The Dream of Pilate’s Wife

19 While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent him a message, saying, “Have nothing to do with that righteous Man; for last night I suffered greatly in a dream because of Him.” 
20 But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to put Jesus to death.
Matthew 27:19-20

Pontius Pilate was the fifth Roman governor of Judaea, serving under Emperor Tiberius. He presided over the trial of Jesus and ordered His crucifixion. Matthew tells us that Jesus’s silence before the charges at His trial “amazed” Pilate (Matt. 27:14). Jesus’s responses were not what Pilate expected. They were strange. Don’t you know how many things you are accused of, Jesus? Why are you so quiet?

We who read the Bible know that Jesus’s refusal to answer His accusers was in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. The prophet Isaiah prepares us, saying,

He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He did not open His mouth;
Like a lamb that is led to slaughter,
And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,
So He did not open His mouth.
Isaiah 53:7

But there is more to say here. Because though Jesus did not open His mouth, though He did not revile His revilers (1 Peter 2:21-25), God was not silent. Indeed, God spoke! Not in the way Pilate expected, not using the wisdom of the world, but rather its foolishness (Luke 22:77-71, 1 Corinthians 3:19)! As Matthew tells us, God warned Pilate using His own means, through the dreams of Pilate’s wife.

The Dream of Pilate’s Wife (ca. 1879), engraving by Alphonse François, after Gustave Doré

But see how Pilate responds, in Matthew’s text above. Though he has doubts, though even “that fox” Herod can find no guilt in Jesus (Luke 13:32, Luke 23:1-25), see who convinces Pilate and the angry crowd. Not the woman and her dream, not even the life and ministry of Jesus, but the high and mighty men and their crafty arguments.

I do wonder how Matthew came about this detail of Pilate’s wife. I can’t help but wonder if she became a follower of Christ, if perhaps she became one of the “many women” who looked on from a distance as the Son of God was crucified at Calvary. Perhaps this is how Matthew was able to record her brief story. The text does not tell us what became of her.

But on this Good Friday, on this coming Easter Sunday, the presence of Pilate’s wife and her dream in the text remind us of the wonderful wisdom of God, who calls to us in the mysterious language of heaven, in ways our minds and mouths cannot fully explain. And through His magnificent means, He puts the wisdom of the world to shame.

For since in the wisdom of God 
the world through its wisdom did not come to know God,
God was well-pleased
through the foolishness of the message preached
to save those who believe.
1 Corinthians 1:21

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