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Stop looking on the surface of things

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 i…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
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.

Comments (7)

  • Deep calls to deep. There is always something, some buried treasure, but I think God looks for miners who will dig it out, go looking for it. The gemstones won’t be found on the surface.

    Interesting thing too – when I broke my ankle a couple of months back and was in a wheelchair in the town, I found shop assistants wouldn’t look at me or acknowledge me and people in the shops and streets avoided looking at me at all if they could help it, I guess in case they saw something they considered grotesque. I remember wanting to shout out “hey, I am the same girl who was in here last week and you looked me in the eye and chatted with me then! I haven’t changed – I just can’t walk at the moment!”

    That’s probably a whole different issue involved in that, but the glance at the surface failed to let anyone perceive I was still in here and still worth something. “Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.”

  • Wow Seth. Excellent blog! I’ve pondered that same verse and often thought it needed more attention and exposition. Thank you for bringing that, and more.

  • I love that verse about Jesus telling them the girl was just sleeping. Later in the same passage He says to give her food because she is hungry (after she is brought back to life.) I love that about Him, He cares for the details that we often forget, overlook or ignore. We need to keep God’s agenda for these details more of a priority in our own lives.

    We have a pastor friend whose current passionate prayer is that God would interrupt him. In his church service, in his prayer time, in his shopping for groceries he is calling out for God to touch his world and answer his hungry heart for more. Oh, that we all could be willing to have our world interrupted, not just for beauty, not just for curiosity, but for His presence.

  • Thanks for this, Seth. Tea Kettle is whistling and Im late so will ponder this as I run off to work. 🙂

  • Yes, this is what we’re up against. The One who held the keys to hell and death was nailed upon a cross.

  • 2 Corinthians 4v18 ” So we fix our eyes NOT on what is seen, but what is unseen for what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

    The world as we “see it” or understand it is like a blanket or veil of lies and deception that satan has covered the planet with.The lies and deception are mixed up with truths that can appear to be completely true. It is only as His people live from behind the veil, into the Holy of Holies with the radiant light of God will His people beable to see clearer the difference between the lies and the truth.They will see the demons at work, they will feel the very breath and movement of the Holy Spirit guide them through this tangled mess on this planet.

    Jesus died at golgotha……the place of the skull….and it is vital that christians stop living from their head, their own understanding and go back to how it was with Adam and Eve before the fall…..living from the heart, the spirit.

    This battle of the heart and the head is what will either bring you alive or deaden your spirit depending on what degree you are living from each place. The head would have told the disciples to “make tents when Elijah and Moses showed up”.

    The Spiritual realms have completely diffrent rules to the life our “minds” live in.Living in the spirit will draw you to amzing lives, and they could be people out on the streets. I am sure the music of this violinist would have delighted the spirits of those who listened with their hearts and not their heads.

    Great blog Seth!

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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