Sermon for Lent Two, Sunday March 8, 2020
Sermon for Lent Two – Sunday March 8, 2020 – Remarkable Event #2
Calvary/Marquette ● Soli Deo Gloria
Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father ad the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
Matthew 27:19–20 (NKJV)
19 While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent to him, saying, “Have nothing to do with that just Man, for I have suffered many things today in a dream because of Him.” 20 But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitudes that they should ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus.
In the Name of Jesus, the Christ,
Our righteous and holy substitute,
Our perfect and sufficient sacrifice,
Dear Fellow Redeemed in His Blood –
It must have seemed like a lull in the court proceedings at the time…but it was the turning point.
Jesus of Nazareth was delivered to Pontius Pilate very early in the morning on Good Friday. He must have expected something, since he had granted a detachment of troops to the Religious Leaders for the purpose of picking up a supposed criminal. When they brought the man to him, he was already bound and beaten. They were petulant when he asked the charge against Jesus that was worthy of death.
They accused Jesus of treason, of setting himself up as an earthly ruler in opposition to Caesar and Rome. They also accused him of encouraging tax evasion, a charge patently false.
Pontius Pilate didn’t ask Jesus’ view on taxes, no one liked paying them then, just like today. He would have been surprised had he asked. The governor asked Jesus a single question to begin with. He cut to the chase. He simply asked Him (Matthew 27:11):
“Are You the King of the Jews.”
Pilate was essentially asking, “Do you plead guilty to treason or not guilty?” Jesus had answered, “It is as you say.” When Pilate asked a follow up question, Jesus admitted, “My Kingdom is not of this world.”
So, no, Jesus had not committed treason or set himself up as an earthly king. Pilate didn’t understand Jesus’ Kingdom – many Christians today don’t – but he understood that He was no insurrectionist.
Pontius Pilate the Governor and appointed Judge declared Jesus to be innocent of their charges not once, not twice, but three different times (Luke 23:4,14, 22). Every time he declared Jesus innocent, there was an outcry. Pilate was afraid, it was the Passover and the city was overflowing with Jewish worshippers. The last thing he wanted was to foment rebellion. He tried to assuage their anger by suggesting that they judge him – but they wanted Jesus dead, and only Pilate had that power. He tried to pawn him off on Herod, but he sent him back.
Pontius Pilate tried one more time to make someone else decide the case for him. He offered the assembled crowd to choose between a notorious criminal and Jesus. He had already declared Jesus innocent, but he cast aside his own verdict for the majority rule. He put it to the crowd --
“Whom do you want me to release to you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?”
He gave them a moment to think it over.
It was during this lull in the proceedings that two things occurred…one of them is the second remarkable event of Holy Week, the Dream of the wife of Pontius Pilate. We consider what we are told of her dream and note that her conclusion was remarkably accurate…. but it was too little, too late for Jesus.
Let us pray:
Lord Jesus, you have promised to fill all those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (Matthew 5:6). But my old, sinful flesh constantly craves my own self-righteousness and the false righteousness that the devil and this world offer or the self-indulgence that cares little about what you say is right. If your righteousness does not feed my soul and cover over me, I will certainly starve in my sins and die eternally. Bless me with a heart that always seeks first your kingdom and righteousness (Matthew 6:3) and a faith that longs both for your salvation and for a life of obedience. Let my soul hunger and thirst only for you, because I do ‘not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4). In your name I pray. Amen.
I would guess that most – if not all of us – dream on a regular basis. We don’t choose to dream. We don’t choose what will be in our dreams. They just happen. When we reach deep sleep, our subconscious minds produce them. It’s difficult to say how long they last. They are at times a mishmash of different times and different places with different people who don’t go together. We, for good reason, place little stock in our dreams.
In most cases, we quickly forget our dreams. If asked a few minutes after breakfast, most of us would be unable to remember the people and the events that happened in our dreams.
The only time we remember them is when they are frightening or tragic. We call them nightmares and no one closes their eyes thinking, boy I hope I have a terrifying dream.
In the Bible there are a number of occasions where dreams are mentioned.
Genesis – the first book of the Bible is full of examples of dreams and in many cases their interpretation by God (Genesis 20:3-7, 28:12-15; 31:10-13, 24; 37:5-8, 37:9-10, 40:8-15, 16-19; 41:1-4).
Matthew – the book in which we find our sermon text, also mentions a number of dreams and the messages that God revealed through them.
The Magi, who came looking for the child Jesus, were warned by God – in a dream - not to return to Herod the Great and reveal the location of the child Jesus (Matthew 2:12).
Joseph, the husband of Mary was also warned by the Angel of the LORD – in a dream – to flee to Egypt to escape the enraged Herod and then again after his death (Matthew 2:13, 19, 22).
