When Pilate’s wife sent a messenger to him as he was conducting Jesus’ trial, her message was, “Have nothing to do with this innocent man because I have been troubled by many things this night in a dream because of him." Morrison suggests that that's what strengthened the resolve of this otherwise disreputable, immoral opportunist. Pilate might not have cared a great deal for justice in a situation involving people he had no use for, and he certainly didn't care very much for the Jews. But the Romans were superstitious, and when you had dreams, they believed it was an omen that was meant to be taken seriously. And here was his wife saying, “I had a dream, and the dream said don't have anything to do with this man, because he's innocent." When Pilate heard that, he wanted to try to get him off because of what his wife said.

Pilate went back inside the palace. He summoned Jesus and asked, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Now, Jesus says to him, “Is that your own idea or did others talk to you about me?" Now that might sound evasive, but it's not, because what Jesus is really saying to Pilate is this: Are you asking that on your own, and therefore, as a Roman, so we have to define this matter of kingship in Roman terms? Or are you asking it on the basis of charges the Jews made, so that I'm supposed to answer it in Jewish terms? It's quite a different thing, because if he is accused of being a king by Roman terms, he could say, “No I'm not. I'm not here to challenge Caesar.” But if he's talking about it in Jewish terms, then yes he is—he's the Messiah.

The Roman governors at their best were sensitive to the people they governed, and there's a story that Josephus tells us that has great bearing at this point. An officer by the name of Petronius was ordered to put images of the emperor in the temple in Jerusalem. He knew the problem this would cause with the Jews. So he actually disobeyed the emperor, and then he sent a letter to the emperor to explain why he could not carry out it out. The emperor understood Petronius’ failure to follow the order, and no further action was taken. But Pilate wasn't at all like that.

In John 18 and 19, Jesus is on trial before Pilate, who is the governor in Jerusalem whom the occupying Romans had put in power. In the context of this trial we get an insightful description of this man Pilate. It is perhaps noteworthy to have him in this series of people whom Jesus encountered. For one thing, he's a Gentile, and more than that, he is a representative of Rome. Another thing that's striking about this encounter is the amount of space that's given over to him. You find it in the other Gospels, but John records more of the conversation between Pilate and Jesus. He's introduced in John 18:28, where the Sanhedrin, the assembly of Jewish leaders, takes Jesus to the Roman governor for the Roman part of the trial.

Well, there's one other thing to be said about this story. It's not here in John, but it is mentioned elsewhere. In Mark 14:9, Jesus said of this woman, “What she has done is going to be a memorial for her throughout all generations.” And so it is, because it is here in the Bible. Look how many centuries it has been since this happened, and here we are studying what this woman did. We remember her, because of the love she showed to Jesus Christ and the understanding she had of his coming death and burial.