Ambitious Salome

Bible References:  Matthew 20: 20-23; Mark 15:40-41, Mark 16:1

Heart of the Story: Despite turning her request down, Zebedee’s wife, Salome, remained a loyal follower of Jesus.

Back Story:  Salome was  the mother of James and John and wife of Zebedee. She may have been Jesus’ mother’s sister; that is, Mary’s sister. If true, Salome was Jesus’ aunt and James and John were Jesus’ cousins.

Story Line: Mark documented that Salome traveled with Jesus and her sons from Galilee to Judea (Mark 15:40-41). She helped to fund Jesus’ ministry. Salome was at Jesus’ crucifixion. She went to Jesus’ burial tomb to anoint his body on the first day of the week (Mark 16:1).

Clearly, Salome cared about Jesus. She socialized with him in Galilee and in Judea. She approached Jesus and ask him for a “favor” (Matthew 20:20-23). A favor is an act of kindness, or a special privilege or preference. The favor that Salome wanted wasn’t for herself, but for her two sons. She wanted Jesus to say that James and John would sit on his right and left hand in his kingdom. Jesus refused Salome’s request saying that he didn’t have the power to grant it. God would decide who sat at Jesus’ right and left hands in heaven.

Pondering Relationships: Salome believed she knew Jesus well enough and long enough that she could influence him. Her request that her sons sit on Jesus’ right and left hands in the kingdom was both huge and audacious. If Jesus would have said “Yes” James and John would have been elevated above all of the other apostles. No wonder the other disciples were offended when they heard what she asked Jesus for.

Salome’s request of Jesus took courage. Apparently, her motherly love was greater than her reverence for Jesus. On the other hand, perhaps Salome believed that Jesus had no more ardent follower than her sons, therefore, her request of Jesus was justified.

When Jesus denied Salome’s request for James and John to sit on Jesus right and left hand in the kingdom, he told her why. Although Jesus did not always explain his behavior or reasons for doing certain things, he gave an explanation to Salome. The explanation was that he did not have the power to grant her request. Conceivably, Jesus gave an explanation for refusing Salome’s request because she was his dear follower, even aunt.

Although Jesus refused Salome’s request, she continued to follow and support him. Her love and support, financial and otherwise, was not contingent upon Jesus agreeing to her request.

Reflection: Have you ever prayed, asking God for something? After years-and-years of praying, you didn’t receive what you asked for? If so, have you questioned if there really is a God who hears you? Why do you even bother to follow Jesus? You have nothing to gain by doing so?

Copyright April 23, 2017; Carolyn A. Roth

Note: Recently, I published Out of the Shadows, Exposing the Power of Bible Women/.    You can purchase the book from my website,



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