Barabbas

Barabbas

15 Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to releasing to the multitude one prisoner whom they wished. 16 And at that time they had a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. 17 Therefore, when they had gathered together, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release to you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” 18 For he knew that they had handed Him over because of envy.

Matthew 27:13-14

So many times humanity had a chance to not kill its creator. So many times it failed to do so. Some could say it was prophetic and had to happen. Others might say that it was what the Father and Jesus wanted. Finally others might say that the Devil blocked all other ways out so that Jesus could suffer. Whatever the reason, Barabbas was by far the most obvious way out had it been possible.

Barabbas literally means ‘son of a father’. Barabbas represents all of us. He represents all those born of a father. He represents all the sinners of the world. He was notorious. In heaven and around the universe, so are we. The choice should have been an easy one. A horrible sinner with a list of evil deeds or a quiet man who not only did no wrong but actually healed, lifted up and even rose the dead. The most obvious choice would have been to kill the evil one but rarely do we seem to make the obvious choice.

Adam and Eve had every fruit of the garden. There was only one tree that they had to avoid. David had hundreds of wives and even more concubines and yet it was the one woman he couldn’t have that he strove for. Samson could have had any Jewish girl he desired but his eyes were only on the foreign ones. Solomon was the wisest man in the world, a gift given to him by God himself and yet even he was led astray by foolish choices. Our track record is not very good. If we were to look at our individual lives, I don’t think we’d fare much better.

But God still loves us. He still puts up with our foolishness and waits for us. He forgives our sins and gives us new direction in life. Jesus willingly took Barabbas’ place. He would have it no other way. Jesus took our foolishness and used it to save us. That is the God we serve.

Let us never lose hope even when we make mistakes. Let us look up from the soiled ground at his brilliant face. He did everything for us back then and he’s still doing it now.

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto

They Testify Against You

They Testify Against You

13 Then Pilate said to Him, “Do You not hear how many things they testify against You?” 14 But He answered him not one word, so that the governor marveled greatly.

Matthew 27:13-14

You will never be liked or accepted by everyone around you. You can be the nicest person. You can be kind and giving. You can even be perfect like Jesus and raise the dead and still you will find those who testify against you. Jesus said this much when he spoke in John 15:

18 “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.

John 15:18

So what should we do? Should we fight back and curse those who curse us? Should we take a punch for every punch we receive? Should we lie about those who lie about us? The simple and Biblical answer of course is no.

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

Matthew 5:43-45

It’s not easy but it is what God is asking from us. Jesus did it and so we should strive to do it too. You may feel like you will become the loser out of this. You may feel like it is unfair but if you look farther down the road you will realize that it is you who will ultimately win.

Don’t let the nay-sayers in your life rob you of your heavenly reward. Don’t let your enemies decide your future. You live the life that you know is right and just. Make God happy. Do this and you will always be the victor.

Let us love our enemies.

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto

King of the Jews

King of the Jews

11 Now Jesus stood before the governor. And the governor asked Him, saying, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus said to him, “It is as you say.” 12 And while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He answered nothing.

Matthew 27:11-12

Was Jesus as a human on earth actually the King of the Jews? By human standards we would have to say no. There was never a coronation. Jesus was never crowned. He signed no documents or spoke no vows. So how can Jesus say that he was the King of the Jews? The answer is not found in the New Testament but the Old Testament.

What the Jews and leaders didn’t understand is that the human standing in front of them was the same voice, and God, who proclaimed himself King to them.

10 The Lord sat enthroned at the Flood,
And the Lord sits as King forever.

Psalms 29:10

Jesus is the Godly King which spoke and guided all the Jews from the very beginning. As the elders and scribes accused Jesus of Blaspheme you can only assume that they were busy quoting God from the Old Testament. What they were blinded too is that it was Jesus himself who spoke those very words to them originally.

The Jews had twisted the words of God so much that they could not see the one who spoke them. They made the Bible say what they wanted to hear and no more. They emphasized the verses they liked while ignoring the ones they didn’t.

Is Jesus your King? Do you accept all that the Bible says? Do you pick and choose the ideas and commands? Solomon said that there was nothing new under the sun. He meant that people are cursed to repeat many of the same errors as those of the past. The Bible itself calls our generation Laodicea- those who think they are rich, wise and faithful but who are really weak, poor and blind.

Let us not be like the leaders in these verses, who speak to Jesus and yet don’t recognize who he truly is. Let us study and read and really know the voice of God in our lives.

