By Pastor Glenn Pease
Is there a man alive whose wife has never said, "You should have listened to me?" The pages of history are red with the blood of men who should have listened to their wives. Calpurnia pleaded with Caesar on that fatal Ides of March not to leave the house. She had a restless night, and three times she cried out in her dream for help. It was a sign to her, and she urged her stubborn husband to heed her warning. But Caesar was not about to join that pathetic minority who give credence to the silly feelings of their wives. He would rather die than admit a woman's intuition had any validity, and so he went out for the last time and died.
In our text we are looking at another Roman leader who was equally heedless of his wife's warning. Claudia Procula was her name, and she was the wife of Pilate. She was the only person who came to the defense of Jesus while he was on trial. Jesus would not defend Himself, but Claudia had a dream about Jesus, and she sent word to her husband not to have anything to do with this innocent man.
In typical macho fashion Pilate ignored the message and made the biggest blunder of his life. He sent Jesus to the cross. Because he did not listen to his wife he has been despised all through history on a level next to Judas. Jesus would have died anyway, for it was His plan to do so, and the Jewish leaders would have defied Pilate. Nevertheless, by listening to his wife he could have become a noble hero. There could have been St. Pilate churches all through history, and Pilate could have become a popular Christian name. But Pilate blew it because he would not listen to his wife.
Her lone voice said to Pilate, He is innocent, and it is wrong to condemn an innocent man. Don't do it. But the loud voice of the mob mobilized by the enemies of Jesus cried out for His blood. Who do you listen to-a mere wife or mean crowd? The majority of men in Pilate's sandals would probably make the same choice. What does a woman know about the ways of the world and political maneuvering? Am I supposed to make major judgments based on her dreams? Nonsense! I have to deal with political realities, and this clamoring crowd is no dream. These people are out for blood, and if I don't give it to them it may be mine they will be after. I know the man is innocent, and nothing He has done is worthy of death. Yet what is to be gained by sparing one innocent man and making a mass of people mad at you. Better one innocent man dies unjustly than risk many being hurt or killed in a riot.
Pilate did resist the injustice before him. He tried to get Jesus released, but they choose Barabbas instead. He did wash his hands of the whole ordeal and say I am innocent of this man's blood. But in the final analysis he refused to listen to his wife, and handed Jesus over to be crucified. He is now infamous for being the man who sent the Savior of the world to the cross.
From the beginning of the second century Christians have recited the Apostle Creed which begins, "I believe in God the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth and in Jesus Christ His Son who was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate." Caesar only died because he did not listen to his wife. Pilate lives forever in infamy because he did not listen to his wife. It is high risk to ignore your wife. If this verse tells us nothing else, it tells us that a wife may have insight that a husband lacks, and, therefore, it is wise to listen to her.
This dream Claudia had spoke to her, and she made it clear to Pilate, but he did not listen. It speaks to us also and we are wise if we give heed. This dream did not come to Pilate himself, but came through his wife. God could have just as easily had Pilate dream the dream, but He did not do so. He gave the dream to Claudia, and she, because she was a loving and concerned wife, sent the message of it to her husband. God makes it clear that we do not get all truth and guidance directly. Often we get it through others who love us and want God's best for us. It is a terrible pride that keeps men from listening to their wives or others who care about them. If God wants to tell us something a man thinks, he can talk to me directly, and not go through my wife, mother,grandmother, or any other person in my life.
Claudia obviously loved her stubborn husband or she would not have sent him the warning. But Pilate was not open to advice and guidance from such a source. Woe to the man who will not listen to the dreams of others as possible guidance for him.
He would not go to school
Where the teacher was his wife.
Thus, he became a fool,
And missed his greatest chance in life.
Pilate did not pay any attention to the dream, and the fact is, most people pay it no attention, but we want to focus on it, for it was the only positive note in the journey of Christ to the cross. Harold Bell Wright in, The 13 Truly Great Things Of Life says, "Of the 13 truly great things of life, dreams are first." He goes on to say that what many of us become begins with our dreams. This is certainly true for Pilate's wife. She would have been a famous lady of her day, but her lasting fame for all time was due to this dream she had that put her into God's revelation.
