Sermon 1647. The Dream of Pilate's Wife
DELIVERED ON LORD'S-DAY MORNING, FEBRUARY 26, 1882,
BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have you nothing to do with thatjust Man: forI have suffered many things this day in a dream because of Him." Matthew 27:19.
I EARNESTLY wished to pursue the story of our Savior's trials previous to His Crucifixion, but when I sat down to study thesubject I found myself altogether incapable of the exercise. "When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me." Myemotions grew so strong and my sense of our Lord's grief became so extremely vivid that I felt I must waive the subject fora time. I could not watch with Him another hour and yet I could not leave the hallowed scene! It was, therefore, a reliefto meet with the episode of Pilate's wife and her dream. It enables me to continue the thread of my narrative and yet to relaxthe extreme tension of the feelings caused by a near view of the Master's grief and shame.
My spirit failed before the terrible sight. I thought I saw Him brought back from Herod where the men of war had set Him atnaught. I followed Him through the streets, again, as the cruel priests pushed through the crowd and hastened Him back toPilate's hall. I thought I heard them in the streets electing Barabbas, the robber, to be set free, instead of Jesus, theSavior, and I detected the first rising of that awful cry, "Crucify, crucify," which they shrieked out from their bloodthirstythroats! And there He stood, who loved me and gave Himself for me, like a lamb in the midst of wolves, with none to pity andnone to help Him.
The vision overwhelmed me, especially when I knew that the next stage would be that Pilate, who had cleared Him, by declaring,"I find no fault in Him," would give Him over to the tormentors that He might be scourged, that the mercenary soldiery wouldcrown Him with thorns and mercilessly insult Him-and that He would be brought forth to the people and announced to them withthose heart-rending words, "Behold the Man!" Was there ever sorrow like His sorrow? Rather than speak about it this day, Ifeel inclined to act like Job's friends, of whom it is written, that at the sight of him, "they lifted up their voices andwept; and sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spoke a word unto him: for they saw thathis grief was very great."
We leave the Master awhile to look at this dream of Pilate's wife which is only spoken of once in the Scriptures-by Matthew.I know not why only that Evangelist should have been commissioned to record it. Perhaps he, alone, heard of it, but the onerecord is sufficient for our faith-and long enough to furnish food for meditation. We receive the story as certified by theHoly Spirit. Pilate, throughout his term of office, had grossly misbehaved himself. He had been an unjust and unscrupulousruler of the Jews. The Galileans and the Samaritans, both, felt the terror of his arms, for he did not hesitate to massacrethem at the slightest sign of revolt. And among the Jews, he had sent men with daggers into the midst of the crowds at thegreat gatherings and so had cut off those who were obnoxious to him.
Gain was his objective and pride ruled his spirit. At the time when Jesus of Nazareth was brought before him, a complaintagainst him was on the way to Tiberius the Emperor, and he feared lest he should be called to account for his oppressions,extortions and murders. His sins at this moment were beginning to punish him, as Job would word it, "The iniquities of hisheels compassed him about." One terrible portion of the penalty of sin is its power to force a man to commit yet farther iniquity.Pilate's transgressions were now howling around him like a pack of wolves-he could not face them and he had not Grace to fleeto the One Great Refuge!
But his fears drove him to flee before them and there was no way, apparently, open for him but that which led him into yetdeeper abominations. He knew that Jesus was without a single fault and yet, since the Jews clamored for His death, he feltthat he must yield to their demands, or else they would raise another accusation against him, namely, that he was not loyalto the sovereignty of Caesar, for he had allowed One to escape who had called Himself a King. If he had behaved justly, hewould not have been afraid of the chief priests and scribes. Innocence is brave, but guilt is cowardly.
Pilate's old sins found him out and made him weak in the presence of the ignoble crew, whom otherwise he would have drivenfrom the judgment seat.
