Wine and Blood?

Wine and Blood?

27 Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. 29 But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”

Matthew 26:27-29

The early Christians were persecuted and called a cult because it was believed that they drank human blood. Of course this was just a rumor spread by those wanting to erase Christianity from the area.

The Bible makes it very clear that the juice was just to be a symbol for the blood of Christ. It was something to be done as a remembrance.

Jesus called this part of a new covenant that he was making with the world. No longer was the truth and by extension salvation to be held by just a few. The chosen people, the Jews, had broken the old covenant, distorting its truth and ignoring the evangelistic outreach that was supposed to be attached to it.

Instead now, the new covenant was to be for everyone and anyone who was willing to accept it. Your blood line, birth or heritage meant nothing now. As all who accepted received the spiritual blood of Jesus, everyone was deemed worthy.

By accepting the blood, the person also accepted the sacrifice that caused the blood to be shed. By accepting the sacrifice, the person’s sins were forgiven and a new life was created. This new life would be filled with the Holy Spirit and would build up a character like Jesus himself. That is the plan and covenant that Jesus is talking about here.

Then Jesus said that he’d never drink grape juice again until all were saved and living in heaven. That day is the great feast that is mentioned in the Bible for all the saved in heaven. What’s interesting is that Jesus’ first miracle is found in a wedding feast and it will all conclude in a heavenly wedding feast. Jesus loves symmetry.

Today you have the choice to be part of that new covenant. If you think you’re not worthy, just remember that all the apostles there with Jesus, who drank that juice, would be fast asleep while Jesus needed their prayers in Gethsemane. It is the same apostles who would betray him and run away in just a few hours after this meal.

They were found worthy and so are you.

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto

Did Judas Eat?

Did Judas Eat?

25 Then Judas, who was betraying Him, answered and said, “Rabbi, is it I?” He said to him, “You have said it.” 26 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.”

Matthew 26:25-26

There is much debate among scholars as to the question of whether Judas partook of the Lord’s Supper by eating the bread and wine. John is the only gospel that actually says when Judas left, which took place at the end of supper and after the foot washing. Here in Matthew, Jesus proclaims Judas as the betrayer before starting the ceremony of the Lord’s Supper. Some say that it’s in between verses 25 and 26 that Judas would have left and therefore didn’t partake. Others argue the idea that if Jesus washed his feet, he would have also performed the rest of the ceremony with Judas as well.

Although it’s nice to know the facts, I think arguing over this is missing the mark for two reasons. If this was something really vital for us as Christians to know, it would have been much more clear in the text as the writers and Holy Spirit would make sure there was no doubt. Although some things can be hard to understand in the Bible, it also always explains itself for those things which God knows we need to know.

Secondly, and more importantly in my mind, it makes very little difference if Judas partook of the bread and wine or not. The fact is his heart and mind were already set on their path. Jesus himself says in John 13:27 27 Now after the piece of bread, Satan entered him. Then Jesus said to him, “What you do, do quickly.”

What this teaches us is that ceremonies, like the Lord’s Supper, while important to our spiritual lives and growth, are of little use if our hearts and minds are not in the right place. Regardless of the bread and wine, we know for certain that Judas partook of the foot washing. The washing did nothing to change his mind, however, and neither would the Lord’s Supper.

Do not allow ceremonies or traditions to take the place of your responsibility of character and choice. Just because you go through all the motions at church means nothing if your character is not focused on God. These ceremonies and traditions are not magical incantations or spells that automatically or magically change our state of mind or character. Our mind and character is only changed through our relationship with God, our giving of ourselves to him, and in the deliberate choices we make within our lives. There is no magic red pill that will change your life outside of your choice and relationship with God.

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto

Not Been Born

Not Been Born

23 He answered and said, “He who dipped his hand with Me in the dish will betray Me. 24 The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.”

Matthew 26:23-24

There are few verses more scathing than Jesus own words found here in verse 24. Jesus was obviously feeling the weight and pain of the next few hours of his life. Not only would he be condemned to die and do so in an excruciating way, but it would all happen at the hands, or kiss, of one of his closest friends and followers. Make no mistake, Jesus loved Judas, just as God loves all men, but he would not deny Judas his choice and consequence.

Last week we saw how all the disciples thought that they could be the betrayer, but here Jesus points the finger in the gentlest of ways- without ever actually saying his name.

