Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Pontius Pilate's Wife


Ecce Homo ("Behold the Man") by Antonio Ciseri
Matthew 27:19

Background:


After his betrayal by Judas Iscariot Jesus was brought before the Roman Governor of Jerusalem. Pilate questioned Jesus asking, "Art thou the King of the Jews?" to which Jesus answered,"Thou sayest." (Matt. 27: 11). Pilate marveled greatly at what Jesus told him and he told the Jews that he could find no fault with him. He offered to release Jesus to the people but instead the people chose to release the prisoner Barabbas (Matt. 27: 12-23). Pilate tells the Jews that he washes his hands of the matter, and allows them to condemn and crucify Jesus Christ (Matt. 27: 24).

Facts about her:
  • While her husband was sitting on the judgment seat before Jesus, trying to decide which prisoner to release back to the Jews, she sent him a message saying, "Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him" (Matt. 27:19);
  • After Pilate receives her message he washes his hands of the Jew decision to crucify Jesus, he tells them, "I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it." (Matt. 27:24);
  • She was a Roman citizen;
  • She was married to Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor of Jerusalem.
Speculations about her:
  • It is commonly believed that she became a Christan after the death of Jesus Christ.
  • Some people believe that she is the Claudia mentioned in 2 Timothy 4:21 where it says, ‘Eubulus, Pudens, Linus and Claudia send their greetings, and so all the other Christians’;
  • She is mentioned in the apocryphal Acts of Pilate (Gospel of Nicodemus, probably written around the middle of the 4th century);
  • Some theologians argue that her dream was an attempt by Satan to stop Christ from finishing the atonement.


My Thoughts:

There are two things that impress me about this woman's story:

1) Her ability to believe in and defend Jesus even though she had (probably) never seen or met Him.

I imagine that she must have heard about Jesus before, as He was quite the famous figure in Jerusalem, but it is not likely that she had ever had the chance to meet Him. Her testimony of His innocence and goodness was based solely off the revelation and dream she had been given by God, and by the testimonies she must have heard from others. With only these two testimonies she had the faith to do what many of Christ's apostles and closest disciples didn't do-- to stand up for Him and to bear witness of His goodness. Most of us are in a similar position as Pilate's Wife, because we will (probably) never see or meet Jesus Christ on this earth and yet we are asked to stand as witnesses for Him and to bear testimony of Him. The only way we can know for sure that Jesus is who He says He is, is to rely on the promptings and revelations we receive from God as well as listen to the testimonies of those who have seen Him (like the prophets and the scriptures). I personally find it hard sometimes to believe in someone I have never seen, and so I like this woman's story because her faith and her courage strengthen me and help me see that it isn't necessary to "see" or "meet" Jesus Christ to have a a sure knowledge of His divine mission and purpose.

2) Her courage to send a message to Pilate when he was sitting on the judgement seat

We don't know how much her message influenced Pilate's actions. Obviously it wasn't enough to be able to stop him from having the Jews crucify Christ, but it may have been the reason he "washes his hands" of the whole affair and declares to the Jews that they are crucifying a just and innocent man. It makes me wonder what type of relationship Pilate and his wife had. Could it have been that Pilate respected and admired his wife's judgement and intuition? Did her message help him see Jesus for who He really was? Did Pilate and his wife talk about Jesus and about her dream later on? If she did become a Christian later on, how did Pilate take that? Did he support her? Did he ever regret that he allowed Jesus to be crucified? Was she upset at him because he didn't do enough to stop the Jews? These are all questions I'd like to ask these two if I ever get to meet them. It would have been very unusual for a woman to send counsel to her husband, especially when he was was sitting on the judgement seat before all the noble Romans and high ranking Jews in an important and high profile case. It was really quite brave of her to send such a message and she must have felt that what she had to say was very important and very urgent. Yet, it is even more unusual that her husband seems to have listened to her. :)

What We Can Learn From Her:
  • God speaks to us through our dreams;
  • We need to have the courage to speak up for people we know are wrongly accused, even if that means sending our plea to highest authority in the land;
  • When we get promptings, thoughts, dreams or visions that we can't seem to stop thinking about or worrying about then we need to act on them;
  • We are can believe in and bear witness of Jesus Christ, even if we have never seen Him.
Questions:
  • I wonder what her dream was about and what it was that she had been suffering all day about? Could she have had a conversion experience, like that of Paul or Alma the Younger, that changed her soul?
  • Do you think that Pilate listened to her warning?
  • Would you have had the courage and faith to stand up for someones innocence on the basis of a dream or a prompting you had? Especially in the face of so much hostility and anger?

3 comments:

  1. My daughter is named after St. Claudia. I read your analysis of her and I find it very remarkable. Granted, not much is known about her life, but what you have speculated about her, demonstrates that she was full of true faith and conviction. St. Claudia is remembered in the Orthodox Church on October 27th and I found your blog while searching for an icon of St. Claudia. Thank you for your honest and passionate writings. They make me truly thankful that my daughter has such a powerful and loving saint watching over her.

    Sincerely,

    Naomi

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  2. I only found out about her on the movie The Passion by Mel Gibson. And like you I strongly believe she is a just woman. Really great insight of her.

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  3. I enjoyed your summary and perspective, thanks for sharing.

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