We inherit much of our identities from our fathers. This is both a blessing and a curse. Coming to grips with his father’s fallen humanity, while still retaining an independent sense of dignity, ambition, and integrity, is one of the great rites of passages in a young man’s life. That is perhaps how God visits “the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation” (Exodus 34:7).
Luke’s tragedy resonates because, at some level, it is ours. In our most honest moments, when the burden of sin presses down on us, we recognize that we, in our very nature and from the moment of our generation, are something awful.
The Bible’s story leads to repentance and faith in the atoning Christ and his substitutionary sacrifice. Luke and Vader’s story, as it continues in Return of the Jedi, diverges from the Greek and Biblical archetypes, mirroring neither exactly, but combining the two in evocative ways. Luke becomes a sort of messiah-savior by fulfilling his Jedi training, converting Vader and defeating the Emperor. Vader dies the martyr’s redemptive death in his final sacrifice. The original Star Wars saga, like Dante’s, is, in the end, a story of light. But before searching for light, one must meditate on the darkness, which is what Empire Strikes Back does so well. The genius of Empire is to take an ancient Greek tragedy with a dose of Biblical truth, dress it up in science-fiction garb, and sell it as a blockbuster. Few have done better.