The strong words used in verse 24 start with prophetic words of his death but quickly add a ‘but’ to change the direction to the betrayer. Think about what Jesus, the creator and savior of the world, says about Judas here. It would have been better for Judas to have never been born than to be the person that makes the choice he does.

I once spoke with a man who was convinced that Judas would be in heaven. He claimed that Judas simply did what Jesus needed him to do. He followed God’s plan in his life. Verse 24 really puts that whole idea into serious doubt. Judas had all the advantages and chances that the other eleven had. He saw the same miracles and heard the same sermons. He saw the goodness and holiness of Jesus, yet for 30 silver coins was willing to betray that perfect man. Everything that was done and all the consequences that Judas suffered and will suffer one day suffer are all on his own personal choice.

Judas never knew that this was to be his role. Judas never saw himself as the bad guy or betrayer but his series of choices and thoughts brought him there.

We too, each day, face a series of decisions. Every day we shape our future. How important it is to use Judas life as a lesson and warning. None of us live our lives to be the bad guys or betrayers but is it possible that one day we will be?

How important is it to see our actions and choices today before it’s too late. Let us make good choices and follow God’s good path for our lives.

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto

betrayal

Betrayal

19 So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them; and they prepared the Passover. 20 When
evening had come, He sat down with the twelve. 21 Now as they were eating, He
said, “Assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.” 22 And they were exceedingly sorrowful, and each of them began to say to Him, “Lord, is it I?”

Matthew 26:19-22

As Jesus was with his disciples for the last night, he created a last supper for them. It wasn’t by
accident that it also fell on Passover as that feast pointed towards this very moment. This would
be Jesus’ goodbye, at least until he came back from the dead.

In Matthew, the first words of Jesus are very strange. ‘Assuredly, I say to you, one of you will
betray me.’

It’s not exactly a happy or uplifting statement. It’s not exactly the tone one would normally start
to say goodbye. Perhaps this was a bit of Jesus’ human pain coming through. Perhaps this truth
pained his heart, not even so much for the betrayal but for what the betrayal would do to the
betrayer. Jesus could already see Judas being lost in his heart.

What is even stranger than Jesus’ words however, are the words of the disciples themselves! The
Bible makes it very clear that every one of the disciples had the same question:

‘Lord, is it I?’

For someone to first think and then have enough courage to actually ask, shows just how
uncertain they were about themselves. They must have truly thought this a possibility to even
bring it up. They must have recognized just how weak and shakable they were. These were of
course the same men that would in just a few hours run away from Jesus and the soldiers- in
essence betraying him indeed.

How about you? If you were sitting around in that supper, would you have asked Jesus the same
question? How shaky is your commitment and faith in Jesus? Would you also run once you see
soldiers with weapons in their hands to arrest or even kill Jesus and you?

The good news about this story is that even if your answer is yes, your in good company. Jesus’
most faithful were also weak but they didn’t stay that way. Jesus took those doubting men,
thinking themselves able to betray their lord, and turned them into mighty disciples of faith and
courage.

Jesus can do the same to you if you let him. The Spirit is already knocking on your door.

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto

Feast of Unleavened Bread

Feast of Unleavened Bread

17 Now on the first day of the Feast of the Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying to Him, “Where do You want us to prepare for You to eat the Passover?” 18 And He said, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, “My time is at hand; I will keep the Passover at your house with My disciples.” ’ ”

 Matthew 26:17-18

The Feast of Unleavened Bread was one of the Jewish festivals or holy days practiced by the Jews. It was connected with the Passover in that it was the bread that had to be made and eaten quickly as Israel would quickly have to leave Egypt.

For seven days the Jews would have to eat unleavened bread to remember the salvation of God from Egypt. The bread was also called the Bread of Affliction, Deuteronomy 16:3, because God’s deliverance from Egypt came at the cost of all the firstborn of Egypt of those who didn’t cover their homes with blood.

To the disciples it was just another ceremony. To Jesus it was much more. Not only had he been there in Egypt when the firstborn died and Israel was set free, he also knew that he would be the sacrifice this time around.

We know this because Jesus himself says in verse 18, ‘My time is at hand.’ Just like the rest of his life here on earth, everything was planned well in advance. He knew that there would be a man in town that would give up his upper room for them. The Bible says that the plan of salvation was all planned out since the beginning of the world. Even before sin existed there was a plan to conquer it.