He had power enough to have silenced them, but he had not sufficient decision of character to end the contention. The powerwas gone from his mind because he knew that his conduct would not bear investigation and he dreaded the loss of his office,which he held only for his own ends. See there with pity that scornful but vacillating creature wavering in the presence ofmen who were more wicked than himself and more determined in their purpose! The fell determination of the wicked priests causedhesitating policy to quail in their presence and Pilate was driven to do what he would gladly have avoided. The manner andthe words of Jesus had impressed Pilate. I say the manner of Jesus, for His matchless meekness must have struck the governoras being a very unusual thing in a prisoner.
He had seen, in captured Jews, the fierce courage of fanaticism, but there was no fanaticism in Christ! He had also seen inmany prisoners the meanness which will do or say anything to escape from death-but he saw nothing of that about our Lord.He saw in Him unusual gentleness and humility combined with majestic dignity. He beheld submission blended with innocence!This made Pilate feel how awful goodness is. He was impressed-he could not help being impressed with this unique Sufferer.Besides, our Lord had before him witnessed a good confession-you remember how we considered it the other day-and though Pilatehad huffed it off with the pert question, "What is truth?" and had gone back into the judgment hall, yet there was an arrowfixed within him which he could not shake off.
It may have been mainly superstition, but he felt an awe of One whom he half suspected to be an extraordinary Person. He feltthat he, himself, was placed in a very extraordinary position, being asked to condemn One whom he knew to be perfectly innocent.His duty was clear enough-he could never have had a question about that-but duty was nothing to Pilate in comparison withhis own interests! He would spare the Just One if he could do so without endangering himself, but his cowardly fears lashedhim on to the shedding of innocent blood. At the very moment when he was vacillating-when he had proffered to the Jews thechoice of Barabbas, or Jesus of Nazareth. At that very moment, I say, when he had taken his seat upon the bench and was waitingfor their choice-there came from the hand of God a warning to him-a warning which would forever make it clear that if he condemnedJesus, it would be done voluntarily by his own guilty hands.
Jesus must die by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God and yet, it must be by wicked hands that He is crucifiedand slain. And, therefore, Pilate must not sin in ignorance. A warning to Pilate came from his own wife concerning her morning'sdream, a vision of mystery and terror-warning him not to touch that just Person-"For," she said, "I have suffered many thingsthis day in a dream because of Him." There are times in most men's lives when, though they have been wrong, yet they havenot quite been set on mischief, but have come to a pause and have deliberated as to their way. And then God, in great mercy,has sent them a caution and has set up a danger signal bidding them stop in their mad career before they plunged themselvesfinally into irretrievable ruin! Somewhere in that direction lies the subject of our present discourse. O that the Spiritof God may make it useful to many!
I. And, first, I call your attention to THE COOPERATION OF PROVIDENCE WITH THE WORK OF GOD. I call it the work of God to warnmen against sin and I call your attention to Providence working with it to bring the preventives and cautions of Divine Mercyhome to men's minds. For, first, observe the Providence of God in sending this dream. If anything beneath the moon may bethought to be exempt from law and to be the creature of pure chance, surely it is a dream! True, there were, in old times,dreams in which God spoke to men prophetically-but ordinarily they are the carnival of thought, a maze of mental states-adance of disorder!
The dreams which would naturally come to the wife of a Roman governor would not be likely to have much of tenderness or consciencein them and would not, in all probability, of themselves, run in the line of mercy. Dreams ordinarily are the most disorderlyof phenomena and yet it seems that they are ordered of the Lord. I can well understand that every drop of spray which flashesfrom the wave, when it dashes against the cliff, has its appointed orbit as truly as the stars of Heaven-but the thoughtsof men appear to be utterly lawless, especially the thoughts of men when deep sleep falls upon them! As well might one foretellthe flight of a bird as the course of a dream!
Such wild fantasies seem to be ungoverned and ungovernable. Many things operate naturally to fashion a dream. Dreams frequentlydepend upon the condition of the stomach, upon the meat and drink taken by the sleeper before going to rest. They often owetheir shape to the state of the body or the agitation of the mind. Dreams may, no doubt, be caused
by that which transpires in the chamber of the house-a little movement of the bed caused by passing wheels, or the tramp ofa band of men, or the passing of a domestic across the floor-or even the running of a mouse behind the wainscot may suggestand shape a dream.
