Matthew 27:1-26 Part 5


Before we come to examine the remainder of the verses in this text, there is an event (recorded only by Luke) which we must look at for a few moments; because it happened… because it is included in the last few consecutive minutes of our Lord’s life… because it has to do with the incredible suffering and humiliation to which Jesus was subjected… and because we need to know.

We don’t know why Matthew chose to leave it out of his account; it is sufficient for us that God inspired the writer to the Gentiles to include it.  Matthew apparently was content (in his brevity) that the complete rejection of Messiah was revealed in his Gospel… that the total denigration and negation of Christ was accomplished in Jesus’ appearance before Israel and before Rome – the Gentile world government.

However, Luke, the evangelist to the Gentiles, does include Jesus’ appearance before Herod, which completes the “round” of negation to which our Lord was subjected.  Now hear God’s Word by the evangelist Luke – in chapter twenty-three:


“When Pilate heard of Galilee, he asked whether the Man were a Galilean.  And as soon as he knew that He belonged unto Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent Him to Herod, who himself also was at Jerusalem at that time.  And when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceeding glad; for he was desirous to see Him for a long time; and he hoped to have seen some miracle done by Him.  Then he questioned Him in many words; but He answered him nothing.  And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused Him.  And Herod with his soldiers set Him at nought, and mocked, and arrayed Him in a gorgeous robe, and sent Him again to Pilate.”


Now, I spoke to you concerning the history of the Herodian family some time ago (at the point when John the Baptist was executed).  Herod the great had come to power about the time of Antony and Cleopatra.  He ingratiated himself to Caesar and was awarded kingship over the province of Israel.  He was powerful at the beginning; but later on, with his sons, the position became basically a “taxing” entity.

Herod did a lot of things in Israel, such as building roads and aqueducts and building (including a palace in Jericho, a new temple on the temple-mount, and his own palace – next to the temple).  But Herod the great (who died shortly after Jesus was born) was a vile and ruthless man – later on crazed and paranoid.  It was he who ordered the slaughter of babies at Bethlehem soon after Jesus’ birth.

He had at least six sons (from several different wives, eight I believe) – three of the sons he had killed (along with their mother and his mother-in-law).  He died while Joseph and Mary and Jesus were in Egypt; and upon his death Rome recognized his last will and testament, which left his kingship to three more sons.

One of those (Herod) was given the area in the north of Israel called Galilee and Perea.  And Galilee (of course) was where Jesus was reared (in Nazareth).  As Luke says, when Pilate heard the word “Galilee” in reference to Jesus, he saw another possible way to shift the responsibility for this case away from himself!  Pass it off to Herod!!  The son of Herod the great – Herod Antipas.

Antipas (Tetrarch of Galilee and Perea) was called, simply, “Herod” in most of the Gospel.  Jerusalem was not in his Tetrarchy, so he didn’t live in the palace (next to the temple) his father built (but he stayed there when he came to the Mount for Passover).

Herod Antipas was the one who divorced his wife and took his half-brother’s wife (Herodias).  It was her daughter (Salome) who asked for John the Baptist’s head (at her mother’s instigation).  (John, you remember, had confronted Herod concerning God’s Law with regard to incest.)  And Herod complied with Salome’s request and had John executed – fulfilling (once again) the Scriptures concerning the treatment of God’s prophets.

But the most important thing that I want us to remember about the Herodian family is the fact that they were Edomites.  You remember the history of Jacob and Esau.  Jacob was the chosen Covenant child; but Esau was hated and rejected by God and reprobated.  It was Esau who settled the land called Edom.  And it was he from whom Herod descended!  Herod was an Edomite descendant of Esau!

So the revelation of God concerning His sovereign election (so clearly stated in Jacob and Esau), and the conflict between the elect and the reprobate, continues unabated here as Jesus stands before Herod Antipas!

The rage of Esau against the chosen Jacob culminates in the mockery of Christ by Herod.  Esau was the favorite of his earthy father, Isaac; but it was Jacob (by the sovereign control of God) who received the blessing of the Covenantal seed!

It was Paul who said that Christ was the “seed” (and all of the elect in Him).  So we now see Jesus Christ, the seed of the Covenant, sent to Herod, the seed of Esau the reprobate.

And Herod, a superstitious and paranoid man, had heard much of Jesus; and he wanted to see Jesus perform some miracles (according to Luke).  In other words, he wanted to be entertained.  And having been told so many things about Jesus’ healing miracles (and having already destroyed John the Baptist), he was pleased to have this Man brought before him in this manner.  In his guilt and paranoia and mysticism he had always thought that the spirit of John somehow still lived on in this Man Jesus.

