Pilate’s Wife – Are We Responsible to Respond to God’s Warnings?
By Steph Nickel
Have you ever tried to do the right thing, but no one would listen to you? That’s exactly what Pilate’s wife tried to do!
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Matthew 27: 15-23 says, “Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, ‘Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?’ For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up. Besides, while he 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.’ Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. The governor again said to them, ‘Which of the two do you want me to release for you?’ And they said, ‘Barabbas.’ Pilate said to them, ‘Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?’ They all said, ‘Let him be crucified!’ And he said, ‘Why? What evil has he done?’ But they shouted all the more, ‘Let him be crucified!’” (ESV)
Have you ever had a dream that left you feeling frightened, sad, or anxious long after you forgot what the dream was actually about? The answer is likely yes. I would venture a guess that most of us have had a heaviness weigh us down for hours after having a particularly emotional dream.
Pilate’s wife “suffered much” because of her dream. She, however, didn’t forget what or who her dream was about.
Her husband was a powerful man and it seems as if she knew at least a little of what was unfolding. I can only begin to imagine how desperate she must have felt. She knew Jesus was a righteous man. She knew things would not go well if her husband was involved in His conviction and sentencing.
Pilate Didn’t Listen To His Wife
And yet, the next section of Matthew 27 is titled “Pilate Delivers Jesus to be Crucified.” It’s clear that Pilate didn’t take his wife’s warning seriously—at least not seriously enough. We know he tried to set Jesus free, that He found nothing in Him worthy of death. But we also know that Pilate didn’t fight for “that righteous man.” He didn’t use his position and authority to stand against the greatest injustice of all time. He wasn’t willing to count the cost of doing the right thing.
There was a time I thought differently about Pilate. After all, he did publically state that Jesus didn’t deserve the death sentence. He gave the people a choice he felt sure would go in Jesus’s favour. He offered to release either “The King of the Jews” or a dangerous criminal, Barabbas. He tried to be heard above their cries against Jesus. But that didn’t change the outcome.
Now we know that Jesus came to die in our place and to rise again. However, those involved were still held responsible for their actions—and that included Pilate.
What can we do when we know what’s right but come up against obstacles? How can we cope when thing still go wrong? How was Pilate’s wife just like us?
She was responsible to respond to the Lord’s warning—and so are we.
Recently our pastor mentioned at a staff meeting that he had been overcome with the fear of God and feels we, the evangelical church, have lost that fear.
Sometimes we’re quick to point to verses that assure us of God’s love and care for us. While these verses are true—and wonderful—we must remember just how truly awesome and awe-inspiring the Lord is. We must heed His warnings, knowing that He is our Saviour, our Friend, and our Judge.
There are so many truths in the Scriptures that seem contradictory but must be held in tension to get a right understanding of God.
Pilate’s wife could only do so much.
I don’t know for sure if there’s anything else she could have done to convince her husband to have nothing to do with Jesus’s conviction, but we know that her message was not half-hearted or vague. She sent him a message to have “nothing to do with this righteous man.”
Could she have gone in person? Could she have demanded an audience with him? Would he have listened if she’d done so?
My suspicion is that she did all she felt she could. There are likely many cultural reasons her options were limited.
We, however, must be careful not to make excuses. If there is more we can do in order to do what God commands, in His strength and guided by His Holy Spirit, we must seek to do all we can—even if we come up against what seem to be insurmountable obstacles.
Pilate’s wife had to accept that things don’t always work out. We all know this to be true in our own lives as well.
I wonder what it was like for this woman after she heard what had transpired and after Jesus was crucified. I wonder if she heard the story of His resurrection and became a believer or if she continued to “suffer much because of him.” I wonder if I’ll meet her when, by God’s infinite grace, He welcomes me home to heaven.
We must seek to do what we know to be right and leave the results in the Lord’s hands. There are some things—most things—we can’t control.
Just like Pilate’s wife, let’s speak up when we come across warnings from God. (We will find these as we study the Scriptures and develop a godly fear of the Lord.)
Steph Beth Nickel is a freelance writer and editor. She is the coauthor of Paralympian Deb Willows’ award-winning memoir, Living Beyond My Circumstances, published by Castle Quay Books.
Steph is a member of InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship and The Word Guild. She and her husband of over 30 years live in Southwestern Ontario, Canada.
Steph’s goal is to nurture and inspire. She blogs at Steph Nickel’s Eclectic Interests. She also guest posts regularly on the topics of Christian living, writing, and fitness. You can visit her website, stephbethnickel.com, to learn more about her.
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