The people in the crowd had followed Jesus as long as it was convenient. They had expressed interest as long as they benefited physically. But Jesus exposed the passing nature of their interest–rooted in the flesh–simply by staying true to His spiritual mission instead of getting caught up in the carnal distraction of the crowd. They had listened—for a while. They had followed—for a while. They had seemed interested—for a while. But discipleship demands a decision for life–not an interest for a moment. Jesus knew this, and all who would become disciples must know it as well.
Jesus understood their rejection. Since discipleship is rooted in obedience, service, and sacrifice, He came to persuade, to serve, and to save–but He knew that not all would be willing to accept His call. “And He said, ‘Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father’” (Jn. 6:65). Here, with an allusion to John 6:44-45, he explains why. Discipleship depends upon our willingness to be taught of God. This characteristic—unappreciated by many religious people—describes the trait distinguishing the new people of God from the Israelites of old. Under the old covenant, Israelites entered a special relationship with God by right of their physical birth, a covenant relationship which parents were to teach their children (Dt. 6:6-9). However, as Jeremiah prophesied, under the new covenant people would be brought into the fold by listening to God’s Word and applying it (Jer. 31:31-34) and thereby receiving forgiveness (Eph. 1:7; Acts 22:16). Therefore, if we are unwilling to learn God’s will or later decide to deviate from it, we wander off the path to heaven and give up everything that Jesus died to offer us (2 Pet. 2:20-22). The divine expectations of discipleship surpass the human desire to offer temporary commitment for eternal security. Rather, Jesus calls us to a lifelong commitment expressed daily. “Then He said to them all, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me’” (Lk. 9:23).
Discipleship can be hard when following requires more than you anticipated, which is why we should anticipate nothing but following Christ, come what may. We should never approach discipleship with a heart holding back our obedience because God’s will does not meet up to our expectations. Such pride will doom us forever. Instead, we open our hearts and seek whatever He may ask of us, because we owe everything to Him. There will always be something we will learn along the way that is unexpected—something difficult, demanding, and even heart wrenching—which is why, in discipleship, we give Jesus everything, including our heart, because, as Jesus said, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).