Whistle-blowers: Frumps, Foes, or Friends?

Lectio: Matthew 27:19-25  (NRSV) 19 While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him.” 20 Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus killed. 21 The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” 22 Pilate said to them, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” All of them said, “Let him be crucified!” 23 Then he asked, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!” 24 So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” 25 Then the people as a whole answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!”

Contemplation: “his wife sent word to him”

Meditation: The name of Pilate’s wife is not mentioned; she is anonymous. But she plays a significant role as the events unfold in the Praetorium. She has not slept much the night before the day of Jesus’ trial because a dream about the injustice and suffering to come for Jesus stirred up her pathos. She sorrows and sympathizes with Jesus in his suffering in both her dream and now in his actual presence. The lucidity of her dream and the emotional pathos it evoked in her was not just a dream, she now sees it playing out in real life in the judgment hall, or Praetorium. She is one with Jesus, sharing in the intensity of his suffering and sorrows. Her moral conscious leads her to intervene and say something to Pontius Pilate, her husband, who can rectify the wrong by stopping the injustice taking place.

I can imagine that she hears a commotion outside her window in the early morning of Jesus’ trial. She goes out to see what the disturbance in the judgment hall is all about and takes notice of the agitated crowd, Barabbas, her husband, and Jesus, the one she dreamt about, standing by Pilate. She perceives the direction the mass is pushing her husband to judge, and she understands what the consequences of his decision will mean for Jesus. She decides to intervene to stop Pilate from condemning Jesus and sends a messenger to him with a warning: “Let there be nothing between you and the innocent man Jesus, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him.” 

Pilate heeds no attention to his wife’s plea. The frenzied crowd has believed the false accusations against Jesus. They distance themselves from him to signal that they are not supporting Jesus or his seditious teachings and intentions. Their cries for Jesus’ “Crucifixion” are a show of loyalty to the Empire. Pilate succumbs to the pressure from the crowd, dissembling their allegiance to the Empire, and gives them what they want, a judgment against Jesus for subversive teachings against the Empire punishable by death by crucifixion.  

Today I meditate on all the people with the moral courage to act on conscious, risk their reputations and careers while intervening to stop the miscarriage of justice and suffering. I meditate on how people with the courage to stand up to social pressure to say something is wrong are often considered alarmists and disloyal. Those that speak up against something that is unacceptable pay a high price. They are often ignored, dismissed, threatened, retaliated against, disparaged, denigrated, shunned, seen as a frump, and even vilified. I meditate on all the people who are standing up for Christ, sharing in his sufferings, defending his life and message, but who are ignored.

Prayer: Today I pray for the grace to have the moral courage of Pilate’s wife to resist social pressure and speak up for Christ and when something is wrong and the humility to listen to and act upon the warnings of those that send messages to notify me that things are heading in the wrong direction.  

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