Matthew 20:20-21. “Then came to Him the mother of Zebedee’s children with her sons, worshipping Him, and desiring a certain thing of Him. And He said unto her, “What wilt thou? She saith unto Him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on Thy right hand, and the other on the left, in Thy kingdom.”
Jesus had just told His disciples that He would suffer betrayal, torture, and death in Jerusalem, but that He would rise again three days after His death. We aren’t invited into the conversation that must have taken place following this announcement. Instead, we are shown the picture of a loving mother who is concerned for the future of her sons. I don’t think we should be too quick to condemn her.
In Matthew 27:56 coupled with Mark 15:40, we learn that the “mother of Zebedee’s children” (James and John) was named Salome. We are told that she worshipped Jesus. The language would indicate that she knelt before Him, acknowledging Him in a reverential way. Then she asked Him for something very special.
It is at this point that we often tsk-tsk this woman, feeling that she is out of place in seeking special favors for her sons. However, when we look at the same incident in Mark 15, we see clearly that James and John were with her; that, in fact, the request had come through their mother from them. Jesus did not address her again in this incident, but spoke directly to the two disciples, whom He loved.
Salome received no rebuke from Jesus. i believe that He understood her heart, and felt no anger toward her. Salome is among the women who stood away from the cross and watched during His crucifixion, women who had followed Him and ministered to Him and the other disciples during His ministry. Salome was not a greedy helicopter mom. She was simply relaying a request from her sons–who should have known better!
James and John had doubtless hear Jesus’ response to Peter when he had asked about rewards. They had heard that the twelve would be seated on thrones, judging (having authority over) Israel in the Kingdom. It was customary then that an Eastern king would seat his two most important followers on either side of his throne, indicating their place of position and favor. James and John coveted those positions, and apparently felt they had earned the right to request those places next to Jesus.
Favor always comes with merit. Tomorrow, we’ll see what Jesus’ response was.