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Listening to Well-Timed Words of Warning

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Dark shadows had fallen over Jerusalem. A lone figure knelt, weeping, agonizing in prayer, as eleven men slumbered nearby. While Jerusalem slept, the Lord Jesus endured anguish in the darkness of Gethsemane. But He did not suffer alone that night.

Listening to Well-Timed Warnings

(Photo: The Citadel served as the residence of Pilate and his wife. Courtesy of Pictorial Library of Bible Lands.)

On the other side of Jerusalem in the luxuriant palace of the governor—perhaps even during the hours of Jesus’s agony in the garden—another figure writhed in agony.

The content of her nightmare was about Jesus. It caused her to arrive at a firm conclusion.

The Providential Presence of Pilate’s Wife

Twelve years earlier the Roman Senate debated a proposal that no wife could accompany a provincial magistrate in his duty.

Had the senate not defeated that proposition, Pontius Pilate’s wife would not have been present to warn him of Jesus’s innocence—a verdict she deduced from her dream (Matthew 27:19).

  • Tradition records her name as Claudia Procula, and the Eastern church even considers her a saint.
  • Although we have no evidence that she converted to Christianity, it is fascinating that the other five dreams recorded in Matthew were divinely inspired to those who worshipped God—and several of the dreams served as words of warning.

After conducting three illegal trials, the religious leaders dragged Jesus to the Praetorium, the residence of Pontius Pilate and his wife.

The Dream that Gave Pilate Words of Warning

Following an initial examination, Pilate told the Jews he found no guilt in Jesus (John 18:38). Pilate then passed Jesus off to Herod Antipas for judgment, but Herod returned the prisoner with an implication of His innocence (Luke 23:13–14).

Sitting on his official judgment seat, Pilate gave the crowds the choice of which prisoner he would release to freedom—Jesus or the notorious Barabbas.

Just then, Pilate’s wife sent him the message:

Have nothing to do with that righteous Man; for last night I suffered greatly in a dream because of Him.— Matthew 27:19

"The Dream of Pilate's Wife," by Alphonse François

(Photo: “The Dream of Pilate’s Wife,” by Alphonse François. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

What timing! God affirmed the innocence of Jesus a number of times by Pilate’s own mouth. How his wife punctuated that verdict as her message reached him—and while he sat on his official judgment seat!

The gospels make it plain that Pilate recognized Jesus’ blamelessness. But for fear of jeopardizing his political favor—both with Rome and with the people—Pilate chose the more expedient route and condemned Christ to death.

Pilate flattened every fence erected to vindicate the innocence of Jesus—including the unusual nightmare and well-timed words of warning from his wife.

How foolish.

A Lesson in Listening to Well-Timed Words of Warning

In our lives, God often validates His will for our lives through a number of providentially planned circumstances.

  • A well-timed word
  • a surprising verdict
  • an unusual dream
  • the words of a spouse

These frequently work in concert with the Scriptures (never in contradiction) to affirm the truth that we should follow.

Tell me what you think: What helps you listen best to words of warning? To leave a comment, just click here.

Adapted from  Wayne Stiles, “Pilate’s Wife: A Well-Timed Warning,” in Women in the Life of Jesus (IFL Publishing House, 2011), page 52.

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