Unless we are joining together random thoughts and experiences, we tend toward a logical rhythm to our written ideas. In a letter, one sentence unfolds to reveal the need for the next. In a book, words are shaped into phrases, joined with like ideas to form sentences, lumped together to build paragraphs, strung in line to create paragraphs. When studying a selection of verses in the Bible, it is wise to note the flow of ideas also known as the “Train of Thought”. Once the inductive observations have been made, this is the formative step to create a helpful and accurate interpretation.
To illustrate this, let’s return to the passage we originally looked at to showcase observational skills – John 2:1-5. The story of the Water turned into wine marks the first recorded miracle Jesus did in the Gospels. As the forerunner, it teaches us much about his approaching public ministry.
1 On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there,2 and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.3 When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”4 “Woman why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
Because this paragraph is telling a story, we can discern the train of thought without much effort. John’s idea flow goes something like this:
1. A wedding
2. Jesus mom attends
3. Jesus and his disciples attend
4. They run out of wine
5. His mother tells Jesus they are out of wine.
6. He tells her about his mission.
7. She tells them to do what he says.
That’s all there is to it. So what is the purpose to laying out the passage in this design? It is impossible to interpret meaning until you can take random ideas and string them into something you recognize. For many people, the writing of the Scriptures are treated like ancient heiroglyphics, dutifully read but little understood. When we have to restate simply the stream of ideas, then our mind engages the truth. It is at this point we can then take the observations and tie them into the train of thought.
If you re-examine the list above, one of the points stands out from the rest. Most of these ideas are straight-forward, mundane details of life in a village. The real point of the passage is the point that jumps out. Can you see it? It is the statement of Jesus about his mission. It is this statement that colors all the other elements of the story. Next time, we’ll determine how you can merge your inductive observations with this discovered Train of Thought.