Director J.J. Abram’s approach to storytelling has an interesting side effect. He excels at having the fans of what he creates generate fan theories. These are theories that explain something that the story/book/movie itself does not quite address or it is an elaborate theory that suggest something that is not explicitly present but that evidence from the story/book/movie seems to support. In the wake of the 2015 release of the Force Awakens, the internet was flooded with a lot of new fan theories, and a lot of old fan theories resurfaced.
What is really neat is that sometimes the people who are in charge of making these stories for the things we love pay attention to these fan theories and they validate them. This happened with one my favorite Star Wars fan theories. In fact, before it was made official I pretty much assumed this was just the way it was. The theory goes like this: In the original Star Wars Obi-Wan Kenobi makes a comment about how precise of a shot Imperial Stormtroopers are. That line becomes something of a joke though because then for the rest of the movies, Stormtroopers are absolutely terrible shots. They are shown just a few feet away from the heroes, firing laser guns with zero recoil, and missing. Based on the hit percentage shown in the movies it would seem Stormtroopers are less precise and more cannot hit the broadside of a barn. So the theory is that Luke and Leia, were subconsciously using the force to protect themselves. Even though they were not aware of it the force was working through them to influence the storm troopers to miss. I thought it was a good theory because it explained away the comically bad aim of storm troopers, but then with the release of Rogue One this fan theory got validated in a major way.
Towards the end of the movie a master switch has to be triggered but the rebels are pinned down by elite troopers. One of the characters, Chirrut, begins chanting his mantra “I am one with the force. The force is with me” as he heads out into fire, but the troopers keep missing him. Chirrut appears to use the force to cross an open field and activate the master switch, and it had to be the force because the scene before this one shows the death troopers picking off the rebel commandos with pinpoint accuracy. What makes the clip so special is that the movie earlier identifies that Chirrut is no Jedi, he is not force sensitive, and he does not have the innate ability to use the force. He steps out into blaster fire on faith alone. He knew that he could not intentionally manipulate the force, but he trusted the force to protect him, because he had faith that he was one with the force, and that was with him. That kind of faith is downright biblical.
There is a story in the gospel of Matthew where Peter does something similar. Peter and the other disciples take off in a boat leaving Jesus behind. Later, Jesus does the miraculous and walks on water out to the boat. When the disciples see this they are terrified, but Jesus identifies himself, and he even invites Peter to come out on to the water and join him.
Like Chirrut stepped out into oncoming fire, Peter stepped out of the boat. Both of them took an action that on the rational level they knew meant certain doom. Yet they both did it because they both had set their thoughts and purposes on something greater than themselves. They both stepped out in faith. Faith is knowing something that strongly even though you cannot fully see it or understand it. This is the kind of faith displayed by both Chirrut and Peter. Now unfortunately, none of us can, by faith, use the force like Chirrut (because as much as I love Star Wars it is still a work of fantasy). However all of us can, by faith, follow in the footsteps of Peter. We can step out in faith, we can take the big risk.
I think we have to consider this story from Peter’s perspective. The setting for this scripture is the Sea of Galilee, a very grand name for what is really just a decent sized lake. Peter grew up on this lake, before being a disciple he was a fisherman, so he would have a decent appreciation for the dangers of the water. He would have had an idea how deep the water was where they were. He would have had a good idea how life threatening it would have been to end up in that water with that strong of a wind. Perhaps more than any of us, Peter would have been the expert on how much danger the water posed then. Despite those dangers, when he saw Jesus doing the impossible and walking on water, he did not hesitate for a second. Even though he knew the dangers, even though he knew that what Jesus was doing was physically impossible, Peter got out of the boat! He was confident in the hope that Jesus was the messiah, and he had an assurance in a power of God that he could not see. Peter stepped out in faith and did the impossible.
Or at least he did for a few steps anyway. It does not take long until Peter begins to sink. Peter begin to sink, when Jesus helps him he says in verse 31 “You of little faith. Why did you doubt?” What did Peter doubt? The typical Sunday school answer is that he doubted Jesus or God, but I do not think so. He was not doubting Jesus. As soon as he started to sink, he cries out Lord save me! Peter had full confidence and faith in Jesus. Who Peter doubted was himself. He found himself doing the impossible, he was walking on water. His eyes were fixed on Jesus, and he believed that he could do what Jesus could do, but when he got distracted by fear, he lost faith in himself. He doubted that he had what it took to follow Jesus. Peter saw the example of Jesus gave, and he followed the example. Jesus said “come” and that is exactly what Peter did! However, he then began to doubt he began to think that he could not do this, that he could not be like Jesus and he started to sink.
How familiar does that sound? How much do we experience that in our daily lives? How often do we sell ourselves short? It has been my experience that often Christians have amazing faith in what God can accomplish. However, we have a lot less faith, in what God can accomplish through us. We are quick to believe that God can do all things, but we are very hesitant to truly believe that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. One of the amazing things about this morning’s scripture is that Jesus believes that Peter can walk on water. “Come” was not a dare from Jesus, it was invitation. Peter only began to sink when he focused on the wind and the waves and not on the savior saying “come.” In the same way, we can take our focus off of Jesus and focus on the voices of the haters and the trolls. The voices that lie and tell us that we are not strong enough, we are not smart enough, or we are not good enough to truly transform this world and make a real difference. When we start listening to those lying influences around us, then we start doubt that God can use us, and like Peter we can start to sink.
This is what makes the clip from Rogue One so good, because Chirrut shows us how it is done. He never wavers. The entire time his focus is on his faith. He is confident in where he places his hope and he as an assurance in a force he cannot see. This is demonstrated in the clip by him constantly repeating “the force is with me, I am one with the force.” When I think of the difference between Peter and Chirrut, I cannot help but think of another scripture. At the beginning of Hebrews chapter 12 it encourages us to fix our eyes upon Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith. Or perhaps, if you will allow me a very loose paraphrase it reminds us to remember that “Christ is with me and I am one with Christ.”