Open Your Bible
Matthew 27:11-26, James 2:19, Mark 1:14-15
BY Debbie Eaton
Have you ever had one of “those talks,” the kind where a family member or coworker or friend approaches you in such a way that your stomach knots up and you wonder what it is you’ve done wrong?
I remember a particular time my husband and I had talk like that. He explained that he had a stirring in his heart to warn me about a situation, and I did not respond well. In fact, I felt like putting my fingers in my ears and not listening to a word! Surely he’s wrong, I thought. But deep in my heart I knew he might be right. His words were hard for me and my people-pleasing tendencies to hear. Only later did the warning ring true, and I repented for dismissing it.
Having our ego challenged is not fun. We are sinners who struggle with pride, each in our own way, and we bristle at the call to change direction or admit our wrongs. As the messenger of such truths, do we risk speaking up or do we let it go? As the recipient, do we defend ourselves or repent? Do we believe truth when we see it, or do we discard it?
Pilate and his wife had a similar confrontation, and with eternal consequences.
We don’t know the name of Pilate’s wife or if she believed Jesus was who He claimed to be. We do know she was influential as the governor’s wife, and we can guess she must have sensed the pressure building around her husband as spiritual and emotional tensions ran high in Jerusalem on that Passover morning.
Pilate rose bright and early to hold the Roman trial for Jesus (Matt. 27:1-2). The religious leaders and the crowd were restless to condemn Jesus to death, their motives having moved from claims of religious blasphemy to fierce political jealousy. It was up to Pilate to judge the one called the Messiah, and we sense his hesitation in the early verses of this passage. Scripture says Pilate was “greatly amazed” by Jesus’ refusal to defend Himself against the testimony brought against Him (Matt. 27:14). He gave the people the option of releasing Jesus as the customary prisoner freed on Passover, but the crowd did not budge.
That’s when Pilate’s wife appears to deliver an important and urgent message. Pay close attention to the words she uses to describe Jesus:
“…while [Pilate] was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, ‘Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.’”
(Matt. 27:19, emphasis added)
It seems Pilate’s wife was beginning to believe. God stirred her spirit in a dream, and the experience of that dream was so significant that she interrupted her husband’s trial to plead with him to rethink his impending choice. God is not exclusive about whom He uses for Kingdom purposes.
We know the rest of the story. Pilate did not heed his wife’s warning, nor the stirring of his own spirit. He washed his hands of it all, and we don’t know what came of his wife after this important confrontation.
But we also know what Jesus did next. We know He died a criminal’s death for the sins of the very ones who sentenced Him—for the soldiers and the sinners (that’s you and me), and for Pilate and his wife. And because of that, the Gospel is true today.
Christ was crucified indeed, but death did not win. Jesus’ death and resurrection are our invitation into a Kingdom and life of grace and mercy. Pilate and his wife came face to face with truth Himself, and while we have hints that they may have believed, we know that believing is not the full call of the gospel. James 2:19 tells us that “even the demons believe—and shudder!” — but the call is to repent and believe (Mark 1:15).
Being confronted with truth is often inconvenient and sometimes confrontational. It requires a death of ego and self that is painful to us in our humanity. But ignoring the Truth is paramount to discarding it altogether. We cannot wash our hands of the gospel. The consequences are too great.
Friend, if your heart is being stirred today, consider it God’s invitation to you—to repent of your sins and walk into the open arms of Jesus. The Christ you have encountered is indeed the Messiah, and His love and grace are everlasting.