Any slight matter affecting the senses at such time may raise within the slumbering mind a mob of strange ideas. Yet whatevermay have operated in this lady's case, the hand of Providence was in it all, and her mind, though fancy free, wandered nowherebut just according to the will of God to effect the Divine purpose! She must dream just so and no way else! And that dreammust be of such-and-such an order, and none other! Even dreamland knows no god but God and even phantoms and shadows comeand go at His bidding-neither can the images of a night vision escape from the supreme authority of the Most High.
See the Providence of God in the fact that the dream of Pilate's wife, however caused, should be of such a form and come atsuch a time as this! Certain old writers trace her dream to the devil, who thus hoped to prevent the death of our Lord andso prevent our redemption. I do not agree with the notion! But even if it were so, I admire all the more the Providence whichoverrules even the devices of Satan for the purposes of wisdom! Pilate must be warned so that his sentence may be his ownact and deed. And that warning is given him through his wife's dream. So does Providence work.
Note, next, the Providence of God in arranging that with this dream there should be great mental suffering. "I have sufferedmany things in a dream concerning Him!" I cannot tell what vision passed before her mind's eye, but it was one which causedher terrible agony. A modern artist has painted a picture of what he imagined the dream to be, but I shall not attempt tofollow that great man in the exercise of fancy. Pilate's wife may have realized in her sleep the dreadful spectacle of thecrown of thorns and the scourge, or even of the Crucifixion and the death agony. And, truly, I know of nothing more calculatedto make the heart suffer many things concerning the Lord Jesus than a glance at His death! Around the Cross there gathersgrief enough to cause many a sleepless night if the soul has any tenderness left in it.
Or her dream may have been of quite another kind. She may have seen in vision the Just One coming in the clouds of Heaven.Her mind may have pictured Him upon the Great White Throne, even the Man whom her husband was about to condemn to die. Shemay have seen her husband brought forth to judgment, himself a prisoner to be tried by the Just One, who had before been accusedbefore him. She may have awaken, startled at the shriek of her husband as he fell back into the Pit that knows no bottom!Whatever it was, she had suffered repeated painful emotions in the dream, and she awoke startled and amazed! The terror ofthe night was upon her and it threatened to become a terror to her for all her days and she, therefore, hastens to stay herhusband's hand.
Now, herein is the hand of God and the simple story goes to prove that the wandering of dreamland are still under His control-andHe can cause them to produce distress and anguish-if some grand end is to be served thereby. Equally remarkable is it thatshe should have sent to her husband the message, "Have nothing to do with that just Man." Most dreams we quite forget. A fewwe mention as remarkable, but only now and then is one impressed upon us so that we remember it for years. Scarcely have anyof you had a dream which made you send a message to a magistrate upon the bench. Such an intention would only be resortedto in an urgent case. Though the judge were your own husband, you would be very hard-pressed before you would worry him withyour dreams while he was occupied with important public business.
Mostly a dream may wait till business is over. But so deep was the impression upon this Roman lady's mind that she does notwait until her lord comes home, but sends to him at once. Her advice is urgent-"Have you nothing to do with that just Man."She must warn him now, before he has laid a stroke on Him, much less stained his hands in His blood. Not, "Have a little todo and scourge Him and let Him go," but, "Have you nothing to do with Him. Say not an unkind word, nor do Him any injury!Deliver Him from His adversaries! If He must die, let it be by some other hand than yours! My Husband, my Husband, my Husband,I beseech you, have nothing to do with that just Man. Let Him alone, I pray you!"