Now, since Herod was staying in the palace (same as Pilate) they didn’t have far to go to get from the governor to the king.

Now, Luke says Herod questioned Jesus a lot, and required Him to perform.  And Jesus said not a word.  So Herod and his soldiers “set Him at nought”, or played with Him as if He were nothing, put a kingly garment on Him, and mocked Him.  And they sent Him back to Pilate (much to Pilate’s dismay.  He had thought maybe he had gotten rid of Him and, again, shed the responsibility for Him).

But, again, the descendant of Esau is here in Herod… gloating, and mocking the chosen Covenant Seed – making “sport” of this Man from Galilee who thought He was Israel’s prophesied Messiah/King.  It was Esau thinking that he had finally won… a two-thousand year old “wrong” had been “righted” … “he who has the last laugh…” etc.  Gloating and mocking in hatred and bitterness over not receiving his father’s blessing… finally sending Jacob back to get what He deserved – judgment and death.

Another degrading and humiliating event in the “round of negation” to which our Lord was subjected.  But Christ had set His mind on obedience to His Father’s will.  And “Jacob” did not speak to “Esau”; but submitted willingly to this deepest of humiliation – being mocked by the seed of Esau.

So Herod had a white garment placed on this beaten and bruised Man (covered in spit), (in mockery of His Kingship), and sent Him back to Pilate (certainly, much to Pilate’s dismay).  But the text says that Pilate afterward became friends with Herod.  The world government became friends with the seed of Esau.

But Luke also writes that Herod found nothing in Jesus for which the death penalty should be required!  In his opinion, Jesus was a poor, beaten, humiliated, demented mystic Who was good only for a little sport!

So when Jesus was brought back to Pilate by the crowd, Pilate got up and said to them that he nor Herod could find any fault in Him for which He should be put to death!

Now, it was probably at this pint that “freeing one prisoner at the festival” came up; and Pilate said to the crowd (verse seventeen), “Who shall I release unto you… Barabbas or the One called ‘Christ’?”

And while the priests and elders were lobbying the crowd for Barabbas’ release, the note came from Pilate’s wife (verse nineteen):  Matthew, the only one reporting this incident, says, “Also during his sitting upon the seat his wife sent to him saying:


‘Nothing to you and that righteous One; for I was greatly affected today due to a dream on account of Him.’”


Now, this is indeed a strange interruption.  While on the “seat” (the chair on which the governor made magisterial decisions), while administering a pressure-filled, intense situation; and while the priests were busy gaining control of the crowd’s choice of who they would have released, a messenger arrives with a note from a very distressed wife!

And (freely translated) she says (and very emotionally, as wives are prone to do), “You must have nothing to do with this righteous Man; for I was greatly affected today due to a dream on account of Him.”  “… You must have nothing to do with this righteous Man…” means – Pilate, you are not to judge this Man… you must not put this Man to death… you must not be responsible for His death… do not get involved with the Jews with regard to Him.  Zero out!  Don’t do anything with Him!  It shows concern for Pilate and fear for him in his magisterial position… with regard to this righteous Man!

Now, there are a few things that we can say about this incident… in fact there are a few things we must say about it, aren’t there?… because these are the last few moments in our Lord’s life; and everything that’s said about it in the Gospel accounts is profoundly significant!

And even if it is known that Herod and his wife were deeply involved in the mystical and occultic (in which, in the pantheon of occultic practices, dreams and dream interpretation plays no minor role); and even if it’s known that Herod greatly feared the incarnation of (the executed) John the Baptist in the person of Jesus, there is no indication in the Scriptures or in the lives of Pilate and his wife that they were involved in these practices… although being pagan and living in a demon infested and crazed Israel at this time could have driven anyone to strange practices!

But there are no lawful “good and necessary inferences” that we can make here with regard to Pilate’s (and his wife’s) belief systems or practices… other than the fact that Claudia (we think that was her name) responded very strongly to a dream!

I don’t have any suspicion that Claudia was filled with compassion for Jesus; or that her heart was broken; or that she wished for a “just” Man to be let go; Claudia’s concern was for her husband!  Here she was, more than likely a “refined” woman from a good family in Rome, an eternity away from home… in a culture that was as “different” from that of Rome as it could possibly be.

