Heart of the Story: A fisherman who owned at least two boats, yet was not above manual labor himself. He supported Jesus’s ministry.
Back Story: Zebedee was a moderately well-to-do fisherman on the Sea of Galilee. Possibly, he lived at Bethsaida. He had at least two sons, James and John, who assisted him on his fishing boats. In addition, Zebedee had hired men who helped him fish. His wife was Salome. If there were sons other than James and John, the Bible did not name them. Nor does the Bible identify if Zebedee had daughters. He may have been related to the Jerusalem high priest Annas. Simon Peter was a partner or an employee of Zebedee.
Story Line: When we encounter Zebedee in the Gospels, he may have been in his late thirties or early forties. He was a working fisherman with at least two sons. When Jesus called Zebedee’s sons, James and John, to follow him, Zebedee supported their decision to follow Jesus. His wife, Salome, followed and ministered to Jesus.
Pondering Relationships: Possibly, Zebedee was an uncle or cousin of Jesus. At no point is there any suggestion in the Gospels that Zebedee was reluctant for his sons or wife to follow Jesus. In addition, most likely Zebedee, directly or indirectly through his wife, provided money to support Jesus’s ministry. The little we know about this relatively obscure Bible character, indicates that Zebedee was a hardworking and acted on his beliefs.
I wonder why Zebedee supported Jesus??? Did he know Jesus directly in Jesus first 30 years of life; thus, was aware of Jesus’s character? Did Zebedee believe that Jesus was the son of God and not some crazy radical who believed that he was the son of God? Zebedee’s son James was the first apostle killed. King Herod killed James in Jerusalem. Zebedee must have been devastated that his oldest son was murdered. We have no information that Zebedee’s son, John, returned home to Bethsaida to care for his father as Zebedee aged. Although John seems to be the kind of man who would support an aging father. Remember, from the cross Jesus gave his mother Mary into John’s care. We read that John took her into his house from that time onward. Perhaps, John and Salome, along with Mary, returned to Zebedee’s home.
Reflection: If you could meet Zebedee, what questions would you ask him?
Copyright December 15, 2018; Carolyn A. Roth