“Reconnecting”: The Triumphant Return of Obi-Wan Kenobi (Part 7: Philadelphia/ Rev. 3)

SPOILERS AHEAD!!! Seriously, we are going to spoil the daylights out of the new Obi-Wan Kenobi series… so if you have not watched the series through to completion, please proceed at your own peril. Sure, we all knew going into this series that all of the principal characters must not only live but also continue on their predetermined collision course on the Death Star in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, but that DOESN’T mean that there weren’t some really cool surprises in store for us before all of these characters got placed back in their toy box for another ten years. The transformation of the exceptionally powerful Jedi Master/Clone War general that we once knew as Obi-Wan Kenobi into the quiet, unassuming hermit Ben Kenobi was a journey I never knew I needed to take… and now that I have had an opportunity to ride shotgun through that solemn story, it was a slow-burning but ultimately rewarding ride that I will certainly never forget. Last call for spoilers…

The most difficult part of watching this series was witnessing the complete disconnect of Obi-Wan Kenobi from “the force”… while he was certainly wise to keep a low profile in his new mission and prevent any unwanted Imperial attention, the character we were observing for the first five episodes of this series was most certainly NOT the Obi-Wan Kenobi we had grown to know and love. And this was not some incredible act of subterfuge on his part to disguise his true self and his powers… the Obi-Wan Kenobi we knew was GONE, replaced by this broken shell of a man who had lost everything he had ever cared about, loved, or believed in. His heartbreak and disappointment were evident in every aspect of his mundane daily activities, and as he endured the quiet solitude of his final act of service to the Jedi Order it was clear that he had not “lost touch” with the force… he had willingly shut himself off from it.

Gone was the wit and wisdom of a warrior who had stood against battalions of droids without fear… his mischievous sarcasm had been replaced with the vacant stare of a broken man who was simply grinding out his days in hiding. And he wasn’t simply hiding from Darth Vader or the Inquisitors… he was hiding from the force itself and the man he once was before all of this disaster had befallen him. And the saddest part of all of this was that he didn’t stop believing in the force… he simply did not want to feel it or connect with it anymore because of the pain he had endured while serving it. And for many of us, it is THIS version of Obi-Wan Kenobi that we may relate to the most… someone who has experienced immeasurable pain, crushing disappointments, and setbacks so massive that it seems pointless to continue on. We don’t necessarily stop believing… we just disconnect ourselves from the perceived source of what has hurt us and place our life on autopilot, so we don’t feel the pain quite so intensely anymore. And sadly, I know this broken version of Obi-Wan Kenobi all too well… he is me.

Watching this previously powerful and confident hero fall to the lowest possible depths of depression and grief was quite frankly difficult to watch… Obi-Wan Kenobi has always been my favorite overall character from the Star Wars franchise, and while I knew that his retreat from the frontlines of battle had to happen for storyline continuity, this was NOT how I had always imagined it. His self-imposed exile didn’t feel like the patient guardianship of the final flicker of hope for the galaxy by a wise and benevolent Jedi Master… it felt like a prison cell of his own making. And during this period of time, I had always believed that he was seeking additional wisdom and mastery of the force… I was not prepared to see the mere shadow of the man I had known. But his mournful disconnection from the force that had previously been the source of his strength and given him purpose in his life is a feeling I believe many of us have experienced… the feeling of being forsaken and abandoned by the very cause we had pledged ourselves to serve.

It almost feels blasphemous to write the words “forsaken by God”… so let’s clear the air with a verse that should be moderately familiar to many of us.

Matthew 27:46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

In the middle of His greatest act of service to the Father, Jesus quoted a portion of Psalm 22, which within its’ full context may be one of the most depressing and yet relatable portions of Scripture ever written. The first two verses of this challenging text are below… but the entire chapter is well worth the read if you have the time.

Psalm 22:1-2 My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Why are You so far from helping Me, and from the words of My groaning? O My God, I cry in the daytime, but You do not hear; And in the night season and am not silent.

I don’t know about you, but I can certainly relate to this feeling. While I am certainly personally responsible for a great deal of the pain and disappointments I have experienced in life through my own poor choices, there have also been many times in which I feel like Obi-Wan… broken, defeated, and methodically going through the motions in life without any feelings of hope or even an encouraging light at the end of the tunnel. And in that place of darkness and internal solitude, I still believe in God. I even still believe that He has a larger plan that will eventually make these challenging times make sense. And while I will still continue to believe in Him and even serve Him, I feel forsaken… and my method of numbing my pain is similar to Obi-Wan as well, cutting myself off internally and emotionally from the Lord so I don’t have to continue to reconcile His presence in the world around me with His absence from my painful circumstances. Sure, I may continue to believe in Him, follow Him, and perhaps even serve Him from this pocket of hurt… but the joy of my salvation has been buried underneath this cloud of fallen hopes and shattered dreams. So how do we go from this emotionally wounded former Jedi Master to the confident force wielder who reappears with that old sparkle in his eye to take the fight to the Empire once more? This is the question that the new Obi-Wan Kenobi series finally answers for us… and a lesson WE must learn, as well.

Over the last six weeks we have been exploring the message of Christ in the book of Revelation to the seven churches… if you would like to get caught up before moving forward into our seventh and final article in this series, the links are below:

In each of the previous articles we explored the reasons as well as the dangers of becoming disconnected… a central theme in each of the messages that Christ had given to His churches. And in the message to the church at Philadelphia we find a church that was doing ALL of the right things… but was facing unearned persecution regardless.

