The Violinist

On January 12, 2007, a young man playing a violin stood at the L’Enfant Plaza subway station in Washington, D.C. In the forty-five minutes he performed that cold winter morning, more than a thousand people passed by After about three minutes, a middle-aged man noticed that the musician was playing, slowed his pace, stopped for a few seconds, but then rushed on. About four minutes later, the violinist received his first dollar from a woman who threw money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk. At six minutes, a young man leaned against tha wall to listen to the violinist play an intricate Bach composition, then looked at his watch and started to walk again. At ten minutes, a three-year- old boy stopped, but his mother tugged him along hurriedly.

During the forty-five-minute performance, only six people stopped to listen briefly. About twenty people gave the musician money, but continued to walk at their normal paces. For his performance that winter morning, the violinist collected a total of $32.17. When he finished playing, silence took over. No one noticed or even applauded! There was no recognition at all!

Unbeknownst to the passersby that morning in Washington, D.C., the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the world’s greatest musicians. In an experiment initiated by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment, Joshua Bell had donned a baseball cap and played as an incognito street musician. His performance that morning included some of the most difficult pieces of music ever written–on a violin worth $3,500,000.00! Two days before, Bell had performed the same beautiful music at a theatre in Boston where the seats averaged $100.00 each.

When our Lord Jesus took on human flesh more than two-thousand years ago, the world at large didn’t recognize him either! Writes the Apostle John: “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him” (John 1:10). The question is, Will YOU recognize our Lord Jesus today—and welcome Him into your heart and life?  


—Paul W. Brubaker
January/February 2012