Pontius Pilate’s wife had a dream. It was, it seems, a graphically powerful night vision about Jesus. It so startled her that she felt compelled to send word of it to her husband who was the Roman governor of Judea and Jerusalem.
The report of this comes to us in Matthew 27. What this woman saw in her sleep convinced her to warn Pilate that he should have “nothing to do with that just man.” She was something of a “still, small voice” of truth in the midst of the chaos.
“That Just Man” – that’s what she saw as she tossed and turned in her bedroom. Perhaps, news of Jesus had reached her somehow. What pictures flashed before her mind’s eye? Was it that of the Gentle Healer? Could she see Him speaking His words of comfort and life? Her tender conscience was a soft spot amid a taut and tense atmosphere.
Stuck in a Hard Place
At that moment, Pilate sat upon his judgment seat at Gabbatha, a courtyard floored with stone where he pronounced imperial decisions. His word was the final word on all that went on in the territory.
Pilate had ruled the region for a decade; it was a long assignment by Roman standards. And, by most accounts, it was not a pleasant post to hold. The opinions and passions running among the dominant Jewish population of the area were fragmented. Some resisted the Roman yoke; others cooperated with the administration; and some just tried to get by with their day-to-day lives.
Spasms of riot and violence came and went, and Pilate used whatever means necessary to maintain order. He and the Sanhedrin, the council of Jewish rulers, operated uneasily and contemptuously with each other.May we stand for Him, may we reveal the heart of “that Just Man.” Click To Tweet
“That Just Man” – did the words of his wife strike any cord of sympathy within Pilate? Could he hear them as Jesus stood silent before him?
He was baffled by the rush to judgment and the determination to have Jesus executed. The governor sensed the envy behind the actions of the Jewish priests and rulers toward Jesus. His words and His works had upset their well-contrived and comfortable world.
The Mob Rules
The fast and furious pace of events related to Jesus of Nazareth staggered Pilate. A raging spirit had infected the mob before Pilate. Their shouts of accusation grew fierce, but Jesus stood silent as the Lamb awaiting His slaughter.
Pressed to respond, Jesus finally admitted to the governor that He was King, but not King in the earthly sense. He told Pilate that His rule was over those committed to Truth and carried an authority from Heaven.
“That Just Man” stunned Pilate. Never before had one condemned said such things.
The words affected Pilate to some degree. He scrambled to keep Jesus alive. First, he sent him to Herod, a rival ruler whose authority extended to Nazareth, where Jesus was from. The scheme didn’t work as Herod and his charges mocked Jesus, robed Him in purple, and sent Him back to Pilate.
Next, Pilate gave Jesus over to be scourged. The soldiers slashed and pummeled the Savior with whips and fists. They spat upon Him and jammed a crown of sharp thorns atop His head.
“Behold, the man,” Pilate proclaimed as he put forth Jesus as something of a bloodied spectacle. Did the governor think that this would be enough to assuage the bloodlust of the mob?
He was wrong. The shouts to crucify only grew louder and angrier.
Tragic Words, Tragic Consequences
At last, the chief priests and leaders dropped their most devastating charge – this one leveled right at Pilate himself. Jesus claimed to be King. To ignore that claim meant that Pilate was “no friend of Caesar’s.”
Pilate’s will to fight for this “Just Man” collapsed at these words.
Jesus was brought out one last time, and Pilate said, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests responded and put an exclamation point on their disavowal of Jesus, saying, “We have no king but Caesar.”
Have more tragic words ever been spoken? Think of what has happened to Jerusalem, to its Temple, and to the Jewish people since this proclamation. The rejection of the true King of Israel was complete now and history books reveal what this has meant for God’s chosen people.
Pilate demonstrably washed his hands before the crowd and delivered “that Just Man” to the Cross.
Reveal the ‘Just’ Heart
What should this mean to us? Our culture grows ever more antagonistic toward the message of Jesus and to the truth contained in the Bible. Will we cave under the weight of opposition?
Pontius Pilate got a word of truth about Jesus from his wife. It wasn’t enough. He couldn’t summon the courage to honor even the civil code he was charged to uphold.
Let’s hold fast to the Word of God. With our words and our integrity, let’s honor Jesus. He has given us the Holy Spirit, who sheds His love abroad in our hearts.
The coming days are sure to present challenges for believers in the King of kings. May we stand for Him, may we reveal the heart of “that Just Man.”
The message — Alive: Calvary, Cowardice and Honor – preached by Thomas Schaller of Greater Grace Church in Baltimore sheds more light on this part of the story of Jesus.
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