Salome, the wife of Zebedee and mother of James and John is another Woman of Lent & Princess of the Kingdom who gives us Hope. She offers us the reminder that we can come to Jesus with any request. I think of her as a woman who likes to be in control, and full of logic.
This woman named Salome is no relation of the daughter of Herodius, wife of Herod, whose dancing caused John the Baptist to lose his head. This is Salome, wife of the fisherman Zebedee. Some scholars think she may have been a cousin of Mary of Nazareth. The family of Zebedee lived on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, probably near Bethsaida or Capernaum, which are fairly close together. We learn from the Gospel of Mark that when Jesus came, he called her sons James and John from their work and ‘they left Zebedee in the boat with the hired men’. From this we can infer that Zebedee was a well-to-do fisherman.
We do not know if Salome immediately became a follower, but we know that she became a staunch disciple, and perhaps the epitome of a good Jewish mother trying to ensure that her sons ‘chose the good life’ as urged in Deuteronomy. She wanted her sons to be the best disciples they could be.
Salome is most famous or infamous for her request to Jesus “Declare that in Your kingdom one of these two sons of mine will sit at Your right hand, and the other at Your left.” (Matthew 20:21) The timing of her request comes immediately after Jesus has told his 12 disciples that he will be ‘mocked and flogged and crucified. And on the third day raised to life.’ Since Matthew specifically notes that Jesus only spoke to the 12, she can be excused for her ignorance.
Even so, it seems a rash and brash request. Jesus responds, “You do not know what you are asking.” And then asks James and John “Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?’ Even after having just heard him predict his death, the young men respond, ‘We are able.’ He said to them, ‘You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left, this is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.’” (Matthew 20:22-23)
Her bold request gives us hope that we can come to the ‘throne of glory’ with any request we might have. God will answer all our prayers, although it may not be in the way or in the time we expect. We may look at the problems in the world and ask why God doesn’t do anything about them. Perhaps that is when we need to be reminded as Teresa of Avila says, “Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through whichhe looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”
Salome was called to be the hands and feet of God and TO God at the Cross and Grave. Mark 15:40 tells us that at the Crucifixion, “There were also women looking on afar off: among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome". The parallel passage of Matthew 27:56 says, "Among which was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee's children."
Salome was a confident mother who wanted the best for her sons. Whether she initially followed Jesus to ensure that her ‘boys’ were well cared for, or because she also saw something holy and important in the rabbi we do not know. Remember her sons were nicknamed ‘Sons of Thunder’ by Jesus, so maybe she went along to keep them out of trouble.
We do know that following Jesus even to the cross and grave transformed her life. Mark’s Gospel tells us, "And when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him." We know, they discovered the stone rolled away and a young man in white who told them that Jesus is risen, and that he would meet them in Galilee.
The story of the women at the grave reminds me of the scene in Lion, Witch, and Wardrobe where Susan and Lucy witness the White Witch killing Aslan, then the fall asleep from grief. In the early morning they hear an awful sound, which is the stone table on which Aslan died cracking. And there is the great Lion alive and well. He tells them "If a willing Victim that has committed no treachery is killed in a traitor's stead, the Stone Table will crack; and even death itself would turn backwards."
The stones in our lives, the old ways of thinking and acting, can take away our hope. Then Jesus comes along and breaks all those expectations and stereotypes. Joanna and Salome found hope in stepping outside their established norm and following Jesus. Bound to the role of ‘wife of Herod’s steward’ and lost in her dis-ease, Joanna gave it all up and went further than she ever would have anticipated in following the rabbi from Nazareth. Salome, good Jewish mother that she was, found herself tested as well. She ended up having her expectations redefined and broadened.
Charles LaFond says, “There are times in our lives when a part of us has already left for the next thing and so we are pulled forward to follow it – to rejoin a part of ourselves that has already left while we did not yet notice.” I’d suggest you think about times in your life when your hopes were dashed and your expectations challenged, along with the suggested questions. What stone tables in your life might need to break?
Can you put yourself in the shoes of Joanna and Salome when they come to the empty tomb?
Next time we'll travel with some women who we might think we know very well-the sisters Mary and Martha.