We may add to these dreams the one mentioned in the 27th Chapter:
19 While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent to him, saying, “Have nothing to do with that just Man, for I have suffered many things today in a dream because of Him.”
While Pontius Pilate was sitting on the Judgement Seat waiting for the crowd to do what He himself was supposed to do that his wife sent him a message…about a dream. We aren’t told her name (tradition says Claudia Procula) and we can only assume that she was a Gentile, like Pontius Pilate.
Some people suggest that she was a convert to Judaism; others claim she became a Christian (Greek Orthodox). We can’t say for certain because all that we are told in Scripture is reported in this single verse.
Why would she interrupt her husband at work because of a dream? It’s clear that she didn’t believe this dream was of no consequence, because she related it to her husband who was in the middle of a judicial inquiry.
Now before our own minds run amuck, notice that we aren’t told the specifics of her dream.
Content -- We don’t know exactly what she dreamt about because it isn’t stated. It is clear that it wasn’t a pleasant dream because she told her husband that she had ‘suffered many things’ in the dream.
Origin of the Dream – We aren’t told that the dream came from God, even though people often assume that it was because the Holy Spirit has seen fit to record the information for us.
What did she conclude from her dream? She concluded that Jesus of Nazareth was an innocent man and that her husband should have nothing to do with his condemnation and execution.
On the basis of her dream, she called Jesus ‘that just man.’ The word that’s used here means righteous and law-abiding. It’s used of people who obey the law, whether that be the laws of man or the law of God. It’s difficult to say if Pilate’s wife was declaring Jesus to be innocent of Roman Law or God’s Law. It seems a stretch to say she meant that Jesus was sinless.
Jesus of Nazareth is the only man who might be called righteous in both cases. He perfectly kept both the laws of the land and the laws of God. He didn’t only keep them outwardly, but also inwardly. He is the Just One (Acts 7:52, 22:14).
We may be law abiding people…but we aren’t just or innocent…because we have broken the laws of the land. We’ve broken speed limit laws and haven’t always been 100% truthful. We haven’t only broken the law outwardly, but inwardly.
We won’t even talk about God’s Law. We have made other people and things more important than God, breaking the very first of the commandments. We have misused the name of God. We have been disrespectful to parents and superiors.
We’ve hurt others by our words and actions and would do it again. We’ve hurt the reputation of others by gossip. We are far from just or innocent!
Pilate’s wife complained that she suffered in a dream because of Jesus! Well, that was nothing compared to what Jesus went on to suffer for her and for Pilate and for all of us and for every human being to have ever lived. He suffered undeserved separation from God because He willingly took our sins and guilt and punishment upon Himself. He suffered under Pontius Pilate but that was nothing compared to what he suffered bearing our sins.
We may complain about our hard lot in life…but not when we witness Jesus’ sufferings in Gethsemane and on Calvary.
So, did Mrs. Pilate’s message make a difference? No, not really. It was too late. Pilate wanted it out of his hands and that’s what it was when he left it up to the assembled crowd. He hadn’t literally washed his hands of the matter yet, but that would come…because he left the death penalty in the hands of a mob instead of doing his job and being a responsible judge.
Still, let’s not get all ‘self-righteous’ because we have also known the right thing to do and chosen not to do it. We may talk about integrity and demand it from our leaders, but in our own lives we are quick to pardon ourselves. Let us rather confess our sins, trusting that Jesus’ death has made atonement for our sins and unrighteousness.
20 But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitudes that they should ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus.
While Pilate heard news of his wife’s dream, the chief priests and the respected elders were hard at work, mingling in the crowd and persuading the ‘jury’ to hand over the death sentence to Jesus. Mrs. Pilate defended Jesus in the ear of her husband, calling Him – “that just man”; the chief priests and elders had the ear of the crowd and urged them to declare Jesus guilty, to send him to the Cross. The voices of these unrighteous men prevailed. Jesus was condemned and executed.
While this seems unjust to many, this was the way that God determined to save humankind, but holding His own son accountable for sin. God in mercy planned to save you by allowing your sins to be laid on His Son and for Jesus to be sentenced to death instead of you.
God declares you innocent by faith…because Jesus took and paid your debt.
Dreams…we all have them. Today God doesn’t use them to communicate with us because He has given us His Written Word. We place no stock in our dreams they are our unconscious minds run amuck.
Mrs. Pilate’s dream was remarkable and the message she obtained from it served as a warning to her husband proclaiming Jesus’ innocence. Still, God accomplished something far greater through Jesus death, full atonement for every sin and complete forgiveness (TLH 371:5):
Lord, I believe were sinners more Than sands upon the ocean shore,
Thou hast for all a ransom paid, For all a full atonement made.