seen, these soldiers found in Christmas a time to reclaim their humanity. A time to claim something Beyond humanity, the declarations of nations, and the violence of politics. Amidst the darkness, Christmas is a day of light. One of my favorite videos on the internet (judge me all you want…this video is magical though slightly vulgar) is of this youtube blogger going around giving away envelopes of cash to strangers on the street. In a more organized effort of generosity, my church participated in the Angel Tree project, where we gathered presents for children whose parents can’t afford them. (Which raised the question to a 10-year old parishioner: Why are we buying these children presents? Doesn’t Santa deliver presents to them?) There are sparks of light in this world. They may not be many, but they do exist.
Christmas reminds us of this.
And so we wade through Advent, at the foot of the cross with John the Baptist, Judas, and Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Let us answer the question for those who ask, “Are you the one we are waiting for? Or do we wait for another?” Not by proclaiming Christ in word alone but also in deed. Let us work to heal the blind, heal the lame, comfort the leper and the outcast, and share our riches with the poor.
It’s Christmas time. A season that reminds us that even Darth Vader can be redeemed.