By Jaime Sherman
- Matthew 27:1-2, 11-13, 19, 24-25
- Mark 15:1-15
- Luke 23:1-16
- John 18:28-38, 19:1-16
In some religious traditions, Pontius Pilot’s wife is revered for trying albeit failing to save Jesus’ life. In a single verse from Matthew’s pen, we read the message she sent to her husband as he sat on the judgment seat with Jesus standing before him.
“Have nothing to do with that righteous man,” she said, “for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.”
The Jewish religious leaders had delivered Jesus over to Pilot, the Roman governor over Judea (26/27 A.D. to 36/37 A.D.), with the charge, “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, the king.”
They wanted the Romans to execute this perceived rabble-rouser, for they had no authority to carry out the act themselves. Pilot, perceiving that the religious leaders were envious of Jesus and considering his wife’s message, gave this man before him time to defend himself.
“What have you done?” Pilot asked.
Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”
Pilot asked Jesus whether He was King of the Jews.
“You say that I am a king,” Jesus replied. “For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world — to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”
Pilot said as if to himself, “What is truth?”
And he returned to the chief priests and the agitated crowd, declaring, “I find no guilt in this man.”
“He stirs up the people, teaching throughout Judea, from Galilee even to this place,” they shouted back. Pilot thought he had his out, and he sent Jesus to Herod, who had jurisdiction over Galilee and was at that time in Jerusalem. But Herod, too, found no guilt in Jesus.
Again before Pilot, the near-riotous crowd continued to shout, “Let him be crucified.”
Pilot felt their demands needed to be granted even though he wasn’t comfortable with the decision, especially after his wife’s message. So, before turning Jesus over to the soldiers, he made a show of washing his hands, saying he was innocent of shedding Jesus’ blood.
We wonder what the conversation between Pilot and his wife was like that night after Jesus was delivered over to be crucified. Was she angry that Pilot didn’t heed her message? Was she afraid of the repercussions of handing an innocent man his death penalty? Could it be that she came to trust in Jesus as her savior?
With no definite historical documentation and with only one verse in the Gospel accounts mentioning her, it’s a stretch to say with any degree of certainty that Pilot’s wife and even Pilot himself were instrumental in the early church, as some religious sects believe. But we can be certain of one thing from this Easter week account. God’s ultimate plan to allow Jesus to hang on a Roman cross to bear the iniquities of all men and women who would receive Him couldn’t be thwarted.
Take a few minutes to thank God for being sovereign over all people and governments. Even when a warning goes unheaded, we need not despair, for God is working all things out for His glory and our good.
For additional narratives in our Bystanders series, click here.