One of the most popular TV shows from the past two years is a Disney spinoff of the Star Wars franchise called, The Mandalorian. In it, a fully-armored bounty hunter (the Mandalorian) ends up in possession of a baby Yoda figure (Grogu), who must be protected and escorted to the proper Jedi facility for safety, development and instruction. In different ways, both characters hint at a Greater Character who came to protect, provide, and vanquish evil, at the risk of his own life.
Grogu is the tiny – and cute – promised one, the baby-Yoda-look-alike and future redeemer of the cosmos, who will bring order to the Force. He appears uniquely born, from who knows where? But his arrival offers hope in a world of oppression and despair. As such, he offers redemptive hope for a future rescue from evil.
But what we learn about the title character, the Mandalorian, is that he's a person of principle, character, sacrifice and courage. He doesn't just give lip service to the codified demands of being a Mandalorian – instead, he follows its tenets scrupulously, diligently, honorably. This is fitting, as he is a true Mandalorian, living carefully and submissively beneath the Mandalorian maxim: "This is the way."
This is the Way
Hidden within the Mandalorian character lies the fragrance of a Better Mandalorian, whom we may recognize. He is One who protects the innocent, willingly exchanging his life for the helpless one. He is One whose face is hidden behind a helmet of kindness and humility, not drawing attention to himself but to God's glory. He is the one who came not to abolish the Mandalorian creed, but to fulfill it. Most significantly, he doesn't simply repeat the Mandalorian mantra "This is the way," but redefines the purpose of our lives by declaring, "I am the way."
The follower of Christ doesn't simply follow a pattern – a list of virtues or a code of honorable ethics. The Christian doesn't follow the Ten Commandments for the reason that ... well, "This is the way." Instead, the Christian is called to follow a Person, who is the way.
In Jesus' day, this diametric was on full display. The religious leaders, elders, Pharisees, Sadducees, and average citizens all thought that the way to salvation, to life, to flourishing was achieved by carefully following the Old Testament Law. This is the way. So, they redoubled their efforts (or hid their failures) to impress an unseen God, who they thought measured their worth and righteousness based upon their performance to the maxim: This is the way. It was a self-salvation project. The way was dependent on the follower to keep. If he kept it, good would come to him. But if he didn't, well, his way would certainly lead him to a place he didn't want to go.
But, Jesus doesn't simply say "Here is the way, now follow it." He subsumes all behavioral demands into a more fundamental belief that will animate future behaviors. He doesn't say "here is the way," but "I am the way." It is no longer a what but a who. Not our performance, but His performance. We think, "what must I do, do, do to be right with God?" Jesus says, "No, you're again asking the wrong question. It isn't about what you must do, it's about Me, about what I have done. You need to align yourself with Me. I am the way."
Why do we love the TV series, The Mandalorian? Because its characters remind us of a true and better Grogu, who will set the cosmos right; of a true and better Mandalorian, who doesn't merely tell us to follow the way, but declares, "I am the way."
"I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except by me." (John 14:6)