This wasn’t an easy assignment for her… being here on top of this mountain in the middle of nowhere, hoping daily for the safety of her husband in a hostile environment.  What would happen to her if, all of a sudden, he weren’t there?  Or what would happen if Tiberius Caesar tried and convicted and executed him?

And now, always under the threat of rebellion, the entire Jewish government is before her husband, and there are crowds of thousands and thousands who came into the city with this Man Jesus!  And this whole thing was shaping up to be a lose/lose situation for everybody!

We also must realize that Claudia and Pilate must have spoken about Jesus and His followers… maybe even the night before.  They would have known of His miracles and healings, and His enthusiastic followers, and the singing and rejoicing; and Matthew informs us that Pilate even knew of the envy of the priests!  Jesus had been brought before him because of their envy!  Who wouldn’t be tense?  And who wouldn’t be prone to nightmares?!

But that doesn’t say enough about the dream, does it?  It doesn’t say enough about the inclusion, by Matthew, by inspiration of a dream by a pagan woman that could have… might have… certainly attempted to influence Pilate to exercise his authority and set Jesus free!!!

So what about the dream?  What is the nature of it; and why did it come to pass?  Why was it so important an issue that Matthew was constrained to include it in the critically important text of Jesus’ last few minutes of life?  We’ve tried to say something about the natural occurrence of dreams in disturbed people in tense situations; but that just doesn’t satisfy the text.

The question to ask is… what place Claudia’s dream had in the suffering and humiliation of Jesus Christ?  I think if we approach it that way, then we might reach some “good and necessary” conclusions.

There have been many in history who have held this woman Claudia in very high esteem.  In fact the Greek Church (Orthodox) canonized her; and legends have taken hold and grown through the two millennia of Church history.  But there is no evidence at all that the wife of Pontius Pilate was ever anything but the pagan wife of a pagan Roman official.

Others have ascribed the dream to Satan.  That the devil himself put the dream into Claudia.  But there’s no evidence in Scripture that Satan can autonomously cause people to dream what he wants them to dream.  And why would Satan wish for Claudia to do this anyway?  His desire was for the destruction of Messiah/King!  Satan’s activities through history were for the purpose of the cutting off of the Holy Seed!  He thought he won when Jesus was executed!  So why would a dream designed to save Jesus from being executed be his design?  (We can’t blame the devil for everything can we?)

Then others become even more arbitrary with their fanciful ideas.  There are those who see Claudia as the antitype of Eve.  In order to compensate for what Eve spoiled in the garden of Eden (bearing evil testimony over against the first Adam), Claudia now becomes the second Eve… bearing good testimony on behalf of the second Adam!  Anybody looking at that must conclude that it’s pretty bad!

But if we go back to the question I asked a minute ago, i.e. “What place Claudia’s dream had in the suffering and humiliation of Jesus Christ,” then we can ascribe the dream directly to God.

The extreme suffering and humiliation of the Christ… for God’s people, in place of God’s people, is the purpose of God.  Jesus even prayed for that, as recorded by John in chapter twelve.  I am convinced that God Himself intervened in the trial by way of Claudia’s dream… and it is not necessary that Claudia be made a proselyte to Christ.  I am convinced that He did so with specific intent and purpose.

The Bible contains other such instances… namely, Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar – and others – proving that God addressed Himself to heathen in dreams – and in other ways.  We can add Claudia Procula to that list.  He also spoke through an ass; and sent lying spirits to men to cause them to think in certain ways.  So we shouldn’t be surprised (knowing the Bible) that God would do this thing.

But Claudia says, “Have nothing to do with this Man!”  “Rid yourself of Him!”  “Free Him!”  But Jesus Christ has already said, “I must be raised up on the cross!”

Claudia says, “Have nothing to do with Him.”  But Jesus says, “Have everything to do with Me!”  Jesus had already thanked His Father for the hour of darkness about to come upon Him.  He is actively seeking the suffering and death to which His Father is subjecting Him.

But Claudia intervenes with her husband in a “pressure” situation and requires him to release Jesus!  And The Father is instigating that temptation!  It is all against Him!

Incomparable temptation for the Christ.  Christ is outlawed; completely abandoned; tempted beyond comprehension; terrible humiliation.  Again, how are we to understand the suffering of our Lord when there was no solace at all… only negation.

We pray this morning that in our suffering (and we all suffer) these words will help prepare us – with the knowledge of Christ’s suffering.  For we who are in Him suffer in Him… and with Him.  For Him there was no help.  But for us there is great solace.