 

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto

Blood Money

Blood Money

5 Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself.
6 But the chief priests took the silver pieces and said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury,
because they are the price of blood.” 7 And they consulted together and bought with them the potter’s
field, to bury strangers in. 8 Therefore that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day.

Matthew 27:5-8

Judas is one of those people in the Bible that always brings a lot of emotion. He was a
disciple and then apostle of Jesus. He was one of the chosen few to be as close to the messiah as any
other human on earth. He saw all the miracles and heard all the sermons but something wasn’t right
in his heart. He was the one that brought the guards to arrest Jesus. He was the one that betrayed his
master with a kiss. He was the one that felt the silver in his hands; blood money that struck his soul.
In the end, he was the one that hung himself. He was so close to the savior and salvation but missed
out from one terrible mistake. Who knows what would have happened if he had stayed alive and seen
Jesus resurrected? Who knows if he would also have a talk with Jesus as Peter did? Who knows if he
could still be saved had he only held on a little longer?

In our lives, we will probably all end up with our own blood money someday. These are those
selfish decisions and choices we make that benefits us while condemning another. It can be an easy
thing to do but the consequences can be horrible. The guilt can be blinding and crushing.

Have you ever hurt someone to benefit yourself? Have you stepped on another to get up in
life? How many politicians end up slinging mud and tearing people down so that they can win? This
act is not only done in our world but actually encouraged in many cases and praised by many.

But blood money will always come back to haunt you.

9 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, “And they took the thirty
pieces of silver, the value of Him who was priced, whom they of the children of Israel
priced, 10 and gave them for the potter’s field, as the L ORD directed me.”

Matthew 27:9-10

Judas’ actions were foretold and seen by God before being done. The same can be said for all
of our sins and mistakes. What happens next is not really up to God but to us. God is always ready to
forgive and save but it’s our decisions that really determine our fate. Judas couldn’t live with the guilt
and hanged himself. He made the wrong choice. He never really new Jesus. Had he, he would have
known that Jesus could forgive him even of that betrayal. The real question is- do you know Jesus
well enough to have another outcome?

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto

Evil Thoughts

Evil Thoughts

When morning came, all the chief priests and elders of the people plotted against Jesus to put Him to death. And when they had bound Him, they led Him away and delivered Him to Pontius Pilate the governor.

Matthew 27:1-2

They just couldn’t understand Jesus. Their whole lives was guided by scheming, politics, backstabbing and the desire to increase and so when the religious leaders looked at this humble man, he was a mystery. And when you don’t understand something, you fear it and try to destroy it. That is what was happening here as they conspired to have Jesus killed.  They’re own sinful lives created a mistrust in Jesus’ honestly. They truly believed that he was there to destroy and undermine them. They had convinced themselves that only they could keep Israel to gather; only they could keep Judaism from falling. Their evil thoughts were covered in a false religious piety.

Could we fall into the same trap? Could we also believe that God needs our help in keeping the church from falling apart? In my years in the church, I’ve also seen scheming, politics, backstabbing and the desire to increase within the church at many levels. I’ve seen in in church elections and in board meetings. I’ve seen it in district, conference and union dealings. In almost every case, it was done with an idea that they were doing what was best for others and the church. The problem of course is that God doesn’t work within those means. That is the domain and work of the devil.

Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” And they said, “What is that to us? You see to it!

Matthew 27:3-4

Judas was one that fell into that hole of self-deception. Only after seeing Christ taken away and realizing that he wouldn’t fight back but allow himself to die, did Judas understand his sin. In trying to help Jesus by forcing him to take the crown, he condemned him to death. He tried to fix his mistake but he went to the wrong people. Instead of going to God, he went to those he conspired with. They of course didn’t care about his guilt or anything about him. He was just a tool for them. In misery he left without his sins forgiven.

Many times when we make a mistake, we fail a second time in trying to fix it. How many times do people try and fix a lie with another lie? It’s not good enough to want to fix a mistake but you must know how to do it. God is the only one who can truly take away our sins and he is also the only one who knows the right plan to correct a misstep. Always go to Christ first.

 

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto

Denying Christ?

Denying Christ?

69 Now Peter sat outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came to him, saying, “You also were with Jesus of Galilee.” 70 But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you are saying.”

Matthew 26:69-70

Imagine having one of your worst moments recorded in a book that would then be read by literally billions of people. That is the story of Peter. When you read the gospels, you would think that he was the most supportive of Jesus and willing to sacrifice whatever it took for his master but in this moment we see the real face of Peter. We do have to give him credit for at least staying close by from Jesus. He cared enough to stay at a distance and see what was going on but there was nothing in him to stand up or defend Christ.

