The Challenge of the Familiar
John 6:41-42 The Jews then complained about Him, because He said, “I am the bread which came down from heaven.” And they said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How is it then that He says, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”
II Corinthians 5:16 Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer.
John 6 is a chapter of great unbelief on the part of many. Jesus’ brothers didn’t see whom He really was, and many of His own countrymen were wildly divided over the same issue, some even accusing Him of having a demon. Jesus was admittedly saying some challenging things (“I am the bread of life” among them), but always in the background was the familiarity of the listeners with Jesus. Many of His listeners knew Him “in the flesh” and were unable or unwilling to receive what He was saying.
We often do the same thing. The Lord tries to speak with us, or even comes to us in answer to our prayer, and we reject Him. We reject Him because of how He chooses to speak to us—through someone we don’t get on with, or don’t put into the category of being spiritual enough to be used by God to speak to us. When we stop and think about the ridiculousness of that last idea, we ought to laugh or repent or both. Who among us is “spiritual enough” to be used by God? The answer is no one and everyone.
The vessel God chooses is up to Him. If we are open to Him, it shouldn’t matter how He comes to us, or whom He uses. It may tweak our pride to receive from a particular vessel, but God gives grace to the humble (James 4:6) and blesses us when we are open to receiving from any source He wishes.
There is a related issue that often prevents us from hearing God, too. Sometimes it’s not that we view the person as “flawed” or immature or difficult or hard to accept. Sometimes it’s that the person is someone we just know so well. We know their family, or their past, or their struggles. We may feel we know them inside out, as Jesus’ listeners felt about this Man who came from an area they knew, born from parents they were familiar with.
This can extend to parents, spouses, friends, pastors, teachers, and other church leaders. We may know them so well “after the flesh” that we miss what God is saying when He is using them. The one who comes to church expecting to hear God in the worship, the fellowship and the sermon is the one who will hear God. The one who goes to a godly counselor with an open heart is the one who will hear God. The one who is open to whatever God is saying, through whatever vessel He wants, is the one who will hear God. This is faith; this is walking in the Spirit. And it releases both God and the vessel.
Prayer: Father, forgive me for how quickly I dismiss people that You may be trying to use to bless me. Help me to see people with Your eyes, in the Spirit, and not after the flesh. Tune me into Your Spirit more than I’m tuned into my own thoughts.