From Reality Show Reading to Reading Revelatory Signs



John 2:1-8 (NIV)

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”

“Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”

His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.

Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.

Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”


This is such an interesting story to include in the Bible. Can you think of anywhere else we see such a gratuitous miracle as this? Aren’t miracles, or “signs” as John calls them, reserved for emergency situations like impending disaster, sure death, or intractable illness? This is a wedding feast for crying out loud! It wasn’t like they ran out of food. It feels more like an episode from the Kardashians. It seems crass to say, but they simply wanted to keep the open bar open—not exactly a 9-1-1. And Jesus didn’t want to get involved.

That’s my reality show read of the text. Remember, though, there is a much bigger reality afoot and unfolding here, the real one. This is not a reality show. It is a revelatory sign. Will you chance a few theological double takes with me?

  1. John began with the creation of the world. Is he moving to the re-creation of his image-bearers—a man and a woman—at the place where they are most fully on display, a wedding? I’ve never participated in a wedding where Jesus’ presence at this wedding in Cana of Galilee was not noted. Might gender identity and marriage matter more to God than the present times might lead one to think?
  2. Might Jesus be stirring us to remember that the world began with a wedding and that it will end with a wedding, one whose feast will never end and whose wine will never run out? Indeed, might this new creation be one whose wine will ever reveal a vintage all at once ancient and brand new?
  3. About this wine—it’s new wine, like five minutes old. Who drinks this stuff? It turns out to be the best wine of all. And those stone jars? Verses ago John reminded us the Law came through Moses. That’s what these jars pointed to: the purity signified by ritual cleansing. Could this miraculous transformation of water into wine signify the quantum leap about to be made from the tutelage of the Law to the transforming power of the grace and truth of the gospel?

Two ditches we want to stay between when it comes to reading Scripture: the ditch of an oversimplified reading and the ditch of oversophisticated reading. We neither want to read something into the text that shouldn’t be there (i.e., cheap analogies), nor do we want to read something out of the text that is not there (i.e., complex allegories). It’s why we humbly ask questions of the text, make tentative observations, and allow them to be tried and tested by the Holy Spirit and one another as we read further.

For now, note how all of this is drawing us out of self-centered reading (I call it reality show reading), which forces the text to be first and last about ourselves. The Bible is first, middle, and last about revealing the name and nature of God to the world. The design of divine revelation is not to give us tips on how to live a better life or be a better Christian. No, divine revelation designs to draw our knees to the earth, our faces to the ground, and our hearts into the heavens where we cry out, “Holy! Holy! Holy!”

See you back at the wedding tomorrow for the wine tasting.


Abba Father, thank you for the awe-inspiring word and work of your Son, Jesus. Thank you for the Holy Spirit who opens the text to our lives and opens our lives to the text. We humbly bow before you at the scene of this mysterious wedding in Cana of Galilee. Reveal yourself to us in fullness. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen.


1. What questions does today’s text raise for you?

2. Why do you think we begin at a wedding in this Gospel? What do you observe about the nature of God being revealed in this text?

3. How are you challenged in your approach to reading Scripture?


For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt


Farmer. Poet. Theologian. Jurist. Publisher. Seedbed's Sower-in-Chief.


  1. I love the double-take challenge. So thought provoking. But the most eye-opening to me was the last paragraph concerning the design of divine revelation — that it’s not meant to draw me to myself (making ME a better person) … but to my knees in worship. Oh, yes. Thank you for continuing to keep us out of the ditches. Bless you this day with gospel peace, good health, and ongoing revelation.

  2. P.S. Bummed that I’m “denied access” to today’s recording. I love listening to you speak it before I go back and read it myself.