71 And when he had gone out to the gateway, another girl saw him and said to those who were there, “This fellow also was with Jesus of Nazareth.” 72 But again he denied with an oath, “I do not know the Man!”

Matthew 26:71-72

The second time he is questioned the Bible says that he made an oath. As people question him, he digs himself deeper and deeper into his weakness and sin. How often do we as humans double down in our faults? How much easier would it be to just admit the mistake? It is on the third that we truly see the original Peter, pre-Christ, appear.

73 And a little later those who stood by came up and said to Peter, “Surely you also are one of them, for your speech betrays you.” 74 Then he began to curse and swear, saying, “I do not know the Man!”

Matthew 26:73-74

Satan is really good at what he does. Even after spending years with Jesus, Satan is able to bring Peter to his knees in a matter of minutes. This of course is the danger of not completely committing to God. Peter was so close. While the others ran, except for John, he stayed close. He cut a man when they came to arrest Jesus. He wanted to believe and wanted to do what was right but without his whole heart in the game, he fell apart. The beauty of course is that Jesus still didn’t give up on Peter. Jesus kept working on him and the day came when Peter would not deny. Let us strive to give ourselves completely and also keep God’s amazing mercy always in our mind.

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto

Who Struck You?

Who Struck You?

67 Then they spat in His face and beat Him; and others struck Him with the palms of their hands, 68 saying, “Prophesy to us, Christ! Who is the one who struck You?”

Matthew 26:67-68

How should a child of God behave? How should a religious leader behave? How should someone who claims to know and follow God’s law behave? I’m sure that everyone would have a slightly different answer to those questions but hopefully no one would say what is written in these verses. Even if the man they had before them was a thief, liar and blasphemer, a true worshiper of God would still not have behaved as these so called learned men. Not only do they unlawfully strike, mock and degrade Jesus but then they mock God by foolishly speaking of prophesying and calling him Christ.

It wouldn’t be too far of a stretch to believe that Satan was within these men’s hearts and urging them to do what they were. Although it’s not specifically mentioned in scripture, their actions are clearly a sign of this. Which then gives us a big warning. It is possible to be part of God’s true church, which Judaism still was in this moment, and still be completely lost to the devil. Just because you sit in a church, doesn’t mean that you are suddenly immune to making bad decisions and going down the wrong path.

What truly troubles me is the steady increase of anger that I see not just out in the world but within the church as well. People, more and more, are not showing patience, love and empathy. Paul was right when he prophesied about our future.

1 But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!

1 Timothy 3:1-5

I don’t believe that these verses are pointing to the future anymore. We are living this reality. And so I then ask those first questions again. How should a child of God behave? Are you living up to the standard set by God or are you letting Satan blind your sin by appearing to make it seem as if you’re doing the will of God? These religious leaders, with all the knowledge of God’s Word, found themselves completely blind. They did Satan’s bidding while thinking they were doing God’s. Make sure you are not going in the same direction.

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto

Deserving Death

Deserving Death

65 Then the high priest tore his clothes, saying, “He has spoken blasphemy! What further need do we have of witnesses? Look, now you have heard His blasphemy!

Matthew 26:65

Jesus spoke the truth to people who knew the scriptures and the promise but he was still called a blasphemer. Similar to Job, who was also attacked by his friends even though they could never actually stick or prove any accusations against him, Jesus too was being attacked with baseless accusations. Jesus always had a biblical answer for everything they accused during his ministry. The biggest problem of course is that the Jewish leaders had becomes accustomed to the physical ‘real’ world and Jesus bringing in a spiritual and heavenly dimension was too much for them. They could neither compete with such a message and movement, not to mention that most couldn’t even fully understand it. The idea that heaven actually coming to them was not part of their religious beliefs or ideals. They were happy just leading and commanding sinful people. They enjoyed the power, money and influence that it gave them. They liked the feeling of being ‘better’ and ‘holier’ than everyone else. Jesus was putting all of that at risk.

What is most interesting is as the high priest accuses Jesus of blasphemy and going against God and His word, the man himself goes against God in his own actions. The Bible clearly says that he tore his clothes which was forbidden in the Scriptures.

10 He who is the high priest among his brethren, on whose head the anointing oil was poured and who is consecrated to wear the garments, shall not uncover his head nor tear his clothes;

Leviticus 21:10

With this, one can’t but remember the parable of Jesus- take out your own plank before trying to take the speck out of your brother. All of these leaders were breaking and going against God in so many ways and yet they could only see the apparent ‘sin’ in Jesus. And what was their response?

