Feeling Alone

Feeling Alone

…Then all the disciples forsook Him and fled. 57 And those who had laid hold of Jesus led Him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled. 58 But Peter followed Him at a distance to the high priest’s courtyard. And he went in and sat with the servants to see the end.

Matthew 26:56-58

Just hours before, Jesus had asked his disciples to pray with him. He had a meal with them and washed their feet. Now they were all gone. This unfortunately is a common result when you rely on human beings. They will often let you down. How many times do you feel alone in this world?

Jesus gave himself willingly to his enemies. He did this because he knew that this was his purpose. The very people he was trying to save, the very families he had saved and delivered in Jewish history, were now trying to kill him. He would not fight it. He would also not rely on humans from this point on. He knew that what needed to happen next was for him alone.

There are many ways that he could have freed himself. He could have used his power but that would have been a failure to his mission. He could have groveled at the feet of the Jewish leaders or bribed them with power and influence, but that would only have helped him and no one else. Jesus wasn’t thinking about himself during this time but all of us whom he would be sacrificing himself for.

It must have been strange to stand before the High Priest of Israel. Jesus had created the position. He had set the rules and obligations. He had blessed the original High Priest; Aaron. Now he stood before this man who claimed to be the intercessor of God and yet Jesus knew that his heart wasn’t anywhere near God. The world had chosen an imposter and rejected the real thing.

Only Peter stayed close, and according to another gospel so was another apostle (John 18:15-16). Most say that it was John who was also there. Either way, none of them ever tried to help Jesus.

In all of our lives, there will be a moment when we feel alone. This is practically unavoidable because God needs us to depend on him even when we can’t feel him close. For our faith in him to grow, he must allow us to go through these events. What is important is to never forget that feelings and reality are often not the same. Just because we might not feel God close, doesn’t mean that he isn’t. Jesus promised that he would always be with us. This is where growth is truly done.

You might feel alone right now. I know many people are. Realize that Jesus went through the same thing in his life. He knows how it feels but he also got through it. You can to. Trust in him. He will never let you pass through more than you can take.

 

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto

Swords at Night

Swords at Night

55 In that hour Jesus said to the multitudes, “Have you come out, as against a

robber, with swords and clubs to take Me? I sat daily with you, teaching in the temple, and you did not seize Me. 56 But all this was done that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.”

Matthew 26:54

Jesus is always at his best in terms of wisdom when he’s asking questions. Throughout the gospels, Jesus asked questions. Her did this, not because he didn’t know the answers, but because he wanted to the very he was asking the questions to think in a new way. It is very easy for humans to get caught up in the moment. We know the power of mob rule and how people can be coerced into doing things they regularly wouldn’t only because there’s others around them. The internet is also a great place where the anonymity of the web causes people to write or express things they would never say out loud or to a person’s face. By asking a question, Jesus forces the people he is speaking with to think about their actions and ideas.

Have you come out against a robber? Why did you bring clubs and swords to arrest me? These questions bring to the forefront the irrational fear that those men had against Jesus. Jesus was, except for the scene at the Temple, a very calm and non-violent man. He never hurt anyone and never raised a weapon against another human being. Why would so many armed men be needed to arrest Jesus?

One possible answer is that they feared his disciples more than Jesus. Peter did take out a sword and masterfully kill an ear of a man. I guess you could put sword fighting besides fishing as talents that Peter seemed to be weak on. But this idea doesn’t hold much water once you realize that everyone runs away once Jesus is arrested. Jesus’ disciples weren’t fearless or intimidating it seems.

The most probably answer is that they wanted to take Jesus quickly and forcibly. They couldn’t risk that this mission could spread around the people. The leaders feared the masses. They feared the very people below them. Just like taking a band-aid, they wanted it to be fast. That is why they tried to do everything in a single night. Arrest, try and execute before anyone woke up- that was always the plan.

Trying to force something through, especially in secret, is one of the clearest signs that what is being done is wrong. When you have to try and conceal your actions, don’t convince yourself that you’re still doing God’s work. God is about bringing light into the world and not darkness.

When we act in this manner, we should keep our ears open because we just might hear Jesus asking us a question. If we are open enough to hear it we might just see the reality of our actions and thoughts.

God bless,
Pr. Steven Couto

Prophecy and The Word

Prophecy and The Word

54 How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?”

 Matthew 26:54

The verse above in one that is commonly passed over or ignored. Most people focus on the verse before because it speaks of angels and the power and authority that Jesus had within himself. But verse 54 is actually a very interesting verse to think and meditate on.

