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“If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear."” (Mark 4:23)
It was a social experiment by the Washington Post.
Joshua Bell, a world-renown violinist, entered a D.C. subway station dressed in drab clothes and donning a Washington Nationals baseball cap. He then found a conspicuous corner, opened the case to his three million dollar Stradivarius, and, for the next 45 minutes, began to play Bach. It was rush hour.
Gene Weingarten of the Post explains the result. “Three minutes went by before something happened. Sixty-three people had already passed when, finally, there was a breakthrough of sorts. A middle-age man altered his gait for a split second, turning his head to notice that there seemed to be some guy playing music.
Yes, the man kept walking, but it was something.
A half-minute later, Bell got his first donation. A woman threw in a buck and scooted off. It was not until six minutes into the performance that someone actually stood against a wall, and listened.
Things never got much better. In the three-quarters of an hour that Joshua Bell played, seven people stopped what they were doing to hang around and take in the performance, at least for a minute.
Twenty-seven gave money, most of them on the run -- for a total of $32 and change. That leaves the 1,070 people who hurried by, oblivious, many only three feet away, few even turning to look.”
Two days earlier, Joshua Bell had sold out Boston's Symphony Hall, where the “pretty good” seats were priced at $100 each. Now, in Washington D.C.'s Metro Station, Bell was almost completely ignored.
There was, however, one man, John Picarello, who knew that he was encountering greatness. He stopped and listened for nine minutes, occasionally looking around him, as if bewildered.
“This was a superb violinist,” Picarello explained, when asked by a reporter if anything unusual had occurred during his morning commute. “I've never heard anything of that caliber...Yeah, other people just were not getting it. It just wasn't registering. That was baffling to me.”
This is, I think, more than an experiment...it is a parable.
We rush through life oblivious to what is really going on around us. God is up to something, something beautiful. Yet, we have our agenda, a schedule to keep, goals to achieve, and we miss it...totally.
You see, it doesn't look like there is anything amazing going on. It just looks like another rush hour commute, with another dirty peddler on a corner.
Often Jesus asked the people if they had ears that hear. This is what He meant. Are we hearing what God is saying, amidst the distraction of our own agendas? Are we hearing Him, even though His message contradicts everything we see around us?
It seems that those who hear are very few. No, less than a few, a mere handful. Yet, my prayer for you and I today, is that we will be among them.
Appearances can be deceiving. So instead, keep your ears tuned to the beauty of God's truth.
Ryan Hobbs has been a teacher, pastor, and church planter, with a Master's Degree in counseling. He has an eclectic ministry background that has led to a passion for practical discipleship. Check out his blog Practical Devotion for daily insights into putting Jesus into real life.