Matthew 27:19

While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him.”

This is a detail unique to Matthew. No other gospel says anything about Pilate’s wife. In fact, to the best of my knowledge, there is no historical record or description of Mrs. Pilate either (although later Christian tradition assumed she became a Christian, gave her a name – Claudia Procula – and eventually declared her saint).

Not only that, but it’s such an odd detail. In the middle of his time with Jesus, as he weighs the fate of two men on the scales of Roman justice, Pilate receives word from his wife that she didn’t sleep well. (He probably knew that, of course. Or perhaps he’s the kind of guy that sleeps so deeply he hardly notices if his wife is troubled.) Not only that, but she has been burdened all day by the memory of that dream. (That’s assuming she dreamt at night; perhaps it was while napping during the day. We don’t really know what the duties of the procurator’s wife might have been.)

In any event, burdened by her dream, Pilate’s wife notifies her husband – really, warns him – to have nothing to do with Jesus. Except she doesn’t call him Jesus, but rather “that man.” And not just “that man,” but “that innocent man.”

So there it is: Pilate now has two reasons to use the power entrusted to him to release Jesus. He himself suspects that the religious authorities brought Jesus before him out of jealousy, and now his wife shares her troubling dream and also perceives and names him as innocent.

It’s an odd detail, but it does rather stack the deck in Jesus’ favor – or at least it should – in Pilate’s eyes. So what, Matthew wants us to wonder, will Pilate do?

Prayer: Dear God, when we see the right thing to do, grant us the courage to do it. In Jesus’ name, Amen.


Post image: “The Message of Pilate’s Wife,” by James Tissot (between 1886-94)