We know that there are many prophecies in the Bible. Many of them are actually pointing to Jesus himself. It is these prophecies that Jesus is mentioning here in this verse.

What Jesus is saying is that he cannot save himself because the prophesies in the Bible say that it needs to go in this way. That sounds simple enough until you realize that Jesus himself, as the Son of God, is actually the force and mind behind those prophecies when they were made. It was God who inspired the prophets to speak those words. So the question then becomes, why does Jesus talk as if he were somehow trapped by those words?

He could have chosen any prophecy to give to the prophets. He could have inspired the Bible to say anything. God was never stuck in terms of what the future could be. So why does Jesus say those words of verse 54?

The crying at Gethsemane should help us here. Before Gethsemane, Jesus was very sure of his future. He would give up his life for us and then resurrect after three days. It was always very simple when he spoke about it but at Gethsemane, that changed. Suddenly, Jesus was scared of his future as the weight of sin and the separation it causes with God fell on him. Now we had a Jesus who was pleading for something else to happen instead of what was prophesied. This shows us the very human side of Jesus.

Going forward to verse 54 now, we see a Jesus who has once again decided and focused on the original plan- as stated in the prophesies. The reason behind that focus is different now however. Before Gethsemane, Jesus was sure of the plan because he was in constant contact with the Father who guided and assured him. After Gethsemane, seemingly disconnected from his Father, Jesus now depends wholeheartedly on the Word of God and the prophets. Jesus at this point is very much like us. All his faith is not in that constant voice of his Father but in the written words of God.

Jesus shows us here that the Bible truly does have power to give us strength and courage to continue moving forward. Let us always depend on God’s words just as Jesus did there in the garden.

 

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto

Twelve Legions of Angels

Twelve Legions of Angels

53 Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?

 Matthew 26:5e

The first thing that I want to say is that it really looks like God has a thing for the number twelve. It is a number that is seen, not only throughout the Bible in various forms but also in nature and math. So I guess it’s no surprise that if Jesus was going to call several legions of angels to his aid, that he would make it twelve of them.

More importantly, he we get a real glimpse of the true sacrifice and battle that waged within Jesus’ heart and mind as he faced his death on the cross. While it would have been terrifying for anyone to go through, Jesus did so knowing full well that he could stop it at any moment. With a single word or even thought, al his enemies would die at his feet. The problem of course is that if Jesus were to use his power to save himself or even relieve his pain, Satan would claim that it was proof that God’s way of life was impossible to keep; even his Son as a human could not bear to live under it.

The results would be a domino effect that would all but end the world. If God’s way of life was too hard to keep, impossible even, that would make God himself a tyrant with rigid laws. His future punishment of Satan, his angels and those humans who rejected God would be seen as unfair. God’s very character and nature would be doubted and in turn the universe will begin to fall apart.

And this is where Jesus is now found between a rock and a hard place. The unfair punishment that he carries, along with the whole world’s accumulated sins, is leading his to a painful death while an easy escape means the destruction of his perfect heavenly universe. He had the power to decide but he left it in God’s hands: “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” Matthew 26:39

That is the true love of Jesus. That act shows the true unity and trust that existed between the Father and Son. That is the type of character we must struggle to achieve here on this earth while there is still time. One day, we may find ourselves between a rock and a hard place. Perhaps some of us have already been there or are there now. We must have a relationship with God and a trust that will allow us to put our decision in His hands as well.

If we know Him, then we will be assured that whatever the outcome may be, that our salvation is sure. Sometimes the outcome may hurt, even a lot, but just remember that it was painful for Jesus as well. There is nothing that God will not let us pass through that His Son did not pass Himself.

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto

Perish by the Sword

Perish by the Sword

51 And suddenly, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword, struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear. 52 But Jesus said to him, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.

 Matthew 26:51-52

In Matthew’s account of the story, he leaves out who actually drew the sword from amongst the apostles. Perhaps he was trying to protect a friend from embarrassment or to keep his character intact, we don’t know. This of course wouldn’t make too much sense since we learn about Peter’s betrays of Christ just a few verses below. And of course we know it was Peter because John gives us that detail. What Peter does is a very common human trait. When we are put in a corner or scared, we react- many times with violence. Peter, you could argue, was only being human here. What Jesus says in regards to his act is very telling.

Let’s not forget that Jesus himself said to get a sword: Then He said to them, “But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one.

Luke 22:36

Now many scholars and pastors will tell you that Jesus was talking about the word of God. I completely agree with this but also think that the apostles who heard at the time did not. Peter might have even been carrying a sword because of what Jesus said.

