A Mother's Request
October 9, 2021
Then the mother of Zebedee's sons came to Him with her sons, kneeling down and asking something from Him. And He said to her, "What do you wish?" She said to Him, "Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your kingdom" (Matthew 20:20-21).
The wife of Zebedee and mother of James and John. Who was she? When you compare Matthew 27:56, Mark 15:40, and John 19:25, it is apparent she was Salome. What makes her request so necessary to understand is that Salome was a sister to Mary, the mother of Jesus. That made James and John first cousins to Jesus with Salome as His aunt. Talk about