Summary: Matthew includes the story of Pilate’s wife’s dream to reinforce in our minds the innocence of our Savior.
Lord, you have given the Bible to be the revelation of your great love for us, and of your power and will to save us. Grant that our study of it might not be made in vain by the callousness or carelessness of our hearts, but that we might wisely hear your words, note, learn, and inwardly digest them, so that we might become mature, convinced, and convincing followers of Christ Jesus. Amen.
“Just then, as Pilate was sitting in the judgment seat, his wife sent him this message: ‘Leave that innocent man alone, because I had a terrible nightmare about him last night.’”
As many times as I’ve read through Matthew I’ve never really given much attention to this little cameo appearance of Mrs. Pilate.
It’s just never really impinged upon my conciousness – until this week.
So I started doing a little research on Matthew 27:19 and I found that most commentators pretty much gloss over it. And in my Internet search through the sermon archives I couldn’t find a single sermon preached on it.
I searched through the Early Church fathers and again found but a few passing references.
I’m not saying no one has ever preached on this passage – just that it doesn’t happen very often.
Now, of course, it’s not that big of a verse and certainly the flow of the story doesn’t pivot on it.
But that makes me wonder, why did Matthew include it in his gospel in the first place? None of the other gospel writers tell us about Pilate’s wife’s dream and her message asking her husband to spare Jesus.
Why is that this verse is here? And what is God saying to us through it?
I started putting together some possible explanations.
The first of which is this. MATTHEW INCLUDED THE ACCOUNT OF MRS PILATE TO PROVE THAT MEN SHOULD LISTEN TO THEIR WIVES.
If Pilate had released Jesus, as his wife requested, his place in history would be completely different. But he only listens half-way. When she says to him “Have nothing to do with him he is innocent,” what does Pilate do?
He releases the criminal Barabbas instead. And then he washes his hands before the crowd, as a sign that he is innocent of Jesus’ blood. He bows to the pressure of the crowd and turns Jesus over for execution.
Out of one side of his mouth he says – “I’m innocent. I’ve got nothing to do with this.”
But out of the other side, he being the only man who could sign the death warrant, does so.
Pilate is a slime-ball. We know that from many other sources, too. His cruelty and political shenanigans eventually leads to his recall to Rome – where he commits suicide under suspicious circumstances.
But it would have all been different if he had listened to his wife.
By the way, have you noticed how often the women do the right thing in the New Testament and their men are buffoonish?
Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, has no trouble with her old age pregnancy but her husband Zechariah can’t believe the angel who is telling him about it. And he becomes temporarily mute.
At the crucifixion of Jesus the disciples scatter and abandon him but the women hang tight at the foot of the cross.
The words of faith and insight often roll off the lips of women in the New Testament. And such is the case here with Pilate’s wife.
If only he had listened to her.
Now, having said all that, I really don’t think that, at least here in Matthew 27, the gospel writer is extolling the virtues of wise wives. It might be true that men should listen to their wives but that doesn’t fit well into the flow of the story here.
Another possibility is that MATTHEW INCLUDED THE ACCOUNT TO SHOW THAT WE SHOULD PAY ATTENTION TO OUR DREAMS.
And Mrs. Pilate had a dozy of a nightmare. She ays: “I have suffered much today because of him.”
This wasn’t one of those dreams where you wake up, get a drink of water, crawl back into bed and forget it. “I have suffered much...”
In the ancient world people often received divine messages in their dreams.
Job 33:14-18 says–“But God speaks again and again, though people do not recognize it. He speaks in dreams, in visions of the night when deep sleep falls on people as they lie in bed. He whispers in their ear and terrifies them with his warning. He causes them to change their minds; he keeps them from pride. He keeps them from the grave, from crossing over the river of death.”
In Matthew 1, Joseph the fiancé of the Virgin Mary, has a dream where an angel tells him about the baby.