Jesus was talking to his disciples and getting annoyed. “Stop looking on the surface of things!” He exclaimed (see John 7:24). He wanted them then just as he wants us now to see what God is up to, to probe deeper instead of making superficial judgments. To better understand what a big deal this is to Jesus, take a look at a the number of times this issue comes up in just a small section of Scripture:
- Jesus says, “She is not dead but asleep.” Everyone responds by laughing. (Luke 8:52-53)
- As God’s glory shines on the mount of Transfiguration: Peter says, “Let us put up three shelters!” (Luke 9:32-33)
- When the disciples can’t deal with a demon, Jesus calls them a “perverse generation.” (Luke 9:40-41)
- Three people say, “I’ll follow you no matter what,” before he shows them their fickle hearts.(Luke 9:57-62)
We do that. We’re too rushed or lazy to really look beneath the surface. And things like the following incident happen:
Washington, DC Metro Station on a cold January morning in 2007. The man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time close to 2,000 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. After 3 minutes a middle aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried to meet his schedule.
4 minutes later: The violinist received his first dollar: a woman threw the money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.
6 minutes: A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.
10 minutes: A 3-year old boy stopped but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. Every parent, without exception, forced their children to move on quickly.
45 minutes: The musician played continuously. Only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while. About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace. The man collected a total of $32.
1 hour: He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.
No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days before Joshua Bell sold out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100.
This is a true story. It was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception (see the article here and video below). The questions raised: In a common place environment at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it?
Too many of us live like the people who passed by Joshua Bell. We rush through our lives, barely noticing the sacred and significant. We’re spiritual beings having a temporary human experience – we need to live like it. We need to pray as we go, asking God to open the eyes of our heart so we can perceive things as they really are.
Let’s commit to heed Jesus’ words and stop looking on the surface of things.