Small Matters Part 9: “Pilate’s Wife”
Today marks number nine of our twelve-part sermon series entitled “Small Matters.” During this series we have studied and learned about “little known” or “obscure” characters in the Bible who give us an opportunity to realize that God doesn’t waste any detail. These characters provide an incredible opportunity to learn from God’s wisdom in exacting His plan for us.
This week, our character is introduced and quoted in only verse in the Bible. And her words echo throughout eternity. Throughout time and history, in various writings, this lady has been referred to as Claudia Procula or Claudia Procles. She – was Pontius Pilate’s wife. Pontius Pilate often referred to as just “Pilate,” was the man responsible for the official sentencing of Jesus to death on the cross.
Matthew 27:19 - Just then, as Pilate was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent him this message: “Leave that innocent man alone. I suffered through a terrible nightmare about him last night.”
How incredible is this one verse? Let’s set the stage by reading the context…
Matthew 27:11-26 - 11 Now Jesus was standing before Pilate, the Roman governor. “Are you the king of the Jews?” the governor asked him. Jesus replied, “You have said it.”
12 But when the leading priests and the elders made their accusations against him, Jesus remained silent. 13 “Don’t you hear all these charges they are bringing against you?” Pilate demanded. 14 But Jesus made no response to any of the charges, much to the governor’s surprise. 15 Now it was the governor’s custom each year during the Passover celebration to release one prisoner to the crowd—anyone they wanted.16 This year there was a notorious prisoner, a man named Barabbas. 17 As the crowds gathered before Pilate’s house that morning, he asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you—Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” 18 (He knew very well that the religious leaders had arrested Jesus out of envy.) 19 Just then, as Pilate was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent him this message: “Leave that innocent man alone. I suffered through a terrible nightmare about him last night.” 20 Meanwhile, the leading priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas to be released and for Jesus to be put to death. 21 So the governor asked again, “Which of these two do you want me to release to you?” The crowd shouted back, “Barabbas!” 22 Pilate responded, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” They shouted back, “Crucify him!” 23 “Why?” Pilate demanded. “What crime has he committed?” But the mob roared even louder, “Crucify him!” 24 Pilate saw that he wasn’t getting anywhere and that a riot was developing. So he sent for a bowl of water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. The responsibility is yours!” 25 And all the people yelled back, “We will take responsibility for his death—we and our children!”[b] 26 So Pilate released Barabbas to them. He ordered Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip, then turned him over to the Roman soldiers to be crucified.
Pilate was a powerful man – but he was a coward.
Pilate had worked the system, worked long and hard to get to where he was – and he hadn’t necessarily gotten to where he was by honesty and integrity – and he was certainly an expert at passing the buck. Washing his hands of the whole issue certainly shows his true fear of the consequences of doing his job.
Pilate had the power to pardon Jesus, or, condemn him to death. The loudest voices in his ear were those convincing him to sentence Jesus to death by crucifixion.
There are many lessons to be learned from this very fascination situation. However, I want to zero in on one of them this morning. It concerns the subject of “listening.”
God can speak to us through His Word, through others, in our minds, in our thoughts and yes, even in our dreams.
In this instance, God spoke very clearly to Claudia Procula. It happened to be in a dream, but the message from God was so strong that Procula put her life on the line to get this message to her husband while he was in the middle of one of the most crucial times in his rule. She disregarded her own safety and possibility of rejection and mistreatment by her husband or his guards.
Claudia Procula could have ignored the message of the dream – it would have been easier. But she stepped up courageously because she cared about her husband.
Question #1: “When God speaks to you, do you listen and act accordingly?”
John 8:47 - “Anyone who belongs to God listens gladly to the words of God. But you don’t listen because you don’t belong to God.”
Proverbs 2:1-5 – “My child, listen to what I say, and treasure my commands. 2 Tune your ears to wisdom and concentrate on understanding. 3 Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding. 4 Search for them as you would for silver; seek them like hidden treasures. 5 Then you will understand what it means to fear the Lord, and you will gain knowledge of God.”
Question #2: “When you are about to yield to a temptation to do the wrong thing, do you consider your relationship to Christ in your decision?”
Claudia Procula proclaimed the message from God (the truth) to her husband, Pilate. Her message reached Pilate just as he sat down on the judgement seat to make his decision. It was at that point that Pilate could have used further truth to make the right decision, albeit against strong “mob” opinion. Pilate had already made a judgement in his own mind that he found Jesus to be “not guilty.” Added to that now, came the words from a panic-stricken wife sent with a direct message from God.
What happens when you are tempted? Do you seek and listen for wisdom from God? It was promised it would come.
I Corinthians 10:13 (NLT) – “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.”
My friends – God’s timing is perfect. Just as He sent Christ “at just the right time (When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Romans 5:6) Just like He sent us a Savior, He stands ready to speak at the very moment of decision.
As part of history and based on the Biblical account, not only did Pilate ignore his own conscience and the words from God delivered through his wife, he passed the buck, issued a death sentence upon an innocent man AND pardoned a hardened criminal – a murderer named Barabbas.
What will you do when faced with a temptation or a direction from God? Will you follow his directives? Or will you find yourself making a decision that could have huge ramifications?
Proverbs 14:12 (NIV) – “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.”
Pilate took the easy way out in spite of Claudia Procula’s warning. Even though this all had to happen for God’s plan to be realized, Pilate still knuckled to public pressure and caved in.
Will you knuckle to public pressure, to pleasure, to popular opinion among your family or peers? Or… will you listen for the voice of God? He is there specifically for you.
Pilate’s wife heard from God and she acted!
What ever happened to Claudia Procula?
There are many stories and speculations. It is believed by some that she became a Christ-follower or maybe even was before (secretly) before the crucifixion. Many believe she was executed for her faith in Christ, as a martyr. In the Passion of the Christ, Claudia Procula gives Mary linens to wipe up the blood of Christ. Wow! What does Claudia Procula’s bold move to get the message of God to her husband say to you about listening to God?