Revelation 3:7-13 “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write, ‘These things says He who is holy, He who is true, “He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens”: “I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name. Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie—indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you. Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown. He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” ’

This church was clicking on all cylinders as a shining example of following Christ… unlike many of the previous churches who had messages containing warning, rebuke, or correction, Philadelphia was praised for their works as well as their steadfast faith in the midst of the battle (Revelation 3:8). But when looking a bit deeper into this, the original Greek sheds light on the flickering flame that remains within this body of believers who were under attack. The phrase “for you have a little strength” is made up of two key words that may sound somewhat familiar…

mikros – small, little (this is where we get the English word “micro”)

dynamis – strength, power, might (this is where we get the English word “dynamic”)

This is a group of believers that had remained true to the message and the purpose of Christ, but their power and strength was in a microscopic state due to the relentless attacks they had faced. They had stayed strong, remained pure, and there was an incredible reward for their perseverance waiting for them on the other side of this battle… but the instruction from the Lord to them for now was to “hold fast” (Revelation 3:11). When our strength is low, the external pressure is high, and our internal doubts are on the rise, the last thing we want to hear from the Lord is “just hold on”. But as we will see in the case of the church at Philadelphia as well as the reconnection of Obi-Wan Kenobi to the force, that is exactly what both of them needed to do.

Let’s jump back to Obi-Wan for a minute. His mission would require him to spend almost twenty years in hiding… but what he chose to DO during that time was up to him. When the time came, he would be the one to set Anakin Skywalker’s children on a mission only they could complete… the fall of the empire as well as the eventual repentance and salvation of their fallen father. In the epic lightsaber duel between Obi-Wan and Darth Vader at the conclusion of the final episode in the series, we finally get to see Obi-Wan Kenobi back at full strength… completely reconnected to the force, in control of the battle, and having defeated his former padawan yet again in a glorious display of force mastery. Soooo… why didn’t Obi-Wan end him right there? Or at least try? Vader was clearly no match for him, and this time Obi-Wan could have finally finished off his rebellious student. While the show doesn’t explicitly answer this… I have my hypothesis.

Obi-Wan didn’t kill Anakin in that moment because Obi-Wan had finally achieved peace with his journey and restored his connection to the force… and the force had a bigger plan in mind than simply ending the menace that was Darth Vader. Vader would one day be the one, the ONLY one, who could finally end Emperor Palpatine’s reign of terror. And while we have no way of knowing if Obi-Wan understood the shared destiny that remained between them, the knowing smile that he flashed as he gave his life to the force for the final time showed that not only had Obi-Wan accepted his place in this story, but he had finally achieved inner peace with his journey as well… a peace that reminds me of the final words of submission from Christ as He committed His Spirit into the hands of a Father who didn’t spare Him from His path of pain, either. Not because the Father was cruel, uncaring, or unconcerned with His Child’s pain… but because He saw past the pain to a destiny that would provide the ONLY path of salvation for those who would follow Him.

Luke 23:46 And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, “Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit.’ ” Having said this, He breathed His last.

My encouragement to you today is this… perhaps the painful journey you are currently on is not one of your design. Maybe you, like the church at Philadelphia, truly gave your very best, remained faithful, and you are running on a microscopic level of strength that you feel you cannot sustain. And while you have been promised an “open door”, the path you are on right now feels a lot more like “just hold on”. In this place of processing our pain and frustration, we cannot allow ourselves to become disconnected from the Lord even though our mission may feel a lot more like a prison. And if we have become disconnected through our disillusionment, there IS a solution to our sorrow…. thanks to one final lesson from Obi-Wan Kenobi. He only felt isolated because he had chosen to cut himself off from all that he had previously believed in, removing his access to the very comfort he was seeking. As soon as Obi-Wan pressed through to reconnect to the force, his loneliness was replaced by the presence of a master that had been there all along, just waiting for him to realize it.

We may not get to choose if our destiny involves a long period of seeming exile from our preferred destination, but we DO control if we allow that experience to disconnect us from the Lord. Reconnection to the Lord, no matter how small our strength or faith may feel, is a choice that only we can make. He knows our disappointment… He feels our pain…. and if His children are in a fiery furnace of trial and testing, He is absolutely in that fire with us (Daniel 3:1-25). His encouragement to the followers at Philadelphia rings true through the ages to us as well… there IS an open door waiting for us at the end of our current struggle that cannot be closed by ANYONE else. And if we will hold fast to those things that we knew to be true in the light, the darkness can NOT overcome us. If we are in a place where we feel abandoned or forsaken, I have ONE final encouragement for you as we wrap up this series. The ENTIRE book of Revelation was written by the apostle John… while he was in EXILE on the isle of Patmos for his faithfulness to the Lord. Every one of these letters to the churches… all of the prophecies about the end of times and the return of Christ… this ALL came to John while he was seemingly discarded and forgotten on an island intended to be his final prison. As Obi-Wan found and as John has shown us, even this place of exile may contain the most important mission we will ever receive. Don’t lose hope, even if you find yourself in a dark cave with no obvious exit. You are neither forgotten nor forsaken… you are HEARD. He is there, in the midst of the hurting. And if we are willing to reconnect with Him, He will show us that our story is far from over. As a matter of fact, the very best part may be about to begin… and as Obi-Wan would eventually find, a path to reconciliation as well as the fulfillment of a dream that he had given up on was waiting for him at his journey’s end. The cave that holds our deepest disappointment and represents our greatest disconnection may be the very place that the Lord has chosen for His most profound “Revelation” to be unveiled.

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