If you didn’t know already, Star Wars: The Phantom Menace is back in theaters… IN 3D! Even if it is the worst of the six films, that’s the equivalent of being the worst receiver on the Green Bay Packers, having the lowest SAT score at MIT, or the worst tacos in Mexico (Randall Cobb won an ESPY, MIT accepts less than 10% of applicants, and nearly anything in Mexico beats the tacos in the U.S.).
I love Star Wars, although I’m not a huge buff on the series there has always been something nostalgic about them for me. One of my earliest memories is watching The Empire Strikes back with my uncle Jason on laser disc (not DVDs, laser discs), and playing with all his action figures (I don’t think I would be exaggerating to say he had nearly 100).
The point is that I’m on a Star Wars kick and HAD to re-watch Episodes IV, V, and VI. Having watched Episode IV: A New Hope, my roommate Tom and I were discussing what it would have been like to be at that first showing of Star Wars. I always picture Eric from That 70s Show and how obsessed he is with Star Wars. Anyway, the Star Wars movie series redefined cinema to a certain degree. Tom and my question then became, have there been any movies since then to have an equally large impact on U.S. film-making?
Given my limited knowledge of film (I took Intro to Film in college… that’s it) and my preoccupation with fantasy I argued that the Lord of the Rings trilogy was the closest thing. Only because it redefined the scale of movie production (it was filmed across an entire country, with thousands upon thousands of actors and actresses, and over the course of three years). If you would like to learn more please watch the behind the scenes footage on the extended DVD box sets, it is quite impressive and entertaining.
Back to my point, while George Lucas took some obvious cues from Tolkien in creating an alternate universe and languages, Peter Jackson took some cues from Lucas in bringing Tolkien’s world to life on a massive scale. As two of pop-culture’s top fantasy events their history’s will be forever linked.
So how does this relate to Jesus? What have I learned from these fantasy juggernauts that can help me define my spirituality?
Let me start with some words from Jesus’ mouth in John 14:12,
“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these…”
Greater things than Jesus!? Are you serious?
Recently I was reading from Richard Stearns’ book The Hole in our Gospel and ran across some thoughts I had never considered before. He wrote about how the people that Jesus healed, cured, and brought back to life all eventually died of some other ailment; whether it be old age or another disease.
Lazarus is not still walking the earth, the girl with a fever grew into a grandmother and passed away, Zacchaeus’ body is buried in the ground somewhere.
Since Jesus’ time we have increased our lifespan by 30-40 years. That’s a little bit better, but still just a “mist” compared to an infinite God. How will our works be greater than Jesus’ works?
This is what Star Wars and Lord of the Rings has taught me…
Jesus’ ministry was limited to the Mediterranean area in which he grew up but Paul’s ministry (in the very next generation of Christianity) spanned all the way to Asia. The following ministry made it’s way up into Europe and from there Europeans took it to the Americas (not always in the most pleasant manner, but nonetheless it came here). Forty years ago World Vision used video cameras to capture images of starving children to share with wealthier Christians around the world for support. Now we have a GLOBAL network of connection in the internet where we can learn about and communicate with people across the world in the blink of an eye.
I subject to you that what Jesus meant in saying “greater works” was not that they would be better. We are not battling Jesus for supremacy of works; but that there would simply be more of them.
Star Wars and Lord of the Rings do not battle for “top fantasy adventure of all time.” Their relationship is symbiotic. They relied on each other to build themselves into a pop-culture force.
In the same way, we rely on Jesus to give us the love it takes to change the world, while he relies on us to SPREAD OUT among the world and make the love he shares with us known to everyone.