Jedi aren’t pacifists. They carry deadly weapons. We can expect them to be heroic, and not the aggressors, but they maim and kill when it’s deemed necessary. I get the religious qualities Lucas wove in there, but I feel like we can overthink the rules for an action series where villains die by the hundreds and thousands.
Regarding the jedi masters’ intentions in ROTJ, I had never given it much thought to be honest. I don’t think I even realised there was a debate until recently. To me it was clear that both Obi-Wan and Yoda wanted Luke to kill Vader, for several reasons:
Obi-Wan says that they have already lost when Luke says he can’t kill his own father. He then shuts down the idea of redemption when Luke suggests there is still good in Vader. This would be some really bizarre reverse psychology if Obi-Wan actually intended for Luke to somehow stop Vader peacefully. Also, this is not totally solid as it was cut, but in the ROTJ script there is more dialogue in this scene and Obi-Wan says quite explicitly that Luke is to ‘destroy’ Vader.
Yoda’s intentions are less clear in dialogue but I still get the impression that he wanted Vader to be killed. He says it was ‘unfortunate’ for Luke to find out Vader was his father, and considers the knowledge a burden. This could really only be the case if the intention was for Luke to kill Vader. If the plan was for Luke to somehow turn his father instead, knowing about him in advance would have been more of an asset than a hindrance.
Lastly, the dramatic tension of the film hinges on Luke believing in Vader’s redemption when literally no-one else would. He manages to force a resolution without resorting to killing, defying all expectations in the process. It’s bizarre to me to think his mentors secretly wanted the same thing, and they just refused to say that or worse heavily imply the opposite.
I addressed that already. He’s saying that Luke has to be willing to kill him if it comes down to it. He doesn’t intend him to stop him peacefully but we don’t know that he intends him to stop him at all. They’re sending Luke to Vader to face his fear and become a Jedi, not to kill the enemy faction’s leader and win the war.
I don’t see how that follows with the burden. It’s unfortunate and it’s a burden because it’s really harsh to find out that your father is Darth Vader regardless of what you do. It’s painful. It never even occurred to me that he would be saying that strictly in a tactical sense of how Luke is going to fight or neutralize Vader. That’s not how he delivers it.
The dramatic tension comes from a lot of things. There’s the Battle of Endor, of course. On the other side it’s mainly about Luke believing in Vader’s redemption while Vader himself doesn’t. Obi Wan and Yoda might have a pessimistic outlook on that but they’re not telling Luke not to try. They never explicitly say that Luke needs to kill Vader and not to try anything. The important part is that Luke goes to face Vader again regardless of the outcome. That’s what is holding him back from being a Jedi, which is what Yoda says.
They’re not sending Luke to simply face his fear. Confronting Vader is obviously incredibly dangerous, and something with very limited potential results. Obi-Wan believes Vader is beyond redemption, so what do you propose he’s hoping will happen when Luke confronts him, if not to stop him? Obi-Wan doesn’t say Luke has to be willing to kill Vader, Luke says he can’t kill Vader and Obi-Wan says that means they’ve already lost.
Yoda is pretty tactical tbh. He kept Luke in the dark about his father just as Obi-Wan did. He even deflects when Luke asks him in ROTJ, only answering when Luke insists. They both choose to hold on to that secret and let Luke fly to Cloud City unaware. They were both far more concerned with Luke being fully trained than him knowing the truth. When questioned why he thought it was ‘unfortunate’, Yoda says it was because Luke had rushed to face Vader, and wasn’t trained. He never really speaks about it on an emotional level.
They never explicitly say ‘kill Vader’, but it seems the most logical conclusion to draw from what they do say. There is a lot of stretching required to conclude they didn’t want this outcome, and they could have been much, much clearer about their intentions if that was the case.
They are. It’s a continuation of the trials in Empire Strikes Back. Luke goes into the cave and he fails because he brought his weapons with him and gave into fear. Not coincidentally he’s facing a vision of Vader. Then he faces Vader for real in Cloud City (against their warnings) and fails again. He didn’t have enough training, not just combat training, but Jedi training in controlling one’s emotions generally. So he has to face the circumstances again, this time with training and preparation. The vision in the cave was definitely not about Yoda training Luke for battle, and in case there was any doubt, he tells him not to bring his weapons.
When Luke says that he is a Jedi, Yoda says that he has to confront Vader first. Why would that be? If he has all the training to the point where he’s capable of training others, why does he have to confront Vader? Is he just like a final boss in a video game? I don’t think so. It’s a barrier that Luke personally and spiritually has to get past. I think it’s facing the temptation of the dark side while also facing his personal “demons.” Obi Wan wants him to be ready to kill Vader if it comes down to it because he will need to be able to defend himself during the confrontation and Palpatine’s attempts to control him.
If it were a question of just taking out Vader (or Palpatine) to take out the enemy leader then that wouldn’t make sense either. The Death Star 2 is going to be destroyed with or without Luke. “Soon I’ll be dead, and you with me.” This isn’t a special forces wetwork mission, or else they would have instructed Luke to bring a bunch of commandos with him, or given him an idea on how to lure Vader for an ambush, etc. It’s not like they don’t know the rebellion exists. It’s obviously a personal test for Luke and they’re trusting the Force to let it all play out the way it’s supposed to.
Telling Luke not to bring weapons into a vision quest is one thing, but you don’t ‘face your fears’ by confronting armed and dangerous evil overlords with no intent to stop them. The villains intended to turn Luke or kill him. Obi-Wan makes it clear that he believes there is no saving Vader. It’s a crazy test to send someone to face a monster, most likely in a fight to the death, just to resist the temptation of evil.
The notion of a simple, flowery personal growth lesson for Luke doesn’t make sense to me. If it was truly only about resisting darkness, why didn’t Luke already pass that test in Empire? He faced Vader, was badly injured, spirit crushed, learned a shocking revelation about his family legacy and still rejected Vader’s offer, choosing to let himself fall rather than taking evil’s hand. Surely that would have been enough if this confrontation was just about Luke’s demons.
The jedi wouldn’t have instructed Luke bring regular people with him to confront these guys. Of course they’re not arranging a ‘special forces’ mission; facing Vader and his boss would mean certain death for untrained people. That doesn’t prove your point at all. Luke wasn’t directly involved in destroying the Death Star, but there’s no reason to assume the villains would have just sat there and exploded without Luke’s appearance. He ensured they died in that battle, which was far more important than destroying another space station.
This may have to do with the nuances of storytelling. I believe George would say Luke’s mission was always to face Vader and redeem him, thus defeating the Emperor, at least in principle.
But having Obi Wan or Yoda say that directly would have taken away from the scene itself in which he almost succumbs to his fear and kills Vader.
The “You’ve failed, your highness. I am a Jedi, like my father before me” moment is very powerful.