Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him “Are you the king of the Jews?”
“Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied.
When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer …
(Pilate) knew it was out of envy that they had handed Jesus over to him …
But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified. (verses 11-12, 18, 26)
There are two details in this passage that we don’t discover from any of the other Gospel accounts.
The first is the urgent message Pilate received from his wife in the midst of his deliberations over Jesus’ fate. “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him” (verse 19).
No more detail is given, but clearly the Sovereign Lord gave Pilate’s wife an insight into this case that went beyond the very human sphere in which her husband, Pilate, was already operating. Intriguingly, her insight confirms Pilate’s own conclusion – he realized Jesus was innocent. Matthew tells us that “he knew it was out of envy that (the chief priests and elders) had handed Jesus over to him.” The dream should have given Pilate extra impetus to release Jesus from custody. But it wasn’t enough.
The suffering she encountered in the dream had given Pilate’s wife a glimpse into the utter horror of the spiritual reality that the Creator of life himself was about to be sentenced to death.
Meanwhile, Pilate was experiencing his own degree of suffering. He was hopelessly caught in the crosshairs of human and spiritual conflict. He needed to maintain control of a volatile situation, while struggling with the knowledge that he was being played by the religious leaders for their own purposes. Having tried and failed with one ploy, namely offering Barabbas instead of Jesus, he was trapped when the crowd relentlessly called for Jesus to be crucified.
“Crucify him! Crucify him!” The words, shouted louder and louder, mercilessly pulled Pilate further and further from his wife’s urgent plea.
Trying to salvage what he could, he took a basin of water, plunged in his hands, and washed them publicly before the whole crowd, declaring, “I am innocent of this man’s blood.” As if such dramatically orchestrated words could relieve him of his guilt and complicity. It is Matthew alone, among all the Gospel writers, who gives us this iconic detail.
Pilate’s wife – dreadfully dreaming. Pilate himself – frantically washing. Meanwhile, religious leaders are jealously scheming and the crowd is carelessly carried in their wake.
The complexities and weaknesses of humanity are rife in this scene, while the Son of God readies himself to be a ransom for many.
Dear Lord Jesus, you are the King of all, the Lord of life. Praise you for enduring such hostility by sinners against yourself. You provided a ransom for me. Thank you. Praise your name.
Reflect: Jesus carried your own weaknesses and failings when he went to the cross. Put into his hands again any that are pressing on your now.
Picture: Antonio Ciseri - http://www.most-famous-paintings.org/Ecce-Homo-large.html