She words her message very emphatically. "Have you nothing to do with that just Man: for I have suffered many things in adream concerning Him. Think of your wife! Think of yourself! Let my sufferings about this Holy One be a warning to you. Formy sake let Him alone!" And yet, do you know, her message, to my ear, sounds rather authoritative for a woman to her husband,and he a judge! There is a tone about it that is not ordinarily in the address of wives to husbands. "Have you nothing todo with this just Man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of Him."
It shows a wonderful Providence of God that this lady was moved to send so strong a message to her self-willed husband-tobeseech, to entreat, to implore-almost to demand of him that he let this just Man go. O Providence, how mightily can you work!O Lord, the seraphim obey You, but You find an equally willing servitor in a wife who, at Your bidding, stands between herhusband and a crime!
Once more, about this Providence I want you to notice the peculiar time in which her warning came. It was evidently a dreamof the morning-"I have suffered many things in a dream this day." The day had not long broken-it was yet early in the morning.The Romans had a superstition that morning dreams are true. I suppose it was after her husband had left her that she thusdreamed. If I may be allowed not to state a fact, but to make a conjecture, which seems to me most probable, she was a dearlybeloved wife, but sickly and, therefore, needed to rest further into the day than her husband. And when he had left his couch,she had yet another sleep. And being a sensitive person and all the more likely to dream, she awoke from her morning sleepoppressed with a terror which she could not shake off. Pilate was gone and she was told that he was in the judgment hall.
She asked her attendants why he was there so early and they replied that there had been an unusual clamor in the courtyard,for the High Priests and a mob of Jews had been there and the governor had gone out to them. They might, perhaps, also tellher that Jesus of Nazareth was brought there a prisoner and the priests were entreating Pilate to put Him to death, thoughthey had heard the governor say that he found no fault in Him. "Go," she said to her maid, "call to one of the guards andbid him go at once to my husband and say what I tell you. Let him speak aloud, that some of the cruel Jews may hear it, andbe moved from their cruel purpose. Let him say that I implore my husband to have nothing to do with that just Man, for I havesuffered many things this very morning in a dream concerning Him."
Just at the moment, you see, when Pilate had sat down on the judgment seat, the warning came to him. When there was a littlelull and he was anxious to acquit his Prisoner-at that instant of time which was the most hopeful, this weight was throwninto the right side of the scale-thrown in most wisely and mercifully to keep back Pilate from his grievous sin. The warningcame at the nick of time, as we say, though, alas, it came in vain! Admire the punctuality of Providence! God never is beforeHis time. He never is too late. It shall be seen concerning all that He does that on the same day determined by the prophecy,the fulfillment came. My soul stands trembling while she sings the glory of her God, whose Providence is high, even like Ezekiel'swheels! But the wheels are full of eyes and, as they turn, all the surroundings are observed and provided for so that thereare no slips, or oversights, or accidents, or delays. Prompt and effectual is the operation of the Lord!
Thus much concerning Providence and I think you will all agree that my point is proven-that Providence is always co-workingwith the Grace of God. A great writer who knows but little about Divine things, yet, nevertheless, tells us that he perceivesa power in the world which works for righteousness. Exactly so! It is well spoken, for this is the chief of all powers! Whenyou and I go out to warn men of sin, we are not alone, all Providence is at our back! When we preach Christ Crucified, weare workers, together, with God! God is working with us as well as by us! Everything that happens is driving towards the endfor which we work when we seek to convince men of sin and of righteousness. Where the Spirit of God is, all the forces ofNature and Providence are mustered!
The fall of empires, the death of despots, the rising up of nations, the making or the breaking of treaties, terrific warsand blighting famines-are all working out the grand end! Yes, and domestic matters, such as the death of children, the sicknessof wives, the loss of work, the poverty of the family and a thousand other things are working, working, always working forthe improvement of men. And you and I, lending our poor feebleness to cooperate with God, are marching with all the forcesof the universe! Have comfort, then, in this, O workers for Jesus! Suffering many things for Him, be of good courage, forthe stars in their courses fight for the servants of the living God! And the stones of the field are in league with you!
