When we finished watching “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” I grieved like I was losing friends I had come to know and love.
Reading Scripture can be a little bit like watching “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Now bear with me!
For centuries, Christians have wrestled with the Bible. They have poured over the words, and they have struggled to make sense of what they were reading, and over time, somehow, the biblical characters have come alive for them like the characters of “Buffy” did for me and Carrie.
That is why we work through the stories of Scripture week after week, in Church, and in Bible studies, and on our own. Gradually, over time, the biblical stories become intertwined with our stories. The biblical characters become like people we know.
And standing above all the rest is Jesus. As we read all those biblical stories, we get to know Jesus a little better.
And it works both ways. We read Scripture to know Jesus better. And as we come to know Jesus better, as we come to know better the one who looms above all the rest of the biblical characters, as we come to know better the one who stands behind every story in Scripture, as we come to know better the one to whom all of Scripture points, the stories in Scripture speak to us with more and more power.
I say all that this morning because we can see it happening for Peter in our epistle.
The line that struck me was this: “So we have the prophetic message more fully confirmed. You will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”
That’s a little hard to follow. So, what is Peter talking about?
Peter has just described the Transfiguration, the single most glorious event of Jesus’ entire ministry, when his appearance changed, and his clothes became dazzling white, and the great Old Testament heroes Moses and Elijah appeared with him.
In that moment, Peter glimpsed an important truth. The Old Testament—the law as represented by Moses and the prophets as represented by Elijah—the Old Testament all comes together in Jesus Christ.
That is what Peter means in our passage when he says the prophetic message is more fully confirmed. Peter has come to appreciate the power and the truth of the Old Testament as seen in the light of Jesus Christ. Peter moves from his experience of Christ to a deeper understanding of Scripture.
That is already a valuable lesson.
Those of us who are doing the Bible Project—reading the entire Bible in a year—are coming to the end of the Old Testament. We’ll finish it in just over two weeks. I think I can speak for the group when I say that some parts of the Old Testament are tough going. It is not always easy to see how they point to Christ. But Peter is telling us that seeing Christ, knowing Christ, confirms the prophetic message for us, confirms us in the conviction that all Scripture ultimately speaks with a single voice about a single person, about our Lord.
Sometimes that’s obvious. Isaiah has beautiful passages about a suffering servant. It’s like he is describing Jesus on the cross. It is MUCH harder to see Jesus in some other places.
But knowing Christ, we learn to trust in the truth of Scripture. Knowing Christ, we learn to look for Christ in what we read there. Knowing Christ, we see the prophetic message confirmed, often in surprising ways.
And it goes the other way too. Peter reads the Bible in light of what he knows about Jesus Christ. And Peter tells us that we need to be attentive to the prophetic message, attentive to Scripture, because Scripture can help us to know Christ better.
Whenever we get confused or discouraged by what we read, we remember that people have come to know Christ better through Scripture for centuries. And we keep at it, even when it’s hard.
The image that Peter uses for Scripture in our passage is striking. Scripture, he says, is like a lamp shining in a dark place.
There are not many literal dark places in contemporary life. We are surrounded by light virtually all the time. When I wake up in the middle of the night, I can see in my bedroom because a street light shines in the window. When I wander down the hall, I can see because lots of electronic gadgets are plugged in and each of them puts out a little light.
Real darkness, darkness without street lights and charging lights, darkness without sun or moon or visible stars, is a little scary. A few years ago, before I had a spiffy cell phone of my own, a hotel I was staying in lost power. I tried to make my way down concrete stairs with no light at all, and I pictured myself—a little melodramatically—tripping and falling to my doom. Suddenly a woman came along using her cell phone as a flashlight. I was really glad to see her light.
Peter tells us Scripture can be like that. Our lives can seem pretty dark at times. In those times, Scripture is like a lamp shining in the dark places of our lives, providing us guidance and comfort. Scripture brings us the light of the world, the light who shines in our darkness and the darkness does not overcome the light even if we sometimes shut our eyes to his light.
So Jesus confirms the witness of Scripture, and Scripture points back to Jesus. Jesus sheds light on Scripture. And Scripture sheds the light of Jesus on our lives. It’s like a virtuous circle bringing us closer and closer to God.
And that is the point of the amazing final line of our passage. We turn to Scripture as a light in our darkness, Peter says, “until the day dawns and the morning star rises in our hearts.”
That is an incredible promise!
We may live in darkness, but God’s light is coming. And not only is God’s light coming to our world. God’s light shines like the morning star in our hearts. It’s a puzzling phrase until we remember that elsewhere in Scripture Jesus calls himself “the bright morning star” (Revelation 22:16).
What Peter is saying is that we read Scripture to know Christ better, and the very light of God, Christ himself, comes to shine in our hearts, in our lives, more and more brightly.
That makes reading the Bible different from watching goofy television programs. The characters in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” seemed like my friends while we watched the show. But now I can’t even remember their names because, of course, they were not real, and I did not have a real relationship with them.
Unlike them, Jesus is real. We can have a real relationship with Jesus. And our relationship with Jesus can endure and deepen over time until it shines in every aspect of our lives.
May it be so for us. In the name of God’s own Word who comes into our world and into our lives as the bright morning star. Amen.