How did Jesus deal with people?
Jesus dealt with two types of people before the cross:
- He gave law to the self-righteous.
- He gave grace to the humble.
Jesus dealt with each individual according to their spiritual condition.
We see that our Lord Jesus had two interesting dealings with people directly.
1) The Self-Righteous (rich young ruler)
The Jewish man came to Jesus Christ asking what works 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 19:16-30 “Behold, one came to him and said, “Good teacher, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” 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.” 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.’‘Honor your father and your mother.’ And, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” The young man said to him, “All these things I have observed from my youth. What do I still lack?” 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.” But when the young man heard this, he went away sad, for he was one who had great possessions. Jesus said to his disciples, “Most certainly I say to you, a rich man will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven with difficulty. 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.” When the disciples heard it, they were exceedingly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” Looking at them, Jesus said, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Then Peter answered, “Behold, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” 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. 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. 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 good works.
This is why Jesus had to break the man’s self-righteousness using the full demands 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 given only by the grace of God who makes it possible by Christ’s death and resurrection.
So, then Peter questioned the need for the Apostles in 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 Jesus clarified that a believer is not saved by works.
Jesus clarifies that salvation is by grace through faith apart from works, in the very next verse that comes in the next chapter: where He continues the same topic.
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 20:1-16 “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. When he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard He went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace. He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went their way. Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did likewise. About the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing idle. He said to them, ‘Why do you stand here all day idle?’ “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.’ “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.’ “When those who were hired at about the eleventh hour came, they each received a denarius.When the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they likewise each received a denarius. When they received it, they murmured against the master of the household, 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!’“But he answered one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Didn’t you agree with me for a denarius? Take that which is yours, and go your way. It is my desire to give to this last just as much as to you. 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?’ 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 12 Apostles like Peter and the Jerusalem Church who sold everything to follow Jesus. But the ones who worked less for the Lord were the believers like the Gentiles who didn’t sell everything but lived normal lives. People like the thief on the cross had no good works at all but simply believed! The Jewish believers who sold everything were the “first”. But the thief on the cross and Gentile believers who only believed were the “last”.
The “vineyard” represents the gift of salvation.
The “work” in the vineyard is our devotion to the Lord after salvation.
We are not saved by how many works we do in the vineyard.
We are 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.
2) The Sinners (Samaritan woman, thief on the cross, adulterous woman)
Now let us look at how Jesus deals with a non-Jew – the Samaritan woman 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.
In John 4:9-29, we see that the Samaritan woman did not ask “what good works shall I do to be saved?”. She knew she was a sinner because she told Jesus that Jews were not supposed to deal with the Samaritans. She had acknowledged that she was a sinner unlike the rich young Jewish ruler. This is why Jesus offered her the free gift of the water of life. Jesus did not preach the law but offered grace to her.
Jesus revealed to her that He is the Messiah (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. To those who are thirsty for salvation, He will freely give them eternal life (Revelation 21:6).
Jesus also did the same thing to the woman caught in adultery in John 8:3-11
The Pharisees were going to condemn her using the law and brought her to the feet of Jesus. But the Lord did not use the law to condemn her. He offered her grace through the gift of “no condemnation in Christ” (Romans 8:1).
We also see the thief on the cross – he admitted to Jesus that he was a sinner and called upon the name of the Lord to be saved. Jesus did not tell him about the law but offered grace to the sinner who believed in Him.
Luke 23:39-43 “One of the criminals who was hanged insulted him, saying, “If you are the Christ, save yourself and us!” But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Don’t you even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” He said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” Jesus said to him, “Assuredly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”