The Importance of Observation

What role does observation play in following Jesus? What about in leadership? Friendship? Parenthood?

I want to look at what the disciples did in John 2.1-12 in order to find some answers.

How to Be Better at Observation

Stay close to the leader

In John 2 we see the disciples are following Jesus.  They are going to a wedding with Jesus and his mom.  They are there — right with Jesus.  Where are we?  Are we right with Jesus?  Or are we off in our own world, doing our own thing?  Are we following the selfless One?  Or are we letting selfishness win?

Watch carefully

How can we be better at observation without watching carefully?  We know that the disciples were pretty good at observation because what Jesus did in their midst caught their attention.  They noticed what he did.  It didn’t get past them.  That makes me wonder about us.  As we follow Jesus, are we all that good at observation?  Or is our attention split as we pursue our own ends and desires, the American Dream, our comfort, our political agendas, etc.?

Be a lifelong learner

The observation by the the disciples led to learning.  They were with Jesus, they saw what he did, and then they believed in him.  That word “believed” is better translated as “trusted.”  Because of what they saw they trusted Jesus and wanted to learn from him more.  As we do this observation thing today, are we willing to continue to learn and to grow?  Or are we cool with being stagnant?  Are we more inclined to maintain the status quo?  Or are we willing to trust Jesus and learn from him no matter what he is teaching?

Continue to follow

In John 2.12 it says that the disciples followed Jesus to his next tour stop.  Their opportunities for observation would continue.  As tempting as it might have been, they didn’t stay at the place where Jesus did his first sign.  They kept following him.  Where ever Jesus went, they followed.  Are we willing to do that too?  Or are we satisfied with staying where we first met Jesus, where we first saw him doing something great?  Jesus doesn’t call us to stay where he once was; he says follow me.  Are we willing to?


Friends, observation is key to following Jesus.  We need to be near Jesus so we can see what he is doing.  Then we need to pay attention to what it is that he is doing.  We also need to grow and learn as a result of our observation.  And lastly, no matter what, we need to keep following Jesus.


But these same principles apply to other relationships too.  We need to be close to people, pay attention to them, grow because of them, and continue to stay close to them.  If we do these these things, then we’ll be better friends, family members, spouses, parents, etc.


Do you have any thoughts about the power of observation as a follower of Jesus?  Let me know in the comments below!

Obedient: John 2.1-12

There’s a popular fashion trend that’s been a thing since 2001.  It’s called OBEY Clothing.  Surely you’ve seen their shirts and hats out and about.  Here’s an example:


OBEY Clothing Hat

The great thing about the OBEY brand is it’s origins.  It began with the street art of Shepard Fairey and is heavily steeped in the cultures of punk rock and skateboarding.  Thus, it’s both funny and odd that the word “obey” is so closely associated with this company since Fairey, punk, and skateboarding are all known for individuality, independence, and spontaneity.

Here’s the way OBEY’s website describes the use of the word “obey”: “With biting sarcasm verging on reverse psychology, he [Fairy] goads viewers, using the imperative ‘obey,’ to take heed of the propagandists out to bend the world to their agendas.”

Thus, even though OBEY uses the word “obey,” they are clearly hoping that the people they influence will not be obedient to the culture of advertising in America…unless, of course, they happen to be obedient to the advertising of OBEY itself and buy some of their products!

Needless to say, it has always been an interesting tug-of-war in Western culture between being obedient to cultural norms and being independent and entrepreneurial.  Whatever the case, we, as Western people, are rather obsessed with the idea of being obedient.

Thus, it is only wise for those of us who follow Jesus to see what the Bible has to say about being obedient.  One place to look is Jesus’ first miraculous sign in the Gospel of John.


Obedient Servants

In a previous post, I wrote about the story of Jesus turning to water to wine from Mary’s perspective.  Now I’d like to look at the story from the perspective of the servants.

So there were some servants minding their own business at a wedding in Cana.  It had likely been a long day, or even couple of long days.  They had worked hard and were probably enjoying a moment of calm.

Then the wine ran out.

While the shame of this fact fell on the family throwing the party and not them, they knew that it likely meant lots of work for them.  They’d probably have to go out and find some more wine, buy it with the master’s credit, and haul it back to the party.  And they’d have to do all of that super fast!

But then Mary says to them, “Do whatever my son tells you” (John 2.5).

Apparently Mary had the authority to command them to do things, which likely meant that Mary was either serving as a wedding coordinator of sorts or that she was simply protecting the honor of the family responsible for the wine.  Either way, these servants were prepared to follow Mary’s orders.

They waited.

After a second Jesus told them to do the following: “Fill each water pot with water until it’s ready to spill over the top; then fill a cup, and deliver it to the headwaiter” (John 2.7-8).

I love the way John explains the next part: “They did exactly as they were instructed” (John 2.8).

They were obedient.  Exactly obedient.  They filled the part pots all the way up to their brims.  Then they scooped some out and served it to the headwaiter.