It is a mystery why God allowed the record of her dream to be recorded by Matthew. It almost seems totally irrelevant, for Pilate does not seem to have been impressed, and as far as we know it had no effect on the outcome of the trial of Jesus. We would not expect it to prevent the cross, for that was the goal of Jesus. He would not inspire a dream to prevent His own goal. The seeming irrelevance of the dream is what lead Martin Luther to the conviction that the dream must have been inspired by Satan as a last ditch effort to stop Jesus from going to the cross. The evidence will not support such a conviction.
Pilate already knew that the Jewish leaders had handed Jesus over out of envy. He was working for the release of Jesus, but gave in to the persistent demands of the Jewish leaders and their rabble-rousers. The dream of his wife only confirmed what he already knew, but it did not altar the outcome because of the bitter hatred of the leaders of Israel. The point is, whether God or Satan inspired the dream, it does not seem to have had any measurable impact on the situation for good or evil.
So why is it here? For one answer we can look at Matthew's interest in dreams. He is the dream collector of the New Testament. The word for dream here is ONAR, and it is used just six times in the New Testament, and all six come from the pen of Matthew. If not for Matthew's interest in dreams we would have none of the four references to the dreams of Joseph by which he was guided to receive the baby Jesus as virgin born, and by which he was led to flee to Egypt, and later to bring Jesus back to Israel. The wise men were also warned in a dream to flee from Herod. Five of the six dreams deal with the birth and childhood of Jesus. Only the dream of Pilate's wife deals with the other end of his life-his trial and death.
What are we to make of these facts?
1. It is the only dream in the Bible of a woman.
2. It is the only dream concerning the end of Christ's life.
3. It was a disturbing dream that was more like a nightmare.
It is only speculation, but here is what Edwin Markam, the poet, felt Claudia's dream was all about. It appeared first in 1902 on the cover of an American magazine called Success. It is to long to share it all, but here is the essence of it.
Oh, let the Galilean go, strike off his cruel bond:
Behold the fathomless silence and those eyes that look
There's more than mortal in that face, -than earthly in this
The fate that now is in the bud will soon be in the flower.
O Pilate, I have suffered many things in dream today.
Because of this strange teacher of the strait and mystic way.
I saw Him hanging on a cross, where the stones of Golgoth
Then laid, at last, in a guarded tomb, under the evening star.
I saw him rise again one dawn and down a garden go,
Shining like great Apollo white, our god in the silver bow:
And then the wind of vision tore the veil of time apart,
And love of him ran greatening from camel-path to mart;
His story was a wonder on the eager lips of men,
The scourged Galilean walked the roads of earth again.
I saw Jerusalem go down before the wrath of spears,
And turn into a field of stones under the trampling years.
World-battles roared around this man, the world's myster-
But over the storm of the ages I could hear the seven stars
Rome crumpled and I heard a voice across the ruin laugh;
A power had risen on the world, shaking the thrones as chaff.
And down the ages ran your name, a byword and a jeer:
"He suffered under Pilate!" sounded ever in my ear.
The deeds of some are clean forgot, but yours did breathe
... ... and live;
Some are forgiven in the end, but none could you forgive.
It is, as I said, only speculation, but even the great Spurgeon agrees that it is likely Claudia saw in her dream the crucifixion. She states clearly that she suffered, and what could her suffering had been but the vision of this innocent man being crucified unjustly. Claudia would have been the first person to witness the crucifixion. It was in a dream, but it was very real. Spurgeon goes on to speculate that she may have also seen in her dream that this just man would one day be sitting on a great white throne judging the world. This man her husband was about to judge would be the judge of all men, and her husband was about to condemn the only man worthy to judge all men. Why else would she be so disturbed, and why would she rush her message to Pilate? It could not wait until he came home for he was making the most important decision of his life.
The second fact is that the dream is a valid channel by which God has communicated to both men and women. The dream is still a possible channel for God's guidance in our lives. It would be folly to suggest that all dreams have some significance, but it is equal folly to dismiss them as being irrelevant. The great scholar Dr. Benjamin B. Warfield of Princeton Seminary wrote in, Hasting's Dictionary Of Christ And The Gospels, an article on dreams. In it he makes this statement, "We surely can find no difficulty in recognizing the possibly and propriety of occasional Divine employment of dreams for the highest ends."