Your life is also planned out by God. You have the choice to follow it or not but there is a good life in store for you if you trust God and follow Him.

One day, we too will have our own experience of quickly having to leave our homes. As the end approaches, the last days will be filled with its own afflictions. With God however we can be sure that we will have our own salvation as well.

 

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto

A Friends Betrayal

A Friends Betrayal

14 Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you?” And they counted out to him thirty pieces of silver. 16 So from that time he sought opportunity to betray Him.

Matthew 26:14-16

There are few characters within the Bible more despised than Judas Iscariot. This is because he wasn’t someone on the outside. He wasn’t someone that Jesus hurt, let down or betrayed. Judas was a close friend of Jesus. It is that betrayal that really seems to put people off.

In these verses are some details that can lead people to be even more upset with him. Verse 14 says that he went to the priests. 15 says that he asked what they would give him for the betrayal of Jesus. It seems like this was his plan and no one else’s. He wasn’t coerced or bullied into betraying Christ.

Then the amount offered is another insult. Some put it at $100 to $400. Judas, being the one who carried the money for the disciples, probably carried more with him on a regular basis. Did he think so little of Jesus that a price for a slave seemed like a reasonable about for the Messiah?

Then verse 16 says that he actively looked for opportunities to betray him. So this was not a rash decision or something he did after one to many cups of beer. He knew exactly what he was doing and spent much of his time looking for a chance to betray Jesus.

One of the reasons why we despise Judas so much is because we all carry a fear of having a love one betray us. It is one of the most painful experiences to go through in this world. To be betrayed by a friend knocks the foundation from under us. It keeps us from trusting anyone after that.

Unfortunately it does happen. Many times throughout our lives will be disappointed with loved ones. That is because none of us are perfect. We make mistakes and experience mistakes in our lives.

The main point to remember is that, we too can be that betrayer to someone. In the end, the only perfect person was Jesus on this earth. Judas betrayed him, Jesus knowing long before that that was to happen, but he accepted Judas either way. He accepted him, not only to allow what needed to happen to occur but because he truly loved Judas and did all he could to still try and save him. May we learn from Jesus to be just as forgiving to those who betray us.

 

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto

My Burial

My Burial

12 For in pouring this fragrant oil on My body, she did it for My burial. 13 Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.”

Matthew 26:12-13

Jesus never seemed to be shy about talking about death and his death in particular. As he understood his purpose here on earth, he knew that his death was a vital part of that. This confuses a lot of non-christians. Why do we follow or worship a killed man or god? That is how many people see it. Jesus was just a man with some clever ideas but who ultimately died thousands of years ago. Some compare him to Buddha or other influential person in history.

We of course know that his death was only a part of his story. We know it wasn’t the end of his story. Just as he promised, he died but rose again. As important as Jesus’ death is, his resurrection is of even more importance because it gives us hope in our own lives after death.

But his death and resurrection was more than just a sign of what could be our future. It was also a door and plan for how we, while still alive can already experience death and resurrection. A real Christian must die to his old self, habits, ideas and path and embrace a new life which follows Christ. That is expressed in the act of baptism. Just this last Sabbath we partook of a baptism at Bronte.

The woman who poured the fragrant oil on Jesus probably didn’t know how Jesus would take her act and use it in expressing his main message. She was simply trying to do something good for Jesus and he probably had done something good for her.

We too can do good things for Jesus. Perhaps not to him directly, but we can help those in the world. We know that Jesus himself said that doing things for others is like doing it to him. We may think it is just a small thing we do, but like this story, we don’t know if Jesus will transform it into something much bigger.

Let us, like Jesus, embrace a new life with him. Let us be new creations that have his love in our hearts. But let us also be like the woman who gave what she could and let Jesus take her actions and transform them.

Like the woman we too may be remembered by an action we do. If nowhere else, you can be sure that in heaven it will always be remembered.

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto

The Poor

The Poor

10 But when Jesus was aware of it, He said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a good work for Me. 11 For you have the poor with you always, but Me you do not have always.

Matthew 26:10-11

Jesus makes a very sad statement in this passage. You could argue it is prophetic in nature though I think that misses the point.

‘For you have the poor with you always’

There will always be the poor on this earth until sin is finally done away with. There will always be inequality, hierarchies, the oppressed and the underprivileged. In the last few years, our current state aside, has been some of the most privileged and abundant in earth’s history.