66 What do you think?” They answered and said, “He is deserving of death.”

Matthew 26:66

This unfortunately is the character of sinful humanity. We see the faults in others but rarely in ourselves. We decree judgement and even death for others but don’t realise that our own words condemn ourselves. Let us not be so quick to judge as the Jewish leaders. Sometimes we may be on the wrong side of God.

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto

Keeping Silent

Keeping Silent

62 And the high priest arose and said to Him, “Do You answer nothing? What is it these men
testify against You?” 63 But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest answered and said to Him, “I
put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!”

Matthew 26:62-63

The creator of the world was in court being judged by his creations. More than that, a perfect man
was being judged by imperfect sinners. The absurdity of this night cannot be overstated. Imagine if Jesus
had decided to play his hand. Imagine if he suddenly called a legion of angels and they appeared within
that place? Imagine if Jesus was to show his true glory to them as they sneered? Imagine if God the Father
were to spoke up in defense of his beloved son? But none of that happened. Those sinful, prideful men
were allowed to play their games and fulfil their schemes. Jesus kept quiet.

Not until they put Jesus under the third commandment of using the Lord’s name and setting Jesus
under an oath by the living God does Jesus finally speak. He doesn’t do anything to try and defend
himself, however, but instead seals his fate by telling the truth. In John 8 Jesus says that the truth sets us
free, but apparently not for Jesus.

64 Jesus said to him, “It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of
Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Matthew 26:64

I always wonder if those men’s hearts were full of fear. Deep down they must have known that
Jesus was truly the Messiah and that he was with God. They must have known that all of their actions had
nothing to do with the word of God but was instead about their own ambition and power. Did they fear or
was their hearts so darkened that they truly believed their own lies?

As human’s, it can be hard to know when to be silent and when to speak. We know so little of
God’s plan in our life that it can be a real dilemma. Part of the problem is that many of us don’t know our
purpose. Jesus did. He knew that it was the cross where his Father needed him. He could have spoken up
and defended himself but that would only disrupt his goal. When he did speak, they were words that made
his future sure. It was not a bright or happy short term future but he knew it was God’s will.

We must also struggle to find our purposes. If we know where God wants us to be, we will have
better insight in the words we speak and the actions we take. Let us strive to connect with God and know
his thoughts and plans for our lives.

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto

False Witnesses

False Witnesses

59 Now the chief priests, the elders, and all the council sought false testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, 60 but found none. Even though many false witnesses came forward, they found none. But at last two false witnesses came forward 61 and said, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days.’ ”

Matthew 26:59-61

This might sound odd, but I find these verses to be beautiful. The Jewish leaders had for a while now planned on killing Jesus. Plans were put into play, traps were set and people bribed. Up until this point, none of their plans had worked. Jesus had always outsmarted and out-explained the Holy Scriptures to them. He had always managed to slip away and avoid being stoned or killed. At every turn, Jesus simply explained that it was still not yet his time to die.

Things were different now. Judas was bribed and successfully delivered Jesus in chains to them. He could not escape at least not in human terms. Then the council members, those wise and studious leaders, began to try and develop an accusation against Jesus. They tried hard but nothing true that Jesus did could condemn him. With his perfect life unusable to them, they had to go to plan B. They began bringing in false witnesses who could say something about Jesus to condemn him and yet, amazingly again, they could not.

This is what I find beautiful. How very perfect was Jesus’ life that even liars and false witnesses could not trap him. There was something about his life that was so pure that even lies seemed to not be able to stick to him. How very different are we compared to him. I know that if people were to search hard enough, all sorts of negative and harmful evidence could be found against me and I’m sure against you as well. I always find it amazing that a politician’s previous life and actions so commonly come up in the news to disgrace or tarnish their name. I always wonder how they could chose such a public job knowing what their past is filled with. But truthfully, everyone has something in their past that they are ashamed of.

Not Jesus. They went through his entire life with a fine tooth comb and came up with nothing. Even evil lies were too out of character to be believed. What a beautiful life Jesus led.

Finally two men were found who could share some of Jesus’ actual words but twisted in a way to sound bad. They claimed that Jesus said that he himself was able to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days but Jesus actually said, “Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” John 2:19

Even with their own twist, it actually still wasn’t enough to condemn him but it was the best they could do. Jesus truly was too good for this world and yet he gave himself willingly for it. May we all strive for the same character and love that was found in Jesus.

 

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto