Our story opens on a dusty road outside of Jerusalem. A handful of travel weary people stand, watching the scene unfold. A mother kneels in the dirt, hands outstretched before Jesus. Her two adult sons stand a few paces back, a little unsure of how to act with what is unfolding. She boldly asks Jesus for a favor. “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom!” Jesus does not rebuke her. He just intently looks at her. Then he answers. “You don’t know what you are asking.” He looks at her sons. “Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They declare that they are able. Jesus tells them that they will drink the cup, but as far as the seats of honor in the kingdom, that would be up to the Father.
We are all familiar with this story in the New Testament. What most people are not familiar with is the story of the woman who made this bold request.
Meet Salome. She was one among a group of women who faithfully followed Christ. Luke 8 describes a group of women who travelled with Jesus and the disciples and financially supported His ministry. Matthew 27:56 identifies Salome as one of these women who followed Jesus and ministered to Him.
A little known detail about Salome is the fact that she was the sister of Mary, as in, the Virgin Mary. She was the wife of Zebedee, the fisherman. She was the mother of James and John.
Though the event she is most known for is her bold request, she is mentioned many other times in scripture, and like Mary Magdalene, she is always in close proximity to Jesus.
As I looked at her story in scripture, I couldn’t help but wonder how she felt about her sister becoming pregnant though not married. At what point did she believe Mary’s claim that this child was truly conceived from the Holy Spirit? At what point did she walk away from life as usual and follow her own nephew full time? What did she see in Him that convinced her to do that? What did she see in Him that convinced her to be supportive of her sons leaving their father’s lucrative fishing business behind in order to follow their cousin? From a natural perspective, none of that makes sense, yet based on what she saw in Jesus, it made perfect sense to her because she believed Him. That is what stands out to me about her life. She really believed. She believed enough to follow. She believed enough to give her finances. She believed enough to give her sons. Even her bold request was made because she believed what Jesus had said only a short while before. He had told the disciples that they would “sit on twelve thrones judging the tribes of Israel.” She did not come up with her request out of nowhere. She believed Him. She just did not understand what kind of kingdom He was referring to. Not yet anyway. But she would.
Salome would be there, at the cross as Jesus called out to her son and asked him to care for Mary. Salome would be at the tomb with spices ready to anoint his body. She would see the stone rolled away, an empty tomb, and an angel declaring that Christ had risen. She would be commissioned to go announce the resurrection to the disciples. She would have known the words Jesus had spoken, “for whoever loses their life for me will find it.” She could not have known how they would be played out in her own family. Her son James would end up being beheaded for being a follower of Jesus. Her son John would be boiled alive in oil, and survive it, only to be exiled to an island for being a follower of Christ. Their family paid a high price for following Jesus. What would motivate that kind of devotion? I can only think of one thing. It was the fact that they knew that Jesus was who He said He was. There is only one reason you would follow and even die for a relative who claims to be God. That reason is that He is God.
Salome is a lesson for us today in following. Not only did she follow, but she encouraged her children to follow as well. As a mother, I love her bold request. She didn’t fully understand the kingdom, but she asked for her sons to be right next to Jesus, as close as possible. I pray that for my children, that they live as close to Christ as they are able to come. As a mother, when you have seen for yourself that Jesus is who He says He is, your deepest prayer for your children is that they follow Him too and remain close to His side. If I could speak to Salome today, I would thank her for teaching us how to simply believe and how to follow. I’d thank her for showing us how to pray bold prayers and then release our children into God’s hands to be used for His kingdom, and not our own.
*My blogs are written with the assumption that they are being read primarily by Christians. If you want to know more about what it means to be a Christian or about the gospel of Jesus Christ, click the link here:The Gospel