Everyone is qualifed to be Jesus Christ’s disciples; they are not handpicked based on social status, gender or religious and moral perfection.
Socially unaccepted people were among Jesus’ followers (Mk. 2: 15–17). One day Jesus saw Mathew sitting at the collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Mathew got up and followed him” (Mt. 9: 9). Mathew, like other tax collectors, would have had a bad reputation for extracting heavy toll from struggling people. Religious leaders, preoccupied with preserving their righteousness, were scandalized by Jesus’ welcome of these despised people.
The way of God as demonstrated by Jesus ran opposite to the path of self-righteous religious leaders. Jesus showed that the way of God is marked with mercy and transformation. An experience of God’s mercy leads to humility; there is no room to boast about our sacrifice and lay claim on God’s favour. The same Mathew who Jesus called eventually wrote the gospel and become one of the apostles of Christ (Mt.10:1-4; Acts 1:13). His life was transformed.
Jesus’ immediate circle of disciples was unusual for the time; it also included women. Mary Magdalene, who found deliverance from evil spirits; Joanna, the wife of Cuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susana and many others faithfully followed Jesus. These women disciples provided financially for Jesus and the others (Lk. 8: 1–3). The women were not deprived of God’s compassion, access to His presence and leadership in the team.
Jesus was a friend of sinners. His greatest miracle, which is often the least noticed, was forgiveness. When Jesus called Matthew, he announced His mission to bring healing to a sin-sickened world.
Jesus’ compassion continues to embrace despised and neglected individuals. God loves and accepts all, as Jesus showed and practiced, we ought to do the same.