Midweek Lent - 3: Testimonies about Jesus from Unlikely Witnesses

Preached: February 20, 2008

Pilate's Wife Testifies about Innocence
Matthew 27:19

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from Jesus Christ, our crucified and risen Savior. The Word from God through which the Holy Spirit comes to stir our hearts is Matthew 27

While Pilate was sitting on the judge's bench, his wife sent him a message, “Have nothing to do with this innocent man, since I suffered a lot today in a dream because of him.”

This is the Word of the Lord.

Dear friends in Christ, fellow pilgrims to the cross:

Other than this verse, we do not know anything for certain about Pilate's wife. Myths about her have developed. Some name her Procula; others Claudia Procles. She's been depicted as devout. In fact, the Greek Orthodox Church celebrates her as a saint. Yet all we know for certain is what this verse says. Everything else could well be nothing but pious fiction.

Yet even if this woman is pagan like her husband, God uses her to speak the truth. As we've seen before, God can use unlikely witnesses. If he can use Caiaphas, as we heard on Ash Wednesday, he could certainly use the wife of the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate.

Listen to her testimony to Pilate: “Don't have anything to do with that innocent man” (Matthew 27:19 NIV). What good news that is for us! If Jesus were only a teacher or a role model, he would not have to be perfectly innocent. Yes, we want our teachers to also teach by example. But if they make a mistake, it doesn't make there teaching false. We want our role models to lead decent lives but we don't expect them to be perfect either. But Jesus is more than teacher and role model. He is above all your Savior. For that we need him to be perfect and completely innocent.

Why? Because that's what God's Law demands. His Law demands a perfectly spotless record, complete righteousness without any defect, unquestionable innocence. That's what you and I have failed to give. Instead of innocence, guilt covers us.

“But I've never been arrested! I've never gone to jail!” But we're not talking about the laws of our land that govern our actions. Rather, we're talking about God's Law. God's Law governs our actions, our words, our thoughts, and our attitude. “Love God above all,” his Law commands. That doesn't mean have warm, fuzzy feelings about God. It means to put him first, before your money, your family, your enjoyment, and yourself. Put him first in your heart. Fully trust him. Fully honor him. Fully obey him. Treasure him and his word above all. Go to him first in any trouble so that you would never worry or be afraid since your God can certainly handle it. Gladly give up anything and everything to follow him, since nothing is as dear to you as he is. No matter what tragedy, what pain, what lose you suffer, joy and contentment fill your heart since you still have your God, who is your richest treasure.

Dare we claim that we have loved God above all! How guilty we are in just this one command! When even a small pain or lose strike us, we easily feel sorry for ourselves instead of rejoicing in our God. How many things and people we cling to more strongly than we cling to our God! How often worry and fear trouble our hearts! It doesn't take long for me to see how guilty I am. God's Law has brought you to that same conclusion. You and I are guilty sinners. We cannot stand in the courtroom of God's Law. Innocence is far from us.

That's why it's such Good News for us that Jesus is innocent. For he freely gives you his innocence. He credits you with his righteousness. In the record book of justice he has replaced his name with yours. His clean record counts as yours. God's verdict that declares Jesus innocent is his verdict for you through faith in Jesus.

Don't doubt the innocence of Jesus. Sometimes our own guilt blinds us. We wonder whether Jesus could really be innocent and if he really is how could that count for someone like me?

First, take note that even though Jesus is condemned and crucified as a criminal, God the Father worked all things to clearly show that Jesus was innocent. Let's just review some of the evidence.

We've already mentioned Pilate's wife calling Jesus innocent. Before this, while Jesus was on trial before the Jewish ruling council, Sanhedrin, they can't find any charge against him so they have false witnesses come forward. But even these false witnesses can't make their testimony agree, because Jesus is innocent. We talked about that last week.

What was it that the Sanhedrin finally condemned him for and sent up to Pilate? Listen to what Matthew records:

The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.”
“Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?”
“He is worthy of death,” they answered. (Matthew 26:63-66)

What was Jesus guilty of? Nothing. He told the truth. He is the Christ, the Son of God. What's more, he loving warned the council that their evil course would bring eternal death on them if they did not turn from it, for he would come again in divine glory. And for speaking the truth in love, Jesus is condemned.

When Pilate sends Jesus to Herod, Herod sends Jesus back because he didn't find anything wrong that Jesus had done (Luke 23: 15). Again and again Pilate tells the people, “I find no basis for a charge against this man” (Luke 23:4 NIV, cf. Luke 23:13, 22). Finally Pilate washes his hands declaring, “I am innocent of this man's blood” (Matthew 27:24 NIV). He knows Jesus is innocent. And you know that too.

Believe that Jesus innocence counts for you. For that is what God has promised. He promised it throughout the Old Testament. The Passover Lamb and the sacrificial animals were to be without blemish or defect, picturing the spotless Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, our innocent Savior. These sacrifices substituted for the people, the lamb without blemish in place of the guilty sinner. That's the Lord's promise to you. The Lamb of God, the holy innocent Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, takes your place. Believe that Jesus innocence counts for you.

The Holy Spirit has the Apostle clearly write down this promise for us. For example, the Apostle Paul writes, “God made him who had no sin” that's Jesus, the innocent one, “to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV). Jesus' innocence, his righteousness before God's Law counts for you. The Apostle Peter writes, “You were redeemed . . . with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:18, 19 NIV). Yes, you. The innocent death of this spotless Lamb is for you. The Apostle John writes, “Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1, 2 NIV). His righteousness counts for your innocence because he did this for the whole world. That must include you.

Believe the testimony of Jesus' innocence. Believe that his innocence counts for you.

Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313