What he is saying is revelation by dreams is real but rare. We are not to look to dreams as a primary source of guidance. God gave us His word for that. But He may on occasion give us guidance through our dreams. Pilate's wife could have dismissed her dream as a meaningless nightmare, but she took it seriously and sent a message to her husband because of it. Was she a foolish woman to do so? Not at all. According to Christian tradition she became a believer because of her dream. So we learn it is not only wise to listen to our wives: It is wise to listen to our dreams, and recognize they may be conveying to us a message from God.
A. J. Gordon, the famous Baptist preacher and author of the late 19th century, had a dream that changed his whole ministry. He saw a stranger come into his church while he was preaching, and after the service the stranger just disappeared, but he knew it was Jesus. He realized that if Jesus was in his service he had to preach in such a way that his Lord would be pleased. He wrote, "It was a vision of the deepest reality. Apparently we are most awake to God when we are asleep to the world."
John Newton, author of Amazing Grace and many other great hymns, was a captain of a ship when he had a strange dream about a ring that was to keep him secure. But he was ridiculed for trusting in that ring, so he took it off and threw it into the sea. Then a stranger came and offered to dive to the depths and recover the ring. When he came up with it he did not give it back. He said, "I will keep it for you and be forever by your side." He knew it was Jesus, and when he awoke he left his life as a sea captain and became a pastor. He was one of the most famous pastor's in history, and it was a dream that changed his whole life.
History is full of such life changing dreams, and Pilate could have been a hero had he listened to the dream of his wife. Modern Jews have seriously considered having a retrial of Jesus and reversing Pilate's decision. There was so much that was illegal that the most mediocre lawyer could have secured the release of Jesus. The dream could have done it too. The dream was the only defense Jesus had, but it was enough if Pilate would have listened. He is innocent, he is faultless, stainless, and guiltless. God's plea for His Son was, "Not guilty!"
Claudia believed her dream and knew Jesus was being framed. Because she believed, she, the granddaughter of the Emperor Augustus, went on to become famous for the serving of Christ, while Pilate went on to become infamous for the suffering of Christ. The difference being, one believed and the other disbelieved the dream. Because Claudia gave heed to her dream she wrote part of the New Testament. It is only a sentence, but that one sentence is a powerful testimony. She is the only female who wrote part of the New Testament. No man spoke up for Jesus. Only one woman did, and she said He is just and righteous, and not worthy of the vile treatment He is getting. Without this one sentence coming from a woman's dream, there would have been not a single word of testimony in Christ's defense.
I really don't know what difference it makes, but God went out of His way to get this one testimony in His Sons defense. However irrelevant it may seem to us, it was important to God, and Pilate's wife was apparently the only mind God could use to accomplish this task. The mind of one woman was open to receive this revelation. That is why we need to listen to our wives. Sometimes they are the only ones listening to God. Let me share more illustrations of this reality.
David was about to act in anger and kill the fool Nabal for his refusal to help feed his men in an emergency situation. Abigail pleaded with him not to do this great evil. David listened to the voice of this woman who later became his wife. He calmed down, and got control of his emotions, and he realized she had saved him from folly. He said, "Blessed be thy advice and blessed be thou, which hast kept me this day from coming to shed blood.."
Abraham Lincoln listened to his wife Mary Todd when she refused to go to Oregon. This kept him in Illinois where the summons reached him to go to Washington where he became the President of the United States. Had she not intervened, G. Hall Todd says, "Lincoln might have known only the virtual oblivion of a Pacific coast outpost."
President Theodore Roosevelt once remarked that there had never been a time when he failed after listening to the intuitive suggestions of his wife. We don't want to give a false impression that wives are not fallen sinners, for they are. Job refused to listen to his wife when she urged him to curse God and die, and this was clearly God's will that he not listen to her. Wives are not the infallible voice of God. It is just that they can be a channel of God's wisdom when other channels are not open. Therefore, it is just practical wisdom to listen to your wife. She may not always be right or wise, but it is always wise to at least listen.