It’s all too easy to write women out of the Gospel accounts.
Recently, I’ve been intrigued by a lady I like to call Mrs. Zebedee, the mother of James and John. (Comparing Matthew 27:55-56 with Mark 15:40, we find her name was probably Salome.) We don’t know much about her involvement with the early years of Jesus’ ministry, but we do know that Zebedee’s wife became totally committed to the One who taught her sons to fish for men.
Here’s the core verse in her story:
And many women who had come from Galilee with Jesus to care for him were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary (the mother of James and Joseph), and the mother of James and John, the sons of Zebedee. (Matthew 27:55-56)
A group of many women accompanied Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem, including Mrs. Zebedee. What’s interesting is to see when in the Gospel accounts this occurred.
Luke 9:51-53 says this: As the time drew near for him to ascend to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. He sent messengers ahead to a Samaritan village to prepare for his arrival. But the people of the village did not welcome Jesus because he was on his way to Jerusalem.
When read in context, this passage obviously refers to Jesus’ final trip to Jerusalem. So even though Mrs. Zebedee isn’t listed with the women in Luke 8:2, we know 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 Mrs. Zebedee 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.
In the Matthew account of Jesus’ life, his final journey from Galilee probably begins in chapter 19, verse 1. Most gospel accounts of the events that take place on that journey only refer to his male disciples. But there’s one example that proves the women were present. In the Mark version of Jesus’ teaching about leaders not lording it over others like the world does, but being servants, it would be easy to assume that only the twelve were involved (Mark 10:35-45). However, in Matthew 20, we see the part that Mrs. Zebedee played. She came with her sons and knelt before Jesus and requested that her sons be allowed to sit on his right and left hands in his coming Kingdom. This is what led to the “teachable moment” on true greatness coming through servanthood.
As we follow the Gospel accounts, knowing the women were present on Jesus’ final trip to Jerusalem, we see that it’s very likely that Mrs. Zebedee and the other women were there for many miracles, much of his teaching, the clearing of the Temple and Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. They were probably there for the raising of Lazarus too.
Mrs. Zebedee was certainly there when 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). If she was indeed Salome, 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 may have been present at the empty tomb when the angel told them that Jesus had been raised from the dead (Mark 16:2-8; Luke 24:1). She was probably with Mary Magdalene and the other women as they told the eleven disciples that Jesus had risen (Luke 24:10).
Did Mrs. Zebedee leave for home immediately after Jesus’ resurrection? Or was she one of the five hundred who saw the risen Jesus in person (1 Corinthians 15:6). Did she ”tarry in Jerusalem” until the Day of Pentecost? Was she one of the group of women who were part of the 120 in the upper room as the disciples cast lots to choose a replacement for Judas (Acts 1:14)?
Was she there when all the believers were gathered together in one place and the Holy Spirit came like a rushing, mighty wind and tongues of fire settled on each of them and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues (Acts 2:1-4)? Did she rejoice as 3,000 people became believers that day? Was she part of the early church in Acts 2?
I’d like to think so. What about you?
- The Black Swan Effect: A Response to Gender Hierarchy in the Church - April 4, 2014
- The Life & Times of Mrs. Zebedee - February 21, 2014