Pontius Pilate has always intrigued me. He was a political leader who was ruling the Jewish people who hated him and were being repressed by his regime. He was not one of them but was stuck with them. And, in the story we’re going to focus on today, he was met with an impossible decision—it truly was a no-win situation.
In Matthew 27, Pilate is forced to either give the people what they wanted and demanded (pardoning Barabbas), which he knew was wrong, or do the right thing (pardon Jesus) which would likely end up causing a revolt of some kind. He agonized over this decision, his moral compass pointing in the opposite direction of his political compass.
Pilate is believed to have worked closely with the religious elite during his tenure and did things to ingratiate himself to them. Even though he did awful and evil things to the Jewish people throughout his rule, he still retained support from those in power. And the decision he was making could make or break his relationship with them.
Enter Pilate’s wife who is just as mysterious and intriguing as her husband. There is only one mention of her, where she encourages her husband to take a specific course of action.
“While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.”” Matthew 27:19 (NIV)
Pilate’s wife urged him to do something that was in direct contrast to her comfort, security, and safety. She was willing to urge her husband to do the right thing, though it was the unpopular thing.
It’s so easy, when we read stories like this, to assume that we would’ve done the right thing. If we were in Pilate’s place, we would’ve released Jesus because he was innocent. If we were this woman, we would’ve urged our spouse, again and again, to do the right thing instead of the popular thing. But it’s much easier to say that we’re going to do the right things when we’re outside of the situation—it can be more difficult to make the right choice in the moment.
Probably none of us are holding the life of another person in our hands, but all of us make decisions every single day. Some of the decisions are easy, like which route to take to work or what we want to eat for lunch. Other decisions we wrestle over: to follow God into the unknown, to take the job, to leave the job, to break up with that person, to restore the relationship, the list goes on and on. So how do we make those tough choices?
In an age where peer pressure is overwhelming, it can be tempting to make a popular decision instead of a correct decision.
I hope that we will choose to be daring enough, like Pilate’s wife, to stand up for what’s right even when it goes against what’s popular or what is in our own best interest. I pray that we each will prayerfully seek the Lord as we weigh our choices and make decisions knowing that they can have lasting effects.
If we’re advising someone who is weighing a difficult decision, I hope we have the wisdom to speak truth to them even when it’s unpopular. And, if they go against our advice for whatever reason, I hope that we are able to continue to love and serve that person faithfully.
As with so many of these women we’ve been studying, I wish we could see what happened in Mrs. Pilate’s life after this moment in time. I wonder what her relationship with her husband was like after he went against her advice. How did she process through that? Was she hurt by his decision? Did she see it as a betrayal? And how did she move past those feelings? We will never know, but her actions help me look inside myself and examine how I make decisions and how I react to the decisions of others.
Pilate’s wife is a sweet reminder to me that obedience to what God has said is more important than what others do with the advice we give. For her, obedience was more important than being right, safe, or comfortable, a lifestyle I pray I will adopt a little more day by day.
Do you sometimes fall into the trap of peer pressure while making decisions?
How do you react when someone goes against sound advice?