But now, as he is facing his arrest and betrayer, Jesus has a very different message. Those who use the sword will die by the sword. It’s a statement that has been used throughout history and has proven to be true time and time again. What was Jesus trying to say in the larger picture.

Outside of the obvious argument against violence, Jesus was really telling us to truly accept that new spiritual heart and change from our ‘just being human’. Peter could have been better, should have been better but instead moved in the lowest common denominator. How many times do we do the same?

Jesus wants us to be better but how many times do we just let our old self come through. Many people say ‘that’s just my nature’ or ‘I was born this way’ or even ‘this is just who I am’. That’s not good enough. Jesus demands more. Jesus expects growth from our old selves.

Yes, Jesus takes us as we are but the true Christian will never stay that way. And that is more than just changing what we eat or what we wear. It is a real, true, character and attitude change. That is what Jesus is looking from you today.

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto

He Calls Him Friend

He Calls Him Friend
50 But Jesus said to him, “Friend, why have you come?” Then they came and laid hands on Jesus

and took Him.

Matthew 26:50

After what you can argue is the worse betrayal in history, especially done by a kiss as we mentioned last week, it is shocking to see how Jesus reacts. From one extreme to the other, we see hate combated with love.

Every word that Jesus ever spoke here on this earth was never just an accident or off the cuff. Being the Son of God and having to be on mission his entire life, Jesus always thought before he spoke. That is why his response is so amazing. As Judas betrays him, Jesus calls him friend.

There are people in this world that relish the comeback line. There are people who actually take time to practice and think of responses when they are insulted. Others angrily grumble, only thinking of a good response after the fact.

Jesus is completely different from those types of people. He knew exactly why Judas was there. He knew that he was being betrayed to his death and yet it didn’t change his heart or perception of Judas. Jesus still loved him. He still considered him a friend, until the very end.

How quickly we can lose or give up on friends. When someone wrongs us, especially someone close, he hurts very deeply. Make no mistake, Jesus felt that hurt. While we could easily reject and turn our back on someone like Judas in our lives, Jesus still embraces them in friendship.

Judas is never given a chance to respond to Jesus’ question, instead being taken by the guards and chained up. We know from the Bible that Judas was a broken man after this event. One has to wonder if Jesus’ words of love actually only added to his turmoil that ultimately led to his death. How strangely an evil heart can react to a loving one.

We are told to be like Christ. We are told to follow his example. Has your relationship with Christ and your transformation of character allowed you to go this far? Are you able to forgive and love a friend who has wronged you? If Jesus could call Judas friend, should we not also be able to do the same? May God help you in this work.

God bless,
Pr. Steven Couto

The Judas Kiss

The Judas Kiss

48 Now His betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the One; seize Him.” 49 Immediately he went up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed Him.

 Matthew 26:48-49

Hollywood couldn’t have done a more dramatic scene and in fact has copied this aspect of Jesus’ life in many films. Known as the kiss of death, it takes something that should be positive, heartfelt and loving and turns it into an act of betrayal, pain and death. What could have gotten into Judas’ heart to think of a kiss as a way to betray his master? Although not in the Bible, I would suggest it was Satan himself who put that in his heart. You can easily imagine a similar scene in heaven when Lucifer first began to doubt and question God. As his heart hardened and began to hate, how many times did he smile and show kindness to his God, while only wishing evil for him?

44 You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.

John 8:44

How painful must it been for Jesus to say these words. The Jews were his people, the very ones he protected, saved and deliveries from enemies. He loved them and blessed them like no other people on earth. But once he was standing in front of them, they not only rejected him, but also planned his death. That is why his words are truth.

When we are born in this world, we really are sons of the devil, born in sin and enemies of God. But God works with all his strength to adopt us into his family. He tries everything to make us sons of God.

If we don’t bend and allow God to enter, we remain children of the devil and act out his evil wishes. How many times have we given a Judas kiss in this world? How many times have we betrayed Christ for earthly gain or pleasure? When we do, we are puppets of the devil and reenact all the things he would like to do himself to God.

May we chose to not be imprisoned by the deadly ruler of this current place! We have a deliverer who can free us from this sinful bondage. Let us give our hearts to God and live a life that praises him and honors him. May we kiss his check, not in a sign of death but with eternal gratitude and love.

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto

Hey Judas

Hey Judas

47 And while He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, with a great multitude with swords and clubs, came from the chief priests and elders of the people.

