I love Darth Vader. I am wondering what that says about me that I love Darth Vader and use the name of a tempter as a twitter handle. I suppose that is fodder for another post. I have always loved Darth Vader. Although, never as good as the first three, I enjoyed the three prequels that showed how Darth Vader became thee menace of the universe.
Darth Vader is this deep dark galactic boogey man. He looms large in the nightmares of all of the people throughout the empire. We have that palpable fear in us as Return of the Jedi begins. There is a shift. As the movie nears it's conclusion we see that Darth Vader is human after all. This is a story of redemption. For so long Darth has allowed the emperor to control his every move. As he is faced with the prospect of killing his own son, he finally comes to a point of saying enough is enough. He ultimately kills the emperor. Freeing himself but also killing himself. By killing the emperor he has freed the galaxy of a evil rule. So, while he began the movie as the great villain, the movie closes in him become the most unlikeliest of heroes.
In some ways Christianity has their very own Darth Vader. Saul of Tarsus was a wicked man. He was a pious Jew. He sought to destroy all the followers of "the way". When Stephen became the first Christian Martyr, it was Saul that held the men's coats. He went to the religious leaders and asked for permission to go in their stead to Damascus. He was going there to seek and arrest followers of "the way". The believers had not yet become known as Christians. He was the terror of first century Christians. They were so afraid of him, that when God tells Ananias to seek him out, Ananias ask God for clarification. Saul is the most fear man among the believers at that time.
Saul's plans in Damascus are forever changed by an encounter with the risen Jesus. God has reset his entire agenda. Saul becomes Paul. Paul becomes the first Christian missionary. He spread the Gospel throughout the Mediterranean. He wrote the vast majority of the New Testament. Much of the Doctrine that we believe as Christians began with Paul. Paul's story is a story of redemption. It would be difficult to find a more radical transformation. Paul, who had sought to persecute Christian, now becomes the persecuted. He whipped and beaten for Jesus numerous times. He is ultimately killed at the hands of the Romans.
Ok. So, Paul is not exactly like Darth Vader. I suppose I am guilty of trying to draw you in with a catchy title. I wanted to bring you to this point to tell you something very important. There is redemption. Even for the vilest of people, God has provided redemption. If God can take a man set to kill his followers, and turn him into a key part of the spread of the Gospel, then how much more can he do with us. Paul's story illustrates to us that there is nothing that the blood of Christ won't cover. That is a great thing. He had plenty of grace for Paul and he has plenty left for us. Awesome.