If you stop and think about that for a second, it’s pretty crazy!  They knew what they were doing.  They were putting water in pots and then serving water to the headwaiter.  And this headwaiter likely had the authority to get them in all kinds of trouble for serving him water when wine was in order.

But they were exactly obedient anyway.

For whatever reason they trusted Mary and by proxy they trusted Jesus too.  They obeyed.

And somewhere in the midst of their obedience Jesus did a miracle which led to a deepening of the faith of Jesus’ disciples.


Obedient Followers of Jesus Today

One of the most common questions pastor-types get goes something like this: “I was listening to an international missionary talk about the cool things that God does over there, like miracles and stuff.  Why don’t those things happen here in the West?”

I don’t really think there’s an easy answer to that question.  But as of late I’ve been getting a feeling that the Bible may be pointing to something helpful.

And here it is in plain language: In the Gospels Jesus often does miraculous things within the context of obedience.

It’s not that obedience “causes” the miracle, but it appears that Jesus responds to obedient people by doing cool things on their behalf, or at least in their midst.

Friends, if that is true (which I think it is!), then perhaps we don’t see as many miraculous signs here in the West because we’re not all that obedient to Jesus.

We are obedient though!

  • We’re obedient to the value of individualism.
  • We’re obedient to the value of commercialism.
  • We’re obedient to the value of materialism.
  • We’re obedient to our selfish desires.

And the list could go on.

So here’s the question: To what or to whom are we obedient?


In the comments below let me know what you think about being obedient to Jesus.


Trust: John 2.1-12

Jesus’ first miraculous sign in John is one of my favorite stories in all of the Gospels!  In fact, I love it so much that I plan on blogging about it from several different angles over the next few days.

And to get things started I want to look at this story from Mary’s perspective.  Spoiler alert — Mary’s perspective is defined by one word: trust.


Mary’s Perspective

The story of Jesus turning water into wine has been interesting to me for decades.  When I was younger, I was surprised to learn that Jesus’ first miracle in John involved him creating wine because the religious context I grew up in taught that all alcoholic drinks were to be avoided at all costs.

Later, while in college and seminary, the sociological background of this story began to intrigue me, specifically the elements of honor and shame that are part of this story.  And that’s right where I want to start, with the honor and shame system and how it impacted Mary.

So in the story what we see is that Jesus, his friends, and his mom attend a wedding.  This wedding was in the town of Cana, which is a neighbor city to Nazareth, Jesus’ hometown.  And one of the first details that we learn about this wedding is that the wine was gone.

Why is this detail important?  Why would John include it?  For one main reason, at least in my estimation: the wine running out brought shame on the family organizing the wedding.

Since I didn’t grow up in an honor/shame culture, this part of the story is hard for me to understand.  So maybe an analogy would help…

Imagine that you were invited to a wedding.  When you arrive at the venue, everyone is standing outside because the venue has been double-booked!  Everyone is in their best clothes.  The bride and groom are ready to go.  But the family who booked the venue is embarrassed and frustrated.

These feelings are similar to what the family in this story would feel if they were made aware of the problem of the wine running out.

And who is the person to step in and prevent this shame from coming to fruition?


And who does Mary turn to in this time of need?


Mary trusts Jesus.  Maybe she remembers what she was told about Jesus when she was pregnant (Luke 1.26-38).  Maybe Joseph has passed away, as is commonly believed, and Jesus was her nearest male relative to whom she could turn, which was the societal norm of the day.


Trust in Jesus

Whatever the case, Mary trusted Jesus.  She asked him for help.

And despite Jesus’ strange response, which we’ll talk about in a future blog, Mary tells other people to do whatever Jesus says.

So Mary’s trust doesn’t just stay private, she shares it with others.

Friends, whom or what do we trust?  Many of us would say that we trust Jesus, but our actions sometimes say otherwise.

From our obsession with our stuff, it could be said that we trust our possessions.

From our constant pursuit of more things, it could be said that we trust in our ability to consume.

From our protection of our autonomy, it could be said that we trust ourselves first.

From our focus on our families to the detriment of those in need around us, it could be said that we trust our families.

This list could go on and on.

The truth is that we seem to be willing to trust just about anything and anyone except Jesus.  How do we know this?  Because we aren’t doing a great job of following Jesus.  If we trusted him, we would follow him more closely.

If we trusted Jesus, we would be centered on his mission to make disciples and bring about justice for those most in need.

If we trusted Jesus, we would spend less time judging the sin of others and more time loving them.

If we trusted Jesus, we would be like Mary, letting our trust move from being private to becoming public.

And if we trusted Jesus, we would demonstrate less and less that we trust other things and people more than him.


What do you think about Mary’s trust in John 2.1-12?  And how do you think that we, as followers of Jesus, could demonstrate our trust in him more and more?  Let me know in the comments below.