Weekly Bible Devotional
“Everything Is Holy: Our Dreams”
June 6, 2021
Scripture for Sunday: Matthew 27:11-23
11 Now Jesus stood before the governor; and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You say so.” 12 But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he did not answer. 13 Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many accusations they make against you?” 14 But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed. 15 Now at the festival the governor was accustomed to release a prisoner for the crowd, anyone whom they wanted. 16 At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Jesus Barabbas. 17 So after they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” 18 For he realized that it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over. 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!”
Notes on the Text:
This week we are focusing on seeing the sacred in our dreams. The Gospel of Matthew shares several important dreams relating to the life of Jesus showing how God spoke to different people to help them do the right thing to protect an innocent life. We have the dream of the wisemen who listened and did not return to Herod to tell him about the babe they found in Bethlehem. Then there is the dream of Joseph which prompted Joseph and Mary to flee to Egypt to spare the life of baby Jesus after Herod had ordered the killing of Hebrew children. And in this week’s story, we find another dream message for someone who could have chosen to protect an innocent life by releasing Jesus.
In Matthew 26 and 27, we have a very dramatic scene of great fear. Jesus was arrested, left alone, denied by Peter, and beaten by the men of the High Priest. Then Jesus was set to stand before Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea. Pilate had the power to execute or release Jesus. Pilate was a politician. He believed that he had to do what was good for his government and for his image of power. Releasing Jesus would have been seen as a sign of weakness since Jesus was being presented as a challenge to the rule of law. However, Pilate’s wife got a warning in a dream, just like the wisemen and Joseph did. She tried to stop Pilate from committing the evil he had justified in his mind.
You can see the tension building up in the story. There was the crowd and religious authorities demanding the execution of Jesus. There was also the political pressure to ensure that any rebellion against Rome was squelched as swiftly as possible. At the same time, there was the voice of the Spirit coming to Pilate through his wife’s dream. This was a time when people listened more closely to their dreams. In fact, the Romans believed that dreams were important enough to record in their history. Many dreams were recorded in their history because they believed that dreams were communications from the gods and the people’s cultural imagination. According to the culture of that time, it would have been deemed wise for Pilate to listen to his wife’s dream. Yet, Pilate chose personal power over divine guidance. Unlike the wisemen who listened to their dream, Pilate defied God’s wisdom and guidance for the sake of maintaining his own power. Sometimes we think of Pilate as a minor character in the drama of the crucifixion of Jesus as we tend to focus on the corruption of the Jewish religious leaders, but the fact of the matter is that Jesus was crucified by order of Pilate.
Listening to our dreams may not have the same weight as the dream of Pilate’s wife in terms of consequences, but ignoring our dreams denies us the ability to have direct access to God’s wisdom. I once heard this saying, “A dream uninterpreted is an unopened letter from God.” This is a powerful reminder of how our dreams can become a doorway to the holy. The Hebrew word for dream is harlam which comes from a word meaning “to make whole or healthy.” Dreams are one of the ways God communicates with us for our own wellbeing and for the wholeness of the world. Dreams are powerful tools because they bypass the obstacles of our egos such as fear, control, and esteem. But just like all things spiritual, we have to learn to listen to them in symbolic ways and to pay attention to the patterns that emerge from them.
Throughout Scripture, God speaks through dreams, angels, creation, people, wrestling, hardship, healing, resurrection, hospitality, affirmation, fire, storms, voices, clouds, mountains, foreign powers, metaphors, prophets, teachers, flashes of light, the poor, parables, songs, poetry, inner wisdom, bread, water, pregnancy, children, dreams, and visions. This week when I pondered why it was so important for us to pay attention to the voice of God in our dreams, the answer came to me in a news article about a little Syrian girl by the name of Nahla Al-Othman who recently died in a refugee camp due to abuse and neglect. You may read the full story here:
https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20210507-syria-child-starved-to-death-after-chained-and-locked-in-cage-by-father/. We live in a world where such atrocities take place each day which makes our spiritual work even more urgent. The transformation and healing of our world depend on people listening to the wisdom of divine love in their hearts and lives. Just like listening to the dream of Pilate’s wife would have prevented the evil and violence of the cross, listening to God’s voice in our dreams is so essential for our own transformation.
One of the gifts of our generous God is that we all dream. If the dream of Pilate’s wife connects with you this week, take time to record your dreams. Tell yourself before you go to sleep that you will remember your dreams and see what happens. Don’t let your dreams be unopened letters from God. The healing of the world depends on it.
Night Prayer by John Philip Newell:
In the coming hours of darkness
may there be light in our dreams.
In the stillness of sleep
may there be strength for our souls.
In the wakeful watches of night
may there be peace in our minds.
Light for new vision
strength to make sacrifice
peace for our world.
On the pathways of earth’s journey this night
let there be peace.