Holy Week Meditations: Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Happy Holy Wednesday!! We're moving through Holy Week to the cross and the tomb and today we're looking at another minor character in the passion narrative, Pilate's wife - let's call her, Claudia

The Message of Pilate's Wife  by James Tissot

The Message of Pilate's Wife by James Tissot

Though Claudia appears in only one sentence of the narrative, I think it an interesting detail worth exploring! In Matthew 27:19 we find Pilate examining Jesus and ready to make his decision when he gets word from his wife. Some artists have taken liberty and depicted Claudia herself running to tell him although it seems like a messenger is the one who brings word. Either way, she's had a dream about Jesus, which is rather odd considering who she is and where she is from: she is a Roman citizen; probably a member of the equestrian class (not horses, but a step down from senate and ruling class); and the wife of the Governor. Let's have a look at the text:  

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.
— Matthew 27:19 (NRSV)

So perhaps it was a handwritten note that he receives. I wonder if it gave him pause. The next verse says that the chief priests and elders were growing impatient pressing him for a decision. I wonder if his ego shoved it aside - disregarded it - because Mrs. Pilate was unhappy with this post in po-dunk nowhere Judea. I wonder he wrote her off because she started having visions and dreams and his inflated sense of self thought it was not her place to influence his decisions. I wonder how she bore those private sufferings (after seeing into the heart of God's plans and Jesus' transforming love) as a loving wife, a dutiful Roman, and therefore a hopelessly trapped woman because of all of this.

Have you ever suffered a great deal because of dream? Many throughout scripture "suffered" or were bothered or had their lives interrupted because of dreams: Jacob dreams of a ladder; Joseph dreams and interprets Pharaoh's dreams in Egypt; Daniel dreams and interprets for the Babylonian King; Joseph dreams about danger from Herod and the holy family flees to Egypt; the wise men/magi dream and return home by a safer route; but these are just some highlights. The point is, God speaks to them (and us, I believe!) through dreams. I've heard it said that a reoccurring dream is the Holy Spirit telling us something but the message is not going through. After my father's death, I suffered a great deal because of reoccurring dreams - but I see them now as God comforting me and I am grateful for them. 

But back to the text and the narrative and Jesus who awaits verdict: given the nature of dreams in scripture, this is another instance of God breaking in and the veil between us being torn like the temple curtain later that day. Sam Wells points out that Claudia's use of the word "innocent" is worth noting. It spells grave consequences, morally, for Pilate that to condemn the wrong/innocent/righteous person could potentially weigh on his soul. It also gives power to Jesus as the Messiah and Son of God. His sinlessness, purity, and willingness to be a sacrificial lamb are affirmed through a gentile - an unlikely character (which, is par for the course with how God chooses to operate as often he speaks and uses the outsider, the seedy character, the seemingly unworthy to reveal his kingdom and will.)  

Questions for us today:

  • Recall a time when you were unable to trust someone close to you: how did it feel?
  • Have you ever been silenced? How did it feel? 
  • What is it like to sometimes NOT be able to talk about your faith, openly, publicly? 
  • When you first met Christ, who did you tell? How did they react? 
  • Do you remember dreams? If so, how might God be speaking through them? What message is not going through?