The Redemption of Jar Jar Binks: Saving the “Best” for Last

!!!SPOILER ALERT for The Mandalorian season 3 episode 4!!! One of the longest running questions that Star Wars fans across the galaxy have been asking since the first season of The Mandalorian has finally been answered… and in a manner that none of us were expecting. From the moment we learned that Grogu (or “Baby Yoda” for those who refuse to accept his proper name) was a padawan in training, we have all been wondering the same thing… how did Grogu escape Order 66? When the newly christened Darth Vader led his fateful march on the Jedi temple, it was made clear that he did not spare any of the younglings on his vengeful warpath. Clearly young Grogu found a way to survive, but how did he not only evade the clone trooper attack but also safely get off the planet? With all of the core Jedi characters already accounted for, who could this mysterious benefactor have been? And now we finally have the unexpected resolution to that conundrum… and the answer to that trivia question is someone none of us were expecting. Last call for those who wish to avoid spoilers…

It appears that it was neither luck nor skill that saved young Grogu… it was Jar Jar all along. And of all the people who I had considered as options to save Grogu from this horrific attack, Jar Jar Binks was most CERTAINLY not on the list. Fine, fine… to be fair it was not ACTUALLY Jar Jar, but it IS the actor who portrayed the notorious Gungan character in the Star Wars prequel movies, Ahmed Best. Jar Jar Binks is arguably the most divisive character in the history of the Star Wars franchise, and in the interest of full transparency I am not Jar Jar’s biggest fan. To be clear, my distaste was certainly nothing personal against the actor or his performance as Jar Jar… I just found the character of Jar Jar that he was tasked with playing to be annoying, unnecessary, and tonally inconsistent with the rest of the movies he was in. Jar Jar’s presence as a sidekick who seemed to be solely responsible for providing comic relief felt forced… and every time Jar Jar entered a scene, I found myself bracing for yet another silly joke or pointless pratfall that took me out of the story. But that is not a fault of the actor… he was simply performing his job. What else was he supposed to do, tell George Lucas “No, I think Jar Jar should say this”? Ahmed Best was charged with performing one of the most thankless roles in all of Star Wars… and thanks to this appearance as Jedi Master Kelleran Beq heroically rescuing Grogu from the Empire’s attack, he finally has received his moment of Star Wars redemption. And it… was… glorious.

After all of these years of wishing Jar Jar Binks was not a part of Star Wars canon, I have had to face a challenging revelation… there is a part of me that is Jar Jar. No, I don’t have issues eating soup in public in a socially acceptable manner, but I DO have more in common with him than I would prefer to admit. And if you probe deep enough under the surface, you may find a part of you that relates to him as well. See, here was my problem with Jar Jar… he just didn’t fit in with the world around him. Think about it… let’s go back in time to the release of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Surrounded by the awe-inspiring and iconic images and moments like Darth Maul igniting his infamous double-bladed lightsaber, Ewan MacGregor’s spot-on portrayal of a young Obi-Wan Kenobi, and the way Liam Neeson effortlessly exuded the essence of a Jedi Master from the first scene, the character of Jar Jar Binks felt like he fell into this cast from an entirely different franchise. He was goofy, a bit weird, and every time he opened his mouth we all knew he was going to say something we would rather he kept to himself. In a scene full of present and future galactic heroes emitting swagger, style, and poise, Jar Jar was a perpetually awkward misfit who didn’t really fit in at the table. Jar Jar was the definition of “cringe” before we knew that was a thing. Fortunately, this would not be the final time Ahmed Best suited up for a Star Wars role… but it WOULD take almost 25 years before his moment of Star Wars redemption was finally and fully realized.

As a follower of Christ, I know that I have been given a fresh start as a child of God. But I also know that deep down inside I am a “Jar Jar”… in MANY different ways. I have brought great shame to the Lord through many of the choices that I have made over the years… I have been responsible for so many embarrassing moments that I make MYSELF cringe when thinking about them. The inner dialogue within my own head space is often as non-sensical as Jar Jar’s incessant babbling… and when those thoughts have an opportunity to be heard out loud, I immediately regret many of them. I didn’t set out to be a “Jar Jar”… I truly wanted to be an epic servant of Christ, walking in the footsteps of all of these larger-than-life Biblical examples like Moses, Ruth, David, Esther, Peter, and all of the rest… heroes and heroines who marched through the pages of history like Jedi Knights as they unleashed iconic speeches and performed epic feats of faith while their Jedi robes billowed heroically in the wind behind them. But here I am, just bumbling around wrecking the scenery as a “Jar Jar”… if I find a way into someone’s book, it will be as a cautionary tale at best. But if we look just a little bit deeper, we will find that we have more in common with these forerunners of our faith than meets the eye… as they have a bit of the ol’ “Jar Jar” in them as well. And it is in these stories that we can find a path to redemption for even the most cringe-worthy of the Lord’s followers.

Let’s take a deeper look at Moses… a Liam Neeson-esque character if there ever was one. When we think of Moses, we immediately picture him standing tall over the Red Sea as it parts on his command, carrying the Ten Commandments down the mountain as his silver hair blows in the wind, or going toe-to-toe with Pharoah as he bellows in a rich baritone, “Let my people GO!!!”. But Moses was actually a Jar Jar, just like us… see for yourself. In Exodus 3, Moses receives his commission from the Lord to deliver the people of Israel… but instead of confidently staring off into the sunset as he pondered his newfound significance, he immediately explained that he was a bit too tongue-tied to serve the Lord in this manner. Even after he was given multiple miracles to display and the exact words to say, Moses still tried to weasel his way out of a starring role in this story…

Exodus 4:10-15 Then Moses said to the Lord, “O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” So the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the Lord? Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say.” But he said, “O my Lord, please send by the hand of whomever else You may send.” So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses, and He said: “Is not Aaron the Levite your brother? I know that he can speak well. And look, he is also coming out to meet you. When he sees you, he will be glad in his heart. Now you shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth. And I will be with your mouth and with his mouth, and I will teach you what you shall do. 

