By Paul Koch –
“Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” Ecclesiastes 1:2
On Christmas Day, I took my family to see the latest installment of the Star Wars franchise, The Last Jedi. And while there is much to be critiqued about this film, and much that has been critiqued, that’s not what this post is. For me, perhaps the greatest insight gained by watching the movie was a desire to re-read King Solomon’s masterful and wise work of Ecclesiastes. I’m not sure if this bodes well for Star Wars or not, but it was the first thought that came to my mind after all the lasers, explosions, and lightsabers.
Ecclesiastes flies in the face of all the #newyearnewme dreams that we find across social platforms these days. After all, “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun” (1:9). The vanity that the Solomon speaks about is the vapor or breath that people try to get a hold of to find meaning and security and contentment in this life. But it always slips through their fingers; it is not sure and solid, and things just keep on rolling on. Ecclesiastes is brutally honest as it reminds us that life lived under the sun is empty, just a movement of seasons that we all go through. Or as the Byrds made famous by singing “Turn! Turn! Turn!” to the words of Solomon, this life is an endless cycle that we cannot escape.
Which brings me back to The Last Jedi. Luke Skywalker seems to have figured out the same thing that Solomon noted and the Byrds got millions of people to sing along to. This is all vanity. To try and build up and train the Jedi will mean that the dark side will rise as well. There is a yin to the yang, a balance and repeated pattern to this whole thing that he has finally figured out. His solution is to end the cycle by sacrificing his own side. He will no longer fight, no longer train the Jedi and thereby reduce the power of the dark side. He thinks he has found a way out of the cycle.
But it turns out that even Luke with all his mastery of the Force cannot stay out of the cycle. Thought he may die, the cycle must go on. (And let’s be honest, especially in Star Wars, even if you’re dead, it’s no guarantee that you are out of the story.) In the end, Luke confesses the vanity of it all as he says during an epic lightsaber battle with Kylo Ren, “The rebellion is reborn this day, the war is just beginning, and I will not be the last Jedi.”
Cue the music, “Turn! Turn! Turn!”
The Last Jedi demonstrated the truth that King Solomon more eloquently described. Though it is a truth perhaps more poignantly driven home once Disney buys your franchise and promises a new movie every year for all eternity. There is no escape from the cycle, no end to the balance of an always adjusting force, no stopping the bondage of vanity in a life lived under the sun.
All of this, though, was of great comfort to me, as it should be for all Christians, for it reminded me that we are not those who live under the sun, but under an electing and all-powerful God. We do not toil in vain for all eternity. There is an escape from the cycle, an end to the balancing act, and that escape comes through Christ alone. Through his Son, God invites us to call him Father. Through his Son’s death and resurrection, he calls you heirs of something greater. There may be a time to mourn and a time to dance, but you will not turn, turn, turn for all eternity.
Or as Solomon says, “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil” (12:13-14).