Meeting With Gandalf

All we have to decide is what to do with the time that’s given us.
— Gandalf

...and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven--Lk 3.22

Then Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan River and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness-- Lk 4.1

Then Jesus, in the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and news about him spread throughout the surrounding countryside.  He began. . .   Lk 4.14,15


The bucolic world of the hobbits that Frodo lives in is merry and jovial, quaint and joyous like a pastel-afternoon-sky.   Frodo, however, is made aware that everything is about to change, an ominous and foreboding curse looms, and time and chance has delivered to him the ring that can save the Shire from the Dark Hour.   He doesn't know where to go or how to get there, what to do or how to do it, when to begin or even if he can complete the mission, and keeps asking, "Why me?"  He wrestles with the notion that there is another world, an underworld, that he, a young and small hobbit, has some kind of responsibility to face.  

 "I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo.  Gandalf, from the Wise Council, knows that Frodo has been chosen to take this journey and knows the inner battle Frodo is waging.

‘So do I,’ said Gandalf, ‘and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us. And already, Frodo, our time is beginning to look black."

Gandalf guides Frodo to be decisive with the moment because it's the only "time that is given us."  From this encounter forward Frodo apprentices himself to Gandalf fully aware that Gandalf cannot fulfill Frodo's calling and that he cannot complete the mission without Gandalf's guidance, mentorship, and discernment.  Tolkien will take this most unlikely of heroes, the hobbit Frodo, on an epic journey to battle mythical creatures, confront the ominous darkness, all in a quest to show us the real journey and battle that we face is the one within, the one of becoming who we really are, and we all need a mentor to get there.

Much has been made of Joseph Campbell's "The Hero with a Thousand Faces."   Campbell, an anthropologist, made his life's work the study of anthropological mythology.  The Heroes Journey template was a significant outcome of Campbell's work.   One of the fundamental pieces that Campbell identifies in humanity is the longing for a mentor, the stage he calls "Meeting the Mentor."   We need a voice from above us, a voice that comes from a bird's eye view, to guide us, and even leave an echo within us so that we are guided and equipped to live out our mission.

Harry Potter conflicted and weakened by the pain of love has a Dumbledore, guiding him forward with wise counsel, “Harry, suffering like this proves you are still a man! … the fact that you can feel pain like this is your greatest strength.”  Luke Skywalker alone and fearing he is the last Jedi, needs an Obi-Wan Kenobi giving a mentor's perspective, "Not the last of the old Jedi, Luke. The first of the new."  Even Mulan has the goofy Mushu to help her as she seeks to defend her family's name and honor.

I realize those are all fictional characters playing the hero's journey.  But lest we dismiss the role of mentors for the underworld to quickly, let's consider a few of the Biblical heroes and heroines and how they got along.

Abraham has Melchezidek
Isaac has Abraham. 
Jacob has Rebecca. 

There are nuanced exceptions to this.   There are times when the student does not have a typical mentor available to them.  Joseph betrayed by his brothers is bereft of his father’s mentorship and finds himself in slavery and in prison but we are told that all was okay because “The Lord was with Joseph” in slavery and in prison.   When Joseph had no one to mentor him, the narrator explicitly states Yahweh taught, mentored, and directed him through the dark time (Gen 39.2,3,5,21,23).   

Moses has Jethro.
Joshua has Moses.
Samuel has Eli. 
Ruth has Naomi.
David has Samuel.  
Elisha has Elijah.
Mary has Elizabeth.  
By the time we get to the Gospel of Luke we are introduced to a whole cast of people, on separate journeys with different missions, but the same mentor.  

There is an unprecedented and heightened choreography of this mentor at work.   The entire supporting cast in the drama of redemption is being mentored into their journeys, some with supernatural powers and others with supernatural guidance.   Highlighted to us are the plain and simple, the ordinary folks of first century Israel.   A priest about to retire, an elderly temple devotee, two elderly women, one young and unmarried woman, and a child who doesn't fit in with the school kids so hangs out in the wilderness with some religious purists.  All of them one commonality—they are being mentored by the Holy Spirit.   Ten times the Holy Spirit is seen mentoring these individuals before we ever get to the baptism of Jesus.

Luke emphasizes again and again mentorship of the Holy Spirit.

Luke brings us at the brink of the Jordan River where John, now much older, is baptizing people with water.  In a moment of confession, John admits that he merely baptizes with water, but one is coming who will baptize everyone with Spirit and Fire.   John sees this coming baptism of the Mentor as "Good News" that the Messiah will inaugurate.  Then Luke slows the narration down to a slow-motion sequence and gives us an insider view of the Mentor's movements.  Three distinct movements all working in concert to reveal to us the nature and role of the Mentor.

Up.  The Mentor descends like a dove from above on Jesus.  3.22
In.  The Mentor enters into Jesus and leads him into the wilderness. 4.1
Out.  The Mentor empowers Jesus to work through him. 4.14

UP.  The Mentor comes from above to communicate and give an experience of the belovedness of Jesus.  The "like a dove" is imagery that calls to mind Genesis' genesis-- Spirit "brooding" over Water, Voice, and Light.  The elements of the First Genesis are back.  The Mentor descends as the Voice declares the Beloved Sonship.  The message and experience of this moment define Jesus' identity, ministry, and mission.  

IN.  The Mentor enters into Jesus, the distinction now of "full of the Spirit" comes into play.  It's no longer an external force that he must summon from afar.  It's not something he must seek and search for, cross his fingers and hope for.  The Mentor is located inside.   Jesus will now be "led" by that which is within into a wilderness of transition, transformation, and testing, and with the mentorship of the Holy Spirit.   

OUT.  The Mentor returns Jesus out of the wilderness with power.   Again, the distinction of the function is clear as Jesus' engages activities, work, and efforts there is will be supernatural expression within everything he does.  There is an undeniable, tangible demonstration of the Holy Spirit not just on him affectionately (Up), or in him confidently (In), but it's working through him demonstratively (Out).   

The Spirit functions as a mentor in our life much the same way.   Jesus who came to "baptize us with the Spirit" gives a brief tutorial on the role of the Spirit as Mentor the night before he was crucified. ( jot down what the Holy Spirit as a Mentor does in our journey).

 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.  John 14 (NIV)

26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.  John 14 (NIV)

26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me.  John 15 (NIV)

7 ... I will send [the Advocate] to you. 8 When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 about sin, because people do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.  12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”   John 16 (NIV)

Much the same way the Mentor functioned in Jesus' life Paul points out the same activity of the Spirit in our journey.

UP.  For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”  The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.-Rom 8.15,16  (the work of affirmation and adoption)

IN.  For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. Rom 8.14
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, Eph.3.20  (the work of inner transformation and guidance)

OUT.  My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power. 1Cor2.4
But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”  Acts 1.8  (the work of demonstration and witness)



  • Conversation.  Have a conversation with Cleopas.  Talk about the movements (up, in, out) of the Mentor in your life.
  • Reflection.   Reflect on your life, what are you grateful for with mentorship in the Spirit?
  • Prayer.  Pray Luke 3.21-22, 4.1  focusing on the Holy Spirit's movements and concluding with words of gratitude to the mentorship of the Holy Spirit as you yearn for even more.