People often ask, “Who can be saved?” John the Baptist sees Jesus walking down the road and says,“Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) I take that to mean that Jesus came to save the whole world. It doesn’t matter your ethnicity or nationality or even your economic status. Well, what if you live on a remote island and never heard about Jesus? I’m prone to read this literally. Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. If where you live is on this planet, Jesus has already taken away your sin.
I think there is a difference between Jesus and John the Baptist. John was very particular about sin. He named the things that get us in trouble with God. In the 3rd chapter of Luke, we see John offering a list: 1) having extra shirts and things and not sharing with those who are less fortunate (a lot of us are guilty of that), 2) treating people unfairly (specifically, tax collectors who charge one person more than another), 3) Using our position to get money or favors from those under us… (the list goes on). John thought of sin as specific things that particular people do that are wrong. But Jesus saw sin as a problem for the whole world. Everyone is caught in a cycle of greed, mistrust, and violence. All of us sin by failing to treat others with compassion. None of us live up to the expectations God had for us when he gave us life. Jesus will bring all of us – the whole world – forgiveness.
Now both John and Jesus had disciples, that is, people who followed them closely and watch what they did and tried to imitate it. When John saw the Holy Spirit rest on Jesus, he turned to his disciples and said, “Maybe you’d better follow that guy.”
If we read the Gospels, I think we see what John saw. We know that maybe we should follow that Jesus. Maybe we should become his disciples. That leads us to the question, “Who can be a disciple of Jesus?” We don’t see Jesus turning anyone away. The other three gospels have a place where Jesus names his 12 “special” disciples. None of them were that special. One was a Zealot, which means a revolutionary or a terrorist. One was a tax collector, who had probably used his position to cheat people. Others were simple fishermen. Peter, famously, proved to be one brick shy of a full load on numerous occasions. So, can any of us become disciples?
Yes. Full stop. Period.