Barabbas and Claudia Porcus

After Herod returns Jesus to Pilate, the Governor is faced with the same dilemma. What is he supposed to do with this man hated by the Jewish religious leaders? Jesus said nothing to Herod. None of the accusations levied against Jesus were substantive and were, in fact, manufactured lies developed to excuse their anger and wish for Jesus’ death. Herod and his troop ridiculed Jesus but did not condemn him. Even they saw there was nothing the man had done worthy of condemnation. After Herod returned Jesus to Pilate the Governor called the High Priest and his mob back into Roman court.

“You brought me this man as one who was misleading the people. And after examining him before you, behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him. Neither did Herod, for he sent him back to us. Look, nothing deserving death has been done by him. I will therefore punish and release him.” [Luke 23:14-16 ESV]

Pilate is concise in his pronouncements. You brought Jesus to me and charged him with “misleading the people.” Here, the word “misleading” means to turn away or pervert. Jesus was accused of turning the Jewish people away from the Religious leader’s interpretation and implementation of the Law of God and perverting their thinking toward the tradition and leadership of those accusing him. Pilate says nothing about taxes or Jesus’ royalty. He cares nothing about anyone who thinks they are a king and would try to influence people to not pay their taxes. Jesus had done neither. Had he advocated these positions Pilate would have already crushed him.

Pilate continues by stating the obvious. Jesus is not guilty of any crime. He and Herod, after examining Jesus have determined the accused has done nothing deserving death. Pilate moves from being a Governor disciplinarian to a parent disciplinarian. Since the High Priest and his mob can do nothing to stop Jesus Pilate takes over. He treats them, the Jewish leaders of a nation he despises, as children having a squabble with their friends and siblings. Jesus has done nothing wrong but Pilate is willing to “punish” Jesus just to put an end the fiasco playing out before him. Pilate uses the word chastise which is used for training a child, disciplining for instruction and meant to teach the child to not do what they have been doing. He offers to spank Jesus and then let him go.

Matthew’s documents speaks of two things happening which are unverifiable. However, there is no reason to question the veracity of the historical facts given in any of the four documents we are examining. First, he tells us about a custom. There are no other documents or sources which verify this custom, tells us who first implemented it or why it was done. Perhaps Pilate began doing this as a public relations measure to gain a better reputation among the people he was charged to govern. He hated them as much as they hated him. Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted” [Matthew 27:15 ESV]. Rome was known as a harsh conqueror in order to keep the peace. They would take prisoner any they thought usurping their authority. Again, Pilate did not think Jesus was a threat. During the feast, we do not know which feasts except Passover, the Governor was accustomed to release a prisoner. He would speak to the people gathered before him and actually give them what they wanted.

Pilate plays with the High Priest and the mob gathering around him. He considers Jesus a lunatic and sees how incensed he has made the religious leaders, which (I think) amuses him. He knows why the High Priest has brought Jesus to him. They were not squabbling children but grown men who hated Jesus influence of the people they were supposed to lead. For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up” [Matthew 27:18 ESV]. They were jealous of Jesus’ power. He didn’t care about them, their power, nor Jesus or his power over the people. He was tired of the squabble but continued to play with them. He offers to release a notorious prisoner named Barabbas who caused great turmoil and truly lead people to fight against Rome and disrupt Pilate’s world. And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” [Matthew 27:16-17 ESV]

What a set up. Do you want to see what the Jewish leaders really think? Not just about Jesus, but God’s law, their authority, their interpretation of God’s law and the traditions they held, the people they were supposed to serve, their own consciences and moral integrity, and every other area of the thinking of their hearts. Pilate, moved by God, gave them a choice and their decision revealed exactly who they are. We will see their decision in the next post.

But, there is another incident which bears examining. Pilate’s wife tried to tell him to do the right thing. “Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream” [Matthew 27:19 ESV]. Matthew is the only document which relates this story. In the cultural literature there are no other stories where the wife of a leader warns her husband about anything because of a dream. More likely, by her own description, she had a nightmare. Pilate had been called out early and came, probably directly from bed. He may have known why and who was being brought before him, but there is little reason to suggest his wife knew. Her name was Claudia Porcula. Her warning was simple. Have nothing to do with this man. This can be taken in two ways. Either, because she calls him “righteous” which means “innocent” she was encouraging her husband to let him go or she was saying don’t make a judgment at all.

We do not know if she knew anything about Jesus. She probably did but had no opportunity to see him or listen to his words. She did know her husband and probably offered advice to him, though in private, often. That we know of her dream, or nightmare, was unusual. Women in this century, in the Roman Empire, had no voice in any activity or decision. Whether Jewish or Greek or Barbarian, women were not considered citizens, could not hold office, had not rank, never helped in the political decision making process, and were to keep quiet. However, the four documents of evidence of the life of Christ have many instances where woman play prominent roles. It is not unusual for these documents to elevate the position of woman. This is not true for any of the other cultural documents. Matthew including this incident lends relevance to his writing. This incident is so unusual, so out of the norm for historical writing, knowing it happened lends credence and support to the historical veracity of Pilate’s judgment and actions toward the Jewish religious leaders and Jesus.

Is there anything about the experiences of Jesus, Pilate, Herod, Pilate’s wife, Barabbas, the Jewish leaders and their mob which seem out of the ordinary?

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