The Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice. They were also guardians of knowledge. Their temples were spread throughout the galaxy on many different worlds of the Old Republic, but their beliefs were often a mystery to its citizens. Jedi were not warriors. They turned up whenever there was a conflict that needed resolution and they always seemed to know all parties involved and how to broker peace before the conflict could escalate to war. Visible only when called upon, they mostly kept to themselves with fiercely guarded beliefs and a way of life largely hidden from the public. Jedi Knights were so successful in seeing all sides of an issue, the average citizen probably thought the Jedi could predict the future. In the time before The Clone Wars, the Jedi believed this too. But they were wrong.
The golden light of Coruscant’s setting sun casts long shadows between the towers of the city planet. A Republic gunship carrying three Jedi Masters takes its place in the never-ending current of traffic that flows through the urban canyons. Obi-Wan Kenobi has just given Anakin Skywalker his secret assignment to spy on Chancellor Palpatine, and he shares the news of Anakin’s reluctance with his fellow Council members. Mace Windu believes the Council made a mistake giving Anakin such a delicate responsibility. He isn’t ready to trust Skywalker — or perhaps he is unwilling. Ever since Qui-Gon Jinn brought the boy in front of the Council so many years ago with the outrageous claim of finding a vergence in the Force, Mace has regarded Skywalker with suspicion and skepticism.
Obi-Wan is quick to remind Mace of that prophecy by quoting it once again: “With all due respect Master, is he not the Chosen One? Is he not to destroy the Sith and bring balance to the Force?”
Mace grudgingly acknowledges the words of the prophecy, even as his tone suggests he never shared Qui-Gon’s fanaticism for it. Qui-Gon was frequently rebellious and myopic, a Jedi of such conviction, it rankled Mace.
Yoda listens to this exchange, furrowing his brow and pulling his clawed hand through the strands of his thinning hair. He temporarily ignores Mace’s disdain for the prophecy and reminds them both (and most importantly himself), “A prophecy that misread, could have been.” Obi-Wan assures his fellow Masters that Anakin will not fail, but the worry in their expressions darkens as the gunship approaches the shipyard.
This scene in Revenge of the Sith is one of the most important moments in the Prequels. The sun is literally setting on the Republic, which will soon find itself in unending darkness. The Jedi, a once proud and resolute Order of knowledge seekers and peacekeepers, find themselves embroiled in war and uncertain of their future. This uncertainty clouds both their vision and their wisdom to such a degree that even longstanding tenets of the faith are in question. Yoda’s pointed reminder about the vagueness of prophecy is a deliberate choice by George Lucas to plant the seed of doubt in the characters’ minds, and by virtue the audience’s minds as well. The Jedi Order had spent far too much time obsessing about when the prophecy would come to fruition, they failed to consider precisely how it would come to pass. The Jedi ignored the many possibilities the future holds. Always in motion.
Yoda had trained Jedi for 800 years and studied the Force longer than most, and yet he was willing to admit he could be wrong about the prophecy. He had been wrong about a lot of things, including the incorruptibility of the Jedi Order. Ever since the Clone Wars started, Yoda knew the Jedi had been deceived, not only by the Senate’s political shell game, but also by the Jedi’s own arrogance. In an attempt to explain all things, to know all things, they had convinced themselves there was nothing left to learn. The Force could be understood not only in the spiritual sense, but also the scientific as well. Midichlorians were proof of the Force’s pervasive influence in all living things. And the Jedi had discovered them! The Great Unknown was no longer a mystery. The future was quantifiable.
Except it wasn’t.
Many years later, after the fall of the Republic, long after the Jedi Order was wiped out by the Dark Lords of the Sith, and tyranny spread through the galaxy like a cancer, Yoda trains his final pupil while in exile on Dagobah. Having witnessed the impatience and impulsiveness of Luke’s father, Yoda tests Luke by first appearing as a simpleton. Perhaps Yoda remembered the grace Qui-Gon had shown Jar Jar and used it to test Luke’s capacity for kindness. He also tests Luke’s patience and certainty by suggesting that he isn’t up for the challenge. When Luke responds by insisting he won’t fail because he isn’t afraid, Yoda is reminded of that afternoon on the gunship when Obi-Wan assured them that Anakin would not fail, and his eyes narrow and he leans towards Luke, “You will be…you will be.” Yoda has seen this kind of arrogance before. That arrogance not only cost the Jedi the run of the galaxy, but most importantly, it cost the Order its very soul.
Yoda would call upon the valuable lessons he learned before the fall of the Republic to guide Luke in the ways of the Force and help him avoid the pitfalls that Yoda and the Jedi Order had not seen until it was too late. He was undoubtedly wiser for having survived Order 66, but also more humble. He saw firsthand how easily Jedi could be corrupted by ambition or attachment: attachment to power, to control, to people…even to prophecy. The Jedi once sought to master life’s uncertainty through knowledge. But belief in the wrong things is what distracted them from the dangers of the Dark Side. Now, in exile, Yoda could only hold on to the belief that the Force would guide a young man to make the choices his father had not.
He continues to believe in Luke despite the darkness that lies in wait for him. When Yoda realizes his health is failing and he has precious little time left, he summons Luke to his death bed. When there is no more wisdom to depart, no more lessons to teach, Yoda makes a choice to give up one more secret, perhaps the most important one of all: Luke is not alone. “There is another Skywalker.”
Hope is Yoda’s final gift to a young man facing an uncertain future.