That isn’t very Liam Neeson-like… that kind of sounds a lot more like something a “Jar Jar” would say. And as I look over the list of Biblical icons who I have looked up to over the years, I am realizing that we are ALL “Jar Jar’s” here… misfits and cast-offs, those who have either been counted out by others or personally disqualified ourselves from service to the Lord due to either our past mistakes or our current feelings of ineptitude. Moses was actually in hiding from a murder charge when he was called to the forefront of human history (Exodus 2)… Ruth was the very definition of a social pariah in the land of Israel as both a Moabite as well as a penniless widow, but she was chosen from this lowly background to become a matriarch in the genealogy of Christ Himself (Ruth 4). David traded in his heroic status as a giant-slayer to intentionally portray a mentally-ill person in public… not his finest hour (1 Samuel 21). Esther had to be convinced by her uncle to step up into her destiny to save her people… a path she never asked for nor did she seem to aspire to (Esther 4). Peter… well, Peter was Peter. I mean, you can hardly read a story that he is featured in without face-palming at some point… from attempting to correct Jesus Himself on the Scriptures in public (Matthew 16:21-23), to offering to build tents for Moses and Elijah instead of just silently enjoying a miracle (Luke 9:28-33), to betraying his best friend out of fear after explicitly stating he wouldn’t (Matthew 26), and finally being told the equivalent of “mind your own business” by a post-resurrection Christ (John 21:21-23), the Apostle Peter is the poster child for all of us awkward “Jar Jar’s”. And now for the best part…

When it was time to finally answer the question of “Who saved Grogu”, it was not one of the well-known Jedi Knights who performed this heroic action… and Grogu didn’t simply save himself, either. After all these years of being best-known for his often-unappreciated role as Jar Jar Binks, Ahmed Best returned to Star Wars to save the day, inhabiting the role of Jedi Master Kelleran Beq in a scene that will live forever as more than just a trivia answer… he received his own iconic and unforgettable moment in the spotlight. At the time when he was receiving all of the criticism for the character of Jar Jar Binks, there was no way that Ahmed Best could have ever imagined that this moment would ever happen. I mean, when Phantom Menace was first released, nobody had any idea that an episodic series like “The Mandalorian” would ever even exist. And for those who didn’t know, this was not the actor’s first time portraying the character of “Kelleran Beq”… he had previously played him in a lesser-known web-based children’s game show series that few of us probably ever watched. But just like the way the Lord was invisibly moving the parts in the background in the lives of Moses, Ruth, David, Esther, David, Peter, and all of the rest of our fellow “Jar Jar’s”, there was a plan in motion behind the scenes that would provide Jar Jar Binks with his moment of redemption… in a way that his past path would have never indicated or predicted.

The entire story of the Bible is summed up in the word REDEMPTION… the continuing efforts of a loving Heavenly Father to provide His fallen creation with a way back to Him (John 3:16). And for all of us “Jar Jar’s” who feel stuck in a script that we either didn’t control or didn’t intend to write, there is a redemptive plan for us as well. I am not just speaking of Christ’s redemptive work to provide us with the only path back into the Lord’s grace, although that is step one of our respective journeys from our prodigal past to His eternal embrace (John 14:6). I am talking about our place in the ongoing “Great Commission” we are all charged with, no matter how embarrassing and cringe-worthy our past was or how awkward we STILL feel. The Lord has not given up on His “Jar Jar’s”… He actually tends to enjoy saving the very best for last (John 2:10).

Here is the critical truth about redemption that we cannot miss…The SAME actor who was responsible for Jar Jar Binks ALSO gave us Jedi Master Kelleran Beq. They BOTH exist simultaneously… it was the power of the creator of the series who CHOSE to use the same actor who was unloved in his original role as Jar Jar to heroically save Grogu in this new role. Jar Jar didn’t cease to exist for this to happen… he wasn’t eliminated from the timeline. The actor was just used in a different manner to perform a critical mission because this was his destiny… Ahmed Best is both Jar Jar AND Kelleran Beq. The past wasn’t conveniently erased… it is actually what makes this redemptive story even more powerful and meaningful.

The same Moses who tried to avoid his calling was the one who DID lead Israel out of Egyptian bondage. The same Ruth who seemed destined for obscurity has her own book of the Bible… and David, Esther, Peter and all the rest of our fellow “Jar Jar’s” are better known for their future heroic exploits that changed the course of human history rather than their awkward starting points. Were they still weird, awkward misfits with problematic pasts and moments of “cringe” that they would rather erase from history? Absolutely… that’s actually kind of the point. Our Father specializes in using those who are considered unimportant, unwanted, and unappreciated by society’s standards to do the unexpected, using those vessels the world considers weak and foolish to confound the wise and overwhelm the strong (1 Corinthians 1:26-29). No matter how similar to “Jar Jar Binks” our starting point may have been, our story isn’t over yet. Our problematic past is not a problem for Him… He knew when we started out exactly where we would be at this moment in time. Our awkwardness or perceived ineptitude is not in His way… it is BECAUSE we were (and still are) a “Jar Jar” at heart that His power is able to shine through us so unexpectedly and so brightly. There is still a “Grogu” out there who needs to be rescued, and the last time I checked Obi-Wan Kenobi has his hands full. If our lungs are still drawing breath today, then that means there is still someone out there who needs us and a narrative that hasn’t reached its’ conclusion. Time to raise our heads, my fellow “Jar Jars”… our “best” is yet to come, too. We might actually be the one the Lord will work through to save the day after all.

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