Mary Salome the Wife of Zebedee

The righteous Mary Salome, the wife of Zebedee, (Matthew 27:56; Mark 15:40) and probably cousin or sister of Mary the mother of Jesus, to whom reference is made in (John 19:25). “Salome” may be the Hellenized form of a Hebrew name, such as Shulamit, Shulamith, Shlomtsion or Shlomzion. Her name in Hebrew is שלומית‬ (Shlomiẗ, pronounced [ʃlomiθ]) and is derived from the root word שָׁלוֹם‬ (shalom), meaning “peace”.

People answer the call to the best of ability with what they have. For Zebedee, a prosperous fisherman on Sea of Galilee, it meant staying at home and keeping the infrastructure of the family going. For James, John and Salome, it meant being on the road with Jesus, going where ever He would go, assisting and supporting Him in whatever they can do.

Salome appeared first in the 20th chapter of Matthew, when she comes up to Jesus on the road and directly says to him: “Declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” (Matthew 20:21). She, misunderstood the meaning of the Kingdom of God. As a very ambitious mother, she asked for her sons to be placed at His right and left hand, when the earthly kingdom she expected came into being, Jesus explained that these positions weren’t His to give. He also questioned her as to whether she and her sons would be able to endure the suffering that would be required. In effect, Jesus asked if her sons were prepared to drink the cup of martyrdom, which in the end, they did. James was the first apostle to be martyred, and John, the last. The mother sought instant positions for her sons. But, by losing their lives for Christ’s sake, they gained greater honor in heaven.

Salome gave all she had to follow him. She told Jesus what mattered to her, that her sons live on in Paradise, for she would know the ultimate sacrifice—the death of a child. And then she stepped forward, her life forever changed. Unlike the disciples early on, she gets it. She knows that Jesus will be in Paradise, next to God. She’s bold and faithful and she asks for what she wants, a time-honored practice among Bible women of the New Testament.

Refers to Jesus’ final trip to Jerusalem, even though Salome isn’t listed with the women in Luke 8:2, but she was with Jesus from Luke 9 onwards. Luke 10 goes straight into the story of Jesus sending out the seventy “other disciples.”

There’s no way to prove it, but it seems likely that Salome and the other women were among the seventy that Jesus sent out to all the places he planned to visit. They went out two by two, praying for the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into the harvest. They put into practice the teaching about the “person of peace.” They healed the sick and told the good news of the Kingdom. They reported back to Jesus how even demons were subject to his name. And Jesus told them that they, too, had authority over all the power of the enemy.

Whatever they were involved in during Jesus’ early ministry Salome became totally committed to the One who taught her sons to fish for men. She was also one of the women “looking on from a distance” when Jesus was being crucified—with her were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph and James (Mark 15:40). She remained a faithful disciple of Jesus’ up to the very end. She was present at the crucifixion, when her sons had withdrawn.

Salome was certainly there watching as Jesus died. She watched as his body was taken down from the cross and as Joseph of Arimathea laid it in his own tomb (Luke 23:55). She purchased burial spices and prepared them on the evening of the Sabbath with Mary Magdalene and Mary, mother of James (Mark 16:1; Luke 23:56). Then early next morning she went to the empty tomb when they encountered the angel, who told them who told them that Jesus had been raised from the dead (Mark 16:2-8; Luke 24:1). She was with Mary Magdalene and the other women as they told the eleven disciples that Jesus had risen (Luke 24:10).

Like the disciples, she knows that Jesus’ ministry is a dangerous one, yet she supports both her nephew and her sons. And her fears are not unfounded. James is martyred by Herod for his faith; he is the first disciple to be killed (Acts 12:1-2), at the hands of Herod Agrippa I, 15 years after Jesus died. Her other son, John, is the beloved disciple, the framer of the Gospel of John, the one who will take Mary into his home after Jesus had died.

A powerful hidden witness in scripture, she also knew the most important thing of all: that wasn’t about her. Likewise, it’s not about us. It’s about salvation and redemption. It’s about who God is, and how we are connected to the carrying forward of God’s story, for the good of all.

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