We see that our LORD Jesus had two interesting dealings with people directly.
1) Rich young ruler
The Jewish man came to Jesus Christ asking what he had to do to be saved but went away sad because Jesus asked him to obey the entire Law and also sell everything and follow Jesus carrying the cross.
Matthew 19 “16 Behold, one came to him and said, “Good teacher, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” 17 He said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but one, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to him, “Which ones?” Jesus said, “‘You shall not murder.’ ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ ‘You shall not steal.’ ‘You shall not offer false testimony.’ 19 ‘Honor your father and your mother.’ And, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” 20 The young man said to him, “All these things I have observed from my youth. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 But when the young man heard this, he went away sad, for he was one who had great possessions. 23 Jesus said to his disciples, “Most certainly I say to you, a rich man will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven with difficulty. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye than for a rich man to enter into God’s Kingdom.” 25 When the disciples heard it, they were exceedingly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” 26 Looking at them, Jesus said, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” 27 Then Peter answered, “Behold, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” 28 Jesus said to them, “Most certainly I tell you that you who have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on the throne of his glory, you also will sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 Everyone who has left houses, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive one hundred times, and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many will be last who are first, and first who are last.”
The rich man was self-righteous and wanted to be saved by his own good works. This is why Jesus had to break the man’s self-righteousness using the full depth of the Law. The Law commanded that Israel must love God with all their heart, soul, and strength (by loving God and not loving money – see Luke 16:13, Matthew 6:24). This is why Jesus commanded the Jews to sell everything and follow Him. Most of them rejected Christ because they held on to the Law and didn’t trust in Him. They tried to be saved by their self-righteous works of the Law without really obeying it.
Jesus used the Law and to show the rich man that salvation is impossible for man.
But salvation is only given by the GRACE of God who makes it possible by Christ’s death and resurrection.
So then Peter replied to Jesus, asking the Lord, what was the use of the Apostles selling everything to follow Jesus? The Lord said that they would receive great rewards on earth for following Jesus (but with persecution – see Mark 10:30) and eternal life in heaven.
But does that mean that salvation is only for those who sell everything and follow Jesus?
NOT AT ALL.
Jesus clarifies that salvation is by GRACE through faith apart from works, in the very next verse that comes in then next chapter: where He continues the same topic saying “FOR…” : He uses the parable of the vineyard workers to show that salvation is the same for every believer no matter how much works they did.
Matthew 20 “FOR the Kingdom of Heaven is like a man who was the master of a household, who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 When he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 He went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace. 4 He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went their way. 5 Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did likewise. 6 About the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing idle. He said to them, ‘Why do you stand here all day idle?’ 7 “They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ “He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and you will receive whatever is right.’ 8 “When evening had come, the lord of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning from the last to the first.’ 9 “When those who were hired at about the eleventh hour came, they each received a denarius. 10 When the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they likewise each received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they murmured against the master of the household, 12 saying, ‘These last have spent one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat!’ 13 “But he answered one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Didn’t you agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take that which is yours, and go your way. It is my desire to give to this last just as much as to you. 15 Isn’t it lawful for me to do what I want to with what I own? Or is your eye evil, because I am good?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few are chosen.”
The ones who worked more for the LORD were the Apostles like Peter who sold everything to follow Jesus. But the ones who worked less for the LORD were the regular believers who didn’t sell everything but lived normal lives.
The “vineyard” is the gift of salvation.
The “work” in the vineyard is their devotion to the Lord and His calling in their lives.
They were not saved by how many works they did in the vineyard.
They were saved by going to the vineyard – this is the symbol of faith in Christ.
The LORD shows that He gives every believer the SAME REWARD of salvation.
It’s because salvation is a FREE GIFT given to us by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
For everyone who believes in Jesus Christ receives the forgiveness of sins and the righteousness of God.
The Lord Jesus Christ used the Law to show the rich young man that he cannot be saved by his own works. That’s why he went away sad.
But Jesus tells us that we are not saved by the law but we are saved FREELY by GRACE through faith in Him.
Romans 3 “20 Because by the works of the law, no flesh will be justified in his sight; for through the law comes the knowledge of sin. 21 But now apart from the law, a righteousness of God has been revealed, being testified by the law and the prophets; 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ to all and on all those who believe. For there is no distinction, 23 for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God; 24 being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus”
2) The Samaritan woman
Now let us look at how Jesus deals with a non-Jew – the Samaritan woman was a sinner who was not under the Law. She was a sinner apart from the Law but still condemned because she was dead in sin (Romans 2:12-16).
Did Jesus tell her to keep the Law and sell everything? No.
John 4 “9 The Samaritan woman therefore said to him, “How is it that you, being a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. So where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our father, Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his children and his livestock?” 13 Jesus answered her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never thirst again; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”
15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I don’t get thirsty, neither come all the way here to draw.”
25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah comes, he who is called Christ. When he has come, he will declare to us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who speaks to you.” 27 At this, his disciples came. They marveled that he was speaking with a woman; yet no one said, “What are you looking for?” or, “Why do you speak with her?” 28 So the woman left her water pot, went away into the city, and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything that I did. Can this be the Christ?”
The woman was not self-righteous – she did not say “what works can I do to be saved”. She only asked, “Give me the water of life”. She wanted the free gift and that’s why Jesus gave it to her!
Jesus revealed to her that He is the Messiah, the Christ – by prophetically revealing details of her life (her five husbands). He did not use the Law but He used GRACE to draw her to faith.
He offered the free gift of eternal life by revealing that He is the Son of God, the Christ.
John 4 “39 From that city many of the Samaritans believed in him because of the word of the woman, who testified, “He told me everything that I did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they begged him to stay with them. He stayed there two days. 41 Many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, “Now we believe, not because of your speaking; for we have heard for ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.”
To those who are thirsty for salvation, He will freely give them eternal life!
Revelation 21 “6 He said to me, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give freely to him who is thirsty from the spring of the water of life. 7 He who overcomes, I will give him these things. I will be his God, and he will be my son. 8 But for the cowardly, unbelieving, sinners, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their part is in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”