 Matthew 26:47

Next to the Devil himself, no one person is more hated in Christianity than Judas. He lived with Jesus for three years. He saw all the miracles at his hands. He was entrusted with the money purse, respected by the others and still he did what he did. It’s amazing how closely he models after Lucifer in heaven.

What could drive Judas to do such a thing? Many theologians have speculated. Some say he was always a wolf in sheep’s clothing, connected to the devil and just waiting for the right moment to pounce out for the kill. Once the work was done, as always the devil distanced himself and made Judas feel like the empty, foolish man he was- leading him to cry in despair and kill himself.

Others claim the very opposite. Some say he was a loyal believer in Jesus, though only in the traditional Jewish view. He wanted to see Jesus take his place on the throne. He wanted to be there with him at his right hand. When Jesus apparently delayed himself from the crown, or even hid away in some cases, Judas put it in his heart, “I will be the savior and force Jesus to take his place.” By trapping Jesus in a corner, Judas believed that Jesus would be forced to use his miraculous powers to save himself and finally take the throne. When Jesus, once again, refused to fight for his right, Judas realized that he had made a huge mistake and with a bitter heart hung himself.

You can study for yourself and try and see what was in Judas’ heart but in the end it is a great warning for us. If a man, who lived with Jesus, saw his miracles and knew his sermons could so dramatically reject and even attack Jesus- what is possible with us?

How careful should we be with our own connection and relationship with our Lord? Could we also give the kiss of death to Jesus? God forbid but let us work even the more to have a loving and true relationship with him.

 

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto

God Accepts Our Limitations

God Accepts Our Limitations

42 Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.” 43 And He came and found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy. 44 So He left them, went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. 45 Then He came to His disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise, let us be going. See, My betrayer is at hand.”

 Matthew 26:40

How confused must the disciples have been, waking up to Jesus saying that he was being betrayed into the hands of sinners? How low their spirits must have been when they saw the reality happening right before their eyes- Judas among them.

How much did they regret closing their eyes and falling asleep? Perhaps we could have run away earlier if we had been awake! Perhaps we could have prepared to fight back if we hadn’t closed our eyes! What kind of statements ran through their heads?

How many times do we regret our decisions? How many times do we look back and put our face into our hands with shame? What would we change given the chance?

What I love about this story is that Jesus isn’t angry. He doesn’t curse them or speak down to them. He simply sees the truth in the situation- their eyes were heavy. He knows our limitations having lived in our frail bodies. He knows that we carry regret and pain inside of ourselves because we too often fail.

Jesus loves us anyways. He wakes us up and stand s beside us anyways. The one thing you can be certain about is that Jesus regrets none of his decision. Jesus faced the cross, carried it and died on it and would do it again if given the chance. Although his fear and humanity shone out while he prayed to his Father, it never overtook him.

Jesus knew what he was getting into and went ahead because of us. We may fail but he never will. Even with our limitations, Jesus proudly stands beside us.

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto

Can You Not Pray With Me?

Can You Not Pray With Me?

40 Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour?

 Matthew 26:40

It is amazing how much humanity tends to fail in the presence of God. Out of every tree in Eden, we only had to not eat from one. That was our first test. Seemed easy enough and yet we failed miserably. The world’s first brothers ends up in murder of one. Out of an entire planet only 8 are saved in the flood. God blessed an entire nation in a dessert with food, water, shelter, warmth and purpose and yet an entire generation died, minus a handful, before entering the Promised Land. The twelve tribes surrounded by enemies couldn’t still help but fight each other. The Israel Kingdom was broken up by the fourth king generation. And we could go on but instead let’s look at our verse.

All the disciples had to do was stay awake and pray. The Bible makes it very clear that they could see the anguish in Jesus. They could see that he needed them for the first time instead of them needing him. He had always been there for them. He calmed the sea. He fed the multitude. He raised the dead. He was always there but when he needed us- we went to sleep.

If Jesus was to ask us this same question, could we do it. Could we stay up an entire night and just pray silently among ourselves?

41 Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Matthew 26:41

Thank goodness that Jesus knows our weaknesses. He knows that we may even desire to do something in our hearts but our flesh just is too corrupted by sin to accomplish even the simplest of goals. But does that mean we are doomed to always be failures in God’s eyes?

Let’s look at the disciples again. They failed miserably many times while with Jesus but everything changed when they received the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Cowards became stalwarts, liars became truth preachers. It’s not that became perfect, they still had there falls, but now they did have the same power that Jesus himself had. He gave us what carried him.

We too can have this Holy Spirit and grow. We don’t have to be disappointments.

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto