Last week we looked at Jewish servant girls who got caught up in the fight against Jesus. Today we look at Herod’s wife, a Roman first lady, who spoke out in support of Jesus.
All four gospels recount the events leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus. They each cover the hearing with the religious officials, who then brought Him to Pilate, the Roman governor. John provides the most detailed account of Pilate’s handling of Jesus’ case.
In John 18:28 we learn that early in the morning the religious leaders led Jesus to the Praetorium to be tried by Pilate. But though they brought Him there, they themselves did not enter the judgment hall because they wanted to enjoy the Passover and didn’t want to defile themselves.
Pilate comes out and asks, “What accusations do you bring against this Man?” They respond by saying if He weren’t an evildoer, they wouldn’t have bothered Pilate.
He tells them to deal with Him themselves according to their law, but they remind Pilate that they can’t put anyone to death.
Pilate calls Jesus to himself. He asks if He is indeed the King of Jews. Jesus asks if he’s asking for himself or did others tell him this about Jesus. Pilate points out that the Jews and the chief priests have brought Him to this place. What has He done to warrant this? Jesus explains that His kingdom is not of this world.
“Are you a king then?”
“You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”
Pilate asks Him what is truth, but before giving Him a chance to answer, he goes out again to the waiting Jews and tells them that he finds no fault in Jesus.
Giving them an opt-out from their pursuit to kill an innocent man, he reminds them of his Passover custom of releasing a condemned criminal. He asks if they’d like him to release the King of the Jews.
It’s at this point that Pilate’s wife enters the story. While Pilate is sitting in the judgment seat, he receives a note from his wife. Pilate reads the note.
“Have nothing to do with that just Man, for I have suffered many things today in a dream because of Him.” But the high priests have gone around and aroused the crowd, inciting them to plead for the release of Barabbas, a notorious criminal instead.
Pilate asks what they want him to do with Jesus.
“Why, what evil has He done?”
They keep repeating, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”
Feeling overwhelmed by the rising tumult, Pilate washes his hands in front of the multitude and tells them that he is innocent of the blood of this just man. And all the people answered and said, “His blood be on us and on our children.”
So Pilate released Barabbas. He then took Jesus and scourged Him. Soldiers placed a crown of thorns on His head and draped Him in a purple robe. They cried out “Hail, King of the Jews!” as they struck Him with their hands.
Pilate went back out to the people, presenting Jesus to them, again saying that he found no fault in Him. When the chief priests and officers saw Him, they called out, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”
Pilate told them to crucify Him themselves since he found no fault in Him.
The Jews answered, “We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.”
Pilate was in quite a situation. He was afraid and didn’t know how to respond. He pulled Jesus aside again and asked Jesus where He was from. Jesus didn’t answer. Pilate pointed out that he had the power to crucify Him or release Him. Jesus responded that any power Pilate had was given to him from above.
Pilate knew that Jesus was not a threat to the Roman empire. He wanted to release Jesus. But the Jews threatened him saying that if he released this man, that he would be an enemy of Caesar.
Defeated, Pilate presented Jesus to the people saying, “Behold your King!”
The crowd continued to shout out, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”
He asked, “Shall I crucify your King?”
The chief priests declared, “ We have no king but Ceasar!”
And with that, Pilate delivered Jesus to be crucified.
The Rest of the Story
Just one verse recorded by one gospel writer. That’s all the mention of this Roman wife of the governor of Judea.
What was in the dream she had? Why did it affect her so?
It would have been easy for Mrs. Pilate to roll over in bed and dismiss her dream as merely a nightmare. But she recognized it as a warning of what was to come. She wasted no time in alerting her husband, trying to protect him from doing something he would live to regret. Unfortunately, her husband lacked the courage to stand up to the angry mob.
Tradition has it that Pilate was later banished to the South of France where he killed himself. Perhaps the guilt of what he’d done was more than he could bear.
Mrs. Pilate, however, had the peace of recognizing who Jesus was and doing her part to stand by Him. Though the Bible doesn’t tell us what happened to her, the Greeks made a saint of her and many historians believe that she was an early Christian.
What a contrast we have between the religious leaders and Jewish multitude and the pagan ruler and his wife.
Did you notice how the religious leaders refused to enter the Praetorium because they didn’t want to be defiled for Passover? So, it was wrong to enter into a certain room or area, but perfectly acceptable to kill the Savior of the world.
Though they were Romans, it appears both Pilate and his wife recognized what many Jews failed to understand, that Jesus came to set up a heavenly kingdom, not an earthly one. The ruler and his wife may not have understood His mission, but they recognized that He was a righteous man who did not deserve to die.
We’ve all seen the impact of a mob mentality. It’s hard to stand up against the crowd, especially when the crowd leaders are those who should be in the right.
It’s easy for us to do nothing, to comfort ourselves with the vain idea that we’re helpless, that nothing we could do would ever make a difference. But even if it doesn’t change the course of history, it changes you.
Mrs. Pilate could live with herself because she knew she’d done the right thing.
What about you? Are you willing to step up and say something, even though it may look like your words will be in vain?
I challenge you today to spend time in prayer and Bible study so that you might best know the character of Jesus. Then when false teachers come along and spread lies, you will recognize them for what they are.
I encourage you to be bold in your witness, standing on the side of the Savior, whatever the risk might be.
Lord God, thank You for sending Your Son to this world so the He might die on the cross to save us from our sins. Speak to our hearts. Convict us with the truth. Open our eyes to the lies that are being spread about You. Give us courage to stand firm in our faith. Forgive us when we falter. We love You. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.
Tune in next week when we finally look at Mary Magdelene.
Backstory: Matthew 27:1-14; Mark 15:1-15; Luke 23:1-25; John 18:28-40; John 19:1-16
Her Story: Matthew 27:15-26
Bible Study Review
- Who brought Jesus to Pilate?
- What was the charge against Jesus?
- Why did Pilate’s wife send him a warning note?
Thoughts to Ponder
- Why did the religious leaders want to get rid of Jesus?
- Why didn’t Jesus respond to Pilate’s questioning?
- What might have happened if Pilate had refused to convict Jesus?
- When God speaks to you, do you listen?
- Do you act on your convictions?
- Are you willing to stand with Jesus no matter what?
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