II. Secondly, I gather from this story THE ACCESSIBILITY OF CONSCIENCE TO GOD. How are we to reach Pilate? How are we to warnhim? He has rejected the voice of Jesus and the sight of Jesus-could not Peter be fetched to expostulate with him? Alas, Peterhas denied his Master. Could not John be brought in? Even he has forsaken the Lord! Where shall a messenger be found? It shallbe found in a dream-God can get at men's hearts, however hardened they may be. Never give them up, never despair of awakeningthem. If my ministry, your ministry and the ministry of the
blessed Book should all seem to be nothing, God can reach the conscience by a dream! If the sword comes not at them at closequarters, yet what seems but a stray arrow from a bow drawn at a venture shall find the joints in their harness.
We ought to believe in God about wicked men and never say of them, "It is impossible that they should be converted." The Lordcan wound leviathan, for His weapons are many and they are suited to the foe. I do not think a dream would operate upon mymind to convince me, but certain minds lie open in that direction, and to them a dream may be a power. God may use even superstitionto accomplish His beneficent purposes. Many besides Pilate have been warned by dreams. Better still, Pilate was accessiblethrough the dream of his wife. Henry Melvill has a very wonderful discourse upon this topic, in which he tries to show thatprobably, if Pilate had dreamed this dream, himself, it would not have been so operative upon him as when his wife dreamedit. He takes it as a supposition, which nobody can deny, that Pilate had an affectionate and tender wife who was very dearto him. The one brief narrative which we have of her certainly looks that way-it is evident that she loved her husband dearly-andwould, therefore, prevent his acting unjustly to Jesus.
To send a warning by her was to reach Pilate's conscience through his affections. If his beloved wife was distressed, it wouldbe sure to weigh heavily with him, for he would not have her troubled. He would gladly shield his tender one from every breathof wind and give her perfect comfort. And when she pleads, it is his delight to yield. It is, therefore, no small troubleto him that she is suffering-suffering so much as to send a message to him. She was suffering because of One who deservesher good opinion-One whom Pilate, himself, knows to be without fault. If this lady was, indeed, the wife of Pilate's youth,tender and dearly beloved, and if she was gradually sickening before his eyes, her pale face would rise before his lovingmemory and her words would have boundless power over him when she said, "I have suffered many things in a dream."
O Claudia Procula, if that were your name, well did the Lord of Mercy entrust His message to your persuasive lips, for fromyou it would come with tenfold influence! Tradition declares this lady to have been a Christian and the Greek Church has placedher in their calendar as a saint. For this we have no evidence-all that we know is that she was Pilate's wife and used herwifely influence to stay him from this crime. How often has a tender, suffering, loving woman exercised great power over acoarse, rough man! The All-Wise One knows this and, therefore, He often speaks to sinful men by this influential agency. Heconverts one in a family that she may be His missionary to the rest. Thus He speaks with something better than the tonguesof men and of angels, for He uses Love, itself, to be His orator.
Affection has more might than eloquence. That is why, my Friend, God sent you, for a little while, that dear child who prattledto you about the Savior! She is gone to Heaven, now, but the music of her little hymns rings in your ears even now and hertalk about Jesus and the angels is yet with you. She has been called Home, but God sent her to you for a season to charm youto Himself and win you to the right way. Thus He bade you cease from sin and turn to Christ. And that dear mother of yours,who is now before the Throne of God, do you remember what she said to you when she was dying? You have heard me a great manytimes, but you never heard a sermon from me like that address from her dying couch! You can never quite forget it, or shakeyourself free from its power. Beware how you trifle with it!
To Pilate, his wife's message was God's ultimatum! He never warned him again and even Jesus stood silent before him. O myFriend, to you it may be that your child, your mother, or your affectionate wife may be God's last messenger, the final effortof the warning angel to bring you to a better mind! A loving relative pleading with tears is often the forlorn hope of mercy.An attack so skillfully planned and wisely conducted may be regarded as the last assault of love upon a stubborn spirit and,after this, it will be left to its own devices. The selection of the wife was, no doubt, made by infinite wisdom and tenderness,that if possible, Pilate might be stopped in his career of crime and strengthened to the performance of an act of justiceby which he would have avoided the most terrible of crimes.