Never have so many lived so well. We have more millionaires and billionaires than ever before. Inflation was at an all-time low, jobs were plentiful and people were relatively happy. Yet, even with all that, poverty and hunger thrived as well. We had enough food for everyone but people starved. People were taking million dollar vacations into outer space but people still were living on the streets. We could send billions on Olympics and World Cups but people were desperate that they were still selling sons and daughter to try and stay alive.

These last few decades of prosperity has proven Jesus’ words. We will always have the poor.

That doesn’t mean that we can’t help. That doesn’t mean we can’t reduce the pain and suffering in this world, even if it’s just a little bit. We can feed one person and reduce the total number by one. If every Adventist were to help one person, we could help over 18 million people from their misery.

It’s easy to get discouraged by the shear amount of help that is needed but let’s stay focused. Let us help as many as we can. We can do it individually and we can do it collectively. Help those ministries in the church that are helping others. A little help can go a long way.

And of course, when we help someone with their needs, many will also then desire help spiritually as well. That of course was always Jesus’ method.

 

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto

Alabaster Flask

Alabaster Flask

And when Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, a woman came to Him having an alabaster flask of very costly fragrant oil, and she poured it on His head as He sat at the table. But when His disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? For this fragrant oil might have been sold for much and given to the poor.”

Matthew 26:6-9

When you read through the gospels, you quickly realize that Jesus loved nothing more than to be at a home surrounded by friends and strangers. In these moments he could do more at molding and changing hearts than any large gathering on a hill or by a lake. Here he could connect with individual hearts. He could heal people one on one and then share something greater that anything on this earth.

This is a rare occasion when the tables are turned. Instead of Jesus giving a gift, he receives one. In this chapter, a nameless woman comes to him with an experience box and flask of fragrant oil. For this woman to do this, it is because she had already had an experience with Jesus. He did something in her life that filled her with a desire to give something back. You’ll notice that it never says that the woman was rich but that the gift was. The way that she presents the gift however in humbleness points towards someone who wasn’t rich. What she was giving was beyond her means and yet she still felt compelled to give it.

That response shows a heart that truly has connected with God. It shows someone who not only received the love of God, but who was also filled with it and was compelled to give it out again to those around her. This was a person truly changed and converted. It is this character that we should be desiring to have ourselves.

Instead however and unfortunately, we find ourselves not like this woman but like the men around her. Instead of praising her gift, kindness and love, they mock her and the gift. They claim it is wasted and could have been given to better work.

While her heart was filled with love and gratitude, the men were full of envy, judgement, pride and sin. How many times do we only see the negatives in people actions? How many times do we jump over the kind act and seek out something wrong to judge that person?

Let us strive to have the conversion of this woman with the alabaster flask. May we give humbly and with true love.

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto

Blinded by Sin

Blinded by Sin

1  Now it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all these sayings, that He said to His disciples, “You know that after two days is the Passover, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.”

Then the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders of the people assembled at the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, and plotted to take Jesus by trickery and kill Him. But they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar among the people.”

Matthew 26:1-5

In chapter 26 of Matthew we see two groups of people who are blinded because they are sinful human beings.

The first group are the disciples. Although they lived with Jesus, heard all his sermons and witnessed all his miracles, they still were blinded as to his earthly mission. Being raised Jews, and having their eyes and minds clouded by sin, they still believed that the promised messiah was more about destroying Rome and creating a world dominating Israelite nation than cleansing the world and all in it from sin.

It’s interesting that Jesus says, ‘You know’ before clearly saying that he must be sacrificed at the Passover, showing them that he was the Lamb of God. Really he probably should have said, ‘You should know’ because they clearly didn’t. They were too wrapped up in their own lives, goals and dreams to see what God was truly trying to do.

The second group are the priests, elders and scribes. Sin also clouded their vision, thinking themselves as holy, pure and the keepers of God’s word while at the very same time planning on killing a completely innocent man who was also clearly connected with God himself.

When we are in the act of sinning, we lose our vision, even more than usual. We get so caught up in our own pleasures and desires that we don’t even see when we are knee deep in sin and completely against God. Just like the Jewish leaders, we can still see ourselves as these good holy Christians while being completely against God.

Let us go to God and ask to be cleansed. May our eyes be cleared from sin so we can see the world and ourselves as they truly are. If we don’t, we won’t see a need to fix ourselves. We will be covered in sin and not even be able to see it.

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto