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Faith like Obi-Wan’s} ?> When was the last time Obi-Wan turned on his lightsaber before he gave it to Luke on Tatooine?
This was the question I asked myself when I watched A New Hope recently. I’d never really thought about it before. I’d watched the first Star Wars movie many times but never really looked at old Ben Kenobi, in that hermit’s hut, as anything more than the wise old mentor who guides Luke on his journey through the Force.
Obi-Wan, as far as we know, has been on Tatooine in hiding, watching over Luke since the events of Revenge of the Sith. That’s about 19 years of combing sand out of his beard and screaming at Sand People to get off his yard. The movies don’t tell us what he was doing for all those years. It’s easy to forget that the bearded sage in hooded robes was once a warrior.
And not just any warrior. Obi-Wan Kenobi was a High Jedi General in the Clone Wars. He led scores of clones through dozens of battles, not from the helm of a capital ship, but from the front lines, lightsaber blazing. He commanded the Open Circle Fleet and the entire Third Systems Army. He was one of the greatest duellists in Jedi history, having achieved near mastery of the highly defensive Soresu lightsaber form. He survived single combat with Darth Vader, Count Dooku, Darth Maul, General Grevious, Asajj Ventress, Savage Opress and countless others on multiple occasions. No other Jedi can boast the same.
Obi-Wan was one of perhaps 100 Jedi who evaded the execution of Order 66, and one of only a handful to survive for more than a few years in its wake.
And he gave it all up. The Jedi were once viewed as infallible paladins by the galaxy, but the Empire had polluted their image into nothing more than corrupt religious monks.
Obi-Wan Kenobi, one of the greatest Jedi Guardians since the Jedi Civil War, exiled himself to watch over the son of his fallen apprentice because he knew if he didn’t, the Jedi Order would die out.
What must it have been like, for all those years, to hear of the Empire enslaving and dominating the galaxy and be powerless to help? Knowing Luke was the one to carry on the legacy of the Jedi, but having to wait until he was ready to carry the burden?
For a warrior to lay down his blade is no simple thing—to unlearn a lifetime of combat, war, and death. Obi-Wan spent much of his exile in meditation with his former master Qui-Gon Jinn who appeared to him through the Force. Over the years, Qui-Gon taught him how to act as a living conduit for the Force and eventually how to retain part of his essence after death.
Obi-Wan accepted his new role as mediator and mentor to Luke. Their journey took them onto the Death Star and when that new hope seemed at its dimmest, Obi-Wan stood before Anakin Skywalker, his fallen brother. The same man Obi-Wan had risked his life for countless times demanded it one final time. He ignited his well-rested lightsaber; it must have been something to hear the soft hum again, to wield his blade as a warrior one last time. He moved like he once did, felt the Force stretch out and guide his steps. It wasn’t long before he realized what he must do.
“If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.”
Smiling, he raised his blade and allowed Darth Vader to attack without distraction. And with that simple act, one of the greatest Jedi of the age vanished into thin air, denying the Sith Lord the satisfaction of a fight.
What does it take for a man to lay down his life, his identity for a purpose not his own? It’s not a rational decision, that’s for sure. It goes against every survival instinct. Obi-Wan understood his time as a soldier was over and he trusted the Force completely. He knew the sting of death would have no real power over him. He acted in faith knowing the Force is greater than any one person.
I don’t believe Obi-Wan struggled with making the choice to watch over Luke. That’s just the kind of hero he was. I think he knew he only had one path before him. Even though Luke could have just been a painful reminder of betrayal, pain, the loss of the Jedi and his best friend, Obi-Wan chose to watch over the boy.
I wish I were certain I would do the same thing, but I’m not. I wish I had the faith of Obi-Wan Kenobi.
His penultimate words to Anakin have even more weight in the context of his choice.
“I will do what I must.”
And he did.