So, then, we may safely conclude that the Lord has His missionaries where the city missionary cannot enter. He sends the littlechildren to sing and pray where the preacher is never heard. He moves the godly woman to proclaim the Gospel by her lip andlife where the Bible is not read. He sends a sweet girl to grow up and win a brother or a father where no other voice wouldbe allowed to tell of Jesus and His love! We thank God it is so! It gives hope for the households of this godless city-itgives us hope, even, for those for whom the Sabbath bell rings out in vain. They will hear, they must hear these home preachers-thesemessengers who tug at their hearts! Yes, and let me add that where God does not em-
ploy a dream, nor use a wife, yet He can get at men's conscience by no visible means but by thoughts which come unbidden andabide upon the soul.
Truths long buried suddenly rise up and when the man is in the very act of sin he is stopped in the way, as Balaam was whenthe angel met him. How often it has happened that conscience has met a guilty man even in the moment when he meant to enjoythe pleasure filled with wrong, even as Elijah met Ahab at the gate of Naboth's vineyard! How the king starts back as he beholdsthe Prophet-he would sooner have seen the very devil, than Elijah! Angrily he cries, "Have you found me, O my enemy?" Though,indeed, Elijah was his best friend, had he known it! Often does conscience pounce upon a man when the sweet morsel of sinhas just been rolled under his tongue and he is sitting down to enjoy it! The visitation of conscience turns the stolen honeyinto bitterness and the forbidden joy into anguish!
Conscience often lies like a lion in a thicket-and when the sinner comes along the broad road it leaps upon him and, for awhile, he is sorely put to it. The bad man is comparable to leviathan, of whom we read that his scales are his pride, shutup together as with a close seal-so that the sword of him that lays at him cannot hold, nor the spear, the dart, nor the javelin-andyet the Lord has a way of coming at him and sorely wounding him. Let us, therefore, both hope and pray for the very worstof men! Brothers and Sisters, use for the good of men anything which comes in your way! Use not only sober argument and sounddoctrine, but even if a dream has touched your heart, do not hesitate to repeat it where it may have effect. Any weapon maybe used in this war.
See to it that you seek the souls of men, all of you! You who are wives should be especially stirred up to this sacred work.Remember Pilate's wife and think of her as affectionately giving the warning to her husband and go and do likewise. Neverkeep back from an ungodly husband the Word of God which may convert him from the error of his ways! And you, dear children,you sisters, you of the gentler sort, do not hesitate, in your own quiet way, to be heralds for Jesus wherever your lot iscast. As for us all, let us take care that we use every occasion for repressing sin and creating holiness. Let us warn theungodly at once, for perhaps the man to whom we are sent has not yet performed the fatal deed. Let us stand in the gap whileyet there is space for repentance.
Pilate is even now sitting on the judgment seat. Time is precious. Make haste! Make haste, before he commits the deed of blood!Send the messenger to him! Stop him before the deed is done even though he should complain of your interference. Say to him,"Have you nothing to do with that just Man: for I have suffered many things because of Him and I pray you do nothing againstHim." That is our second point. God bless it. Although I cannot preach upon it as I would, the Spirit of God can put powerinto it.
III. Thirdly, we have, now, the lamentable task of observing THE FREQUENT FAILURE EVEN OF THE BEST MEANS. I have venturedto say that, humanly speaking, it was the best means of reaching Pilate's conscience for his wife to be led to expostulatewith him. He would hear but few, but he would hear her. And yet even her warning was in vain. What was the reason? First,self-interest was involved in the matter and that is a powerful factor. Pilate was afraid of losing his governorship. TheJews would be angry if he did not obey their cruel bidding. They might complain to Tiberius and he would lose his lucrativeposition.
Alas, such things as these are holding some of you captives to sin at this moment. You cannot afford to be true and right,for it would cost too much! You know the will of the Lord. You know what is right, but you renounce Christ by putting Himoff and by abiding in the ways of sin that you may gain the wages thereof. You are afraid that to be a true Christian wouldinvolve the loss of a friend's goodwill, or the patronage of an ungodly person, or the smile of an influential worldling-andthis you cannot afford. You count the cost and reckon that it is too high. You resolve to gain the world, even though youlose your soul! What then? You will go to Hell rich! A sorry result this! Do you see anything desirable in such an attainment?Oh that you would consider your ways and listen to the voice of wisdom!
The next reason why his wife's appeal was ineffectual was the fact that Pilate was a coward. A man with legions at his backand yet afraid of a Jewish mob-afraid to let one poor Prisoner go whom he knew to be innocent-afraid because he knew his conductwould not bear inspection! He was, morally, a coward! Multitudes of people go to Hell because they have not the courage tofight their way to Heaven. "The fearful and unbelieving shall have their portion in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone,which is the second death." So says the Word of God! They are afraid of encountering a fool's laugh and so rush upon everlastingcontempt! They could not bear to tear themselves away from old companions and excite remarks and sarcasm among ungodly wits-andso they keep their companions and perish with them!
They have not the pluck to say, "No," and swim against the stream. They are such cowardly creatures that they will soonerbe forever lost than face a little scorn. Yet while there was cowardice in Pilate, there was presumption, too. He who wasafraid of man and afraid to do right, yet dared to incur the guilt of innocent blood! Oh, the cowardice of Pilate to takewater and wash his hands, as if he could wash blood off with water! And then to say, "I am innocent of His blood"-which wasa lie- "see you to it." By those last words he brought the blood upon himself, for he consigned his Prisoner to their tendermercies and they could not have laid a hand upon Him unless he had given them leave. Oh, the daring of Pilate in the sightof God to commit murder and disclaim it!
There is a strange mingling of cowardliness and courage about many men. They are afraid of a man, but not afraid of the eternalGod who can destroy both body and soul in Hell! This is why men are not saved even when the best of means are used, becausethey are presumptuous and dare defy the Lord! Besides this, Pilate was double-minded. He had a heart and a heart. He had aheart after that which was right, for he sought to release Jesus. But he had another heart after that which was gainful, forhe would not run the risk of losing his post by incurring the displeasure of the Jews. We have plenty around us who are double-minded.Such are here this morning-but where were they last night? You will be touched by today's sermon! How will you be affectedtomorrow by a lewd speech or a lascivious song?
Many men run two ways. They seem earnest about their souls, but they are far more eager after gain or pleasure. Strange perversityof man that he should tear himself in two! We have heard of tyrants tying men to wild horses and dragging them asunder, butthese people do this with themselves. They have too much conscience to neglect the Sabbath and to forego attendance at theHouse of Prayer-too much conscience to be utterly irreligious, to be honestly infidel- and yet, at the same time, they havenot enough conscience to keep them from being hypocrites! They let, "I dare not," wait upon, "I would." They want to do justly,but it would be too costly! They dare not run risks and yet, meanwhile, they run the awful risk of being driven forever fromthe Presence of God to the place where hope can never come!
Oh that my words were shot as from a cannon! Oh that they would hurl a cannon-shot at indecision! Oh that I could speak likeGod's own thunder which makes the hinds to calve and breaks the rocks in pieces! Even so, I solemnly warn men against thesedesperate evils which thwart the efforts of mercy, so that, even when the man's own wife, with tender love, bids him escapefrom the wrath to come, he still chooses his own destruction!
IV. Lastly, we have a point which is yet more terrible, THE OVERWHELMING CONDEMNATION OF THOSE
WHO THUS TRANSGRESS. This Pilate was guilty beyond all excuse. He deliberately and of his own free will condemned the justSon of God to die, being informed that He was the Son of God and knowing both from his own examination and from his wife thatHe was a "just Man." Observe that the message which he received was most distinct. It was suggested by a dream, but thereis nothing dreamy about it. It is as plain as words can be put- "Have you nothing to do with that just Man: for I have sufferedmany things this day in a dream because of Him."
Pilate condemned the Lord with his eyes open and that is an awful way of sinning. Oh, my dear Friends, am I addressing anyhere who are purposing to do some very sinful thing, but have lately received a warning from God? I would add one more caution!I pray you, by the blessed God, and by the bleeding Savior, and as you love yourself, and as you love her from whom the warningmay have come to you, stop and hold your hand! Do not do this abominable thing! You know better. The warning is not put toyou in some mysterious and obscure way, but it comes point blank to you in unmistakable terms. God has sent conscience toyou and He has enlightened that conscience so that it speaks very plain English to you! This morning's discourse stops youon the highway of sin, puts its pistol to your ear and demands that you "Stand and deliver."
Stir an inch and it will be at your own soul's peril. Do you hear me? Will you regard this Heaven-sent expostulation? Oh,that you would stand still, awhile, and hear what God shall speak while He bids you yield yourself to Christ today! It maybe now or never with you, as it was with Pilate that day. He had the evil thing which he was about to do fully described tohim and, therefore, if he ventured on it, his presumption would be great. His wife had not said, "Have nothing to do withthat Man," but, "with that just Man," and that word rang in his ears-and again and again repeated itself till he repeatedit, too! Read the 24th verse. When He was washing his wicked hands he said, "I am innocent of the blood of this just Person"-thevery name his wife had given to our Lord!
The arrows stuck in him! He could not shake them off! Like a wild beast, he had the javelin sticking in his side, and thoughhe rushed into the forest of his sin, it was evidently still rankling in him- "this just Person" haunted him!
Sometimes God makes a man see sin as sin and makes him see the blackness of it. And if he then perseveres in it, he becomesdoubly guilty and pulls down upon himself a doom intolerable beyond that of Sodom of old. Beside that, Pilate was sinningnot only after distinct warning-and a warning which set out the blackness of the sin-but he was sinning after his consciencehad been touched and moved through his affections.
It is a dreadful thing to sin against a mother's prayers! She stands in your way. She stretches out her arms-with tears shedeclares that she will block your road to Hell! Will you force your way to ruin over her prostrate form? She kneels! She graspsyour knees! She begs you not to be lost! Are you so brutal as to trample on her love? Your little child entreats you-willyou disregard her tears? Alas, she was yours, but death has removed her, and before she departed she entreated you to followher to Heaven and she sang her little hymn-"Yes, we'll gather at the river." Will you fling your babe aside us though youwere another Herod that would slay the innocents and all in order that you may curse yourself forever and be your own destroyer?
It is hard for me to talk to you like this. If it is coming home to any of you, it will be very hard for you to hear it. Indeed,I hope it will be so hard that you will end it by saying, "I will yield to love which assails me by such tender entreaties."It will not be a piece of mere imagination if I conceive that at the Last Great Day, when Jesus sits upon the Judgment Seat,and Pilate stands there to be judged for the deeds done in the body, that his wife will be a swift witness against him tocondemn him! I can imagine that at the Last Great Day there will be many such scenes as that, wherein those who loved us bestwill bring the most weighty evidences against us, if we are still in our sins! I know how it affected me as a lad when mymother, after setting before her children the way of salvation, said to us, "If you refuse Christ and perish, I cannot pleadin your favor and say that you were ignorant. No, but I must say, Amen, to your condemnation."
I could not bear that! Would my mother say, "Amen," to my condemnation? And yet, Pilate's wife, what can you do otherwise?When all must speak the truth, what can you say but that your husband was tenderly and earnestly warned by you and yet consignedthe Savior to His enemies? Oh, my ungodly Hearers, my soul goes out after you! "Turn you, turn you, why will you die?" Whywill you sin against the Savior? God grant you may not reject your own salvation, but may turn to Christ and find eternalredemption in Him! "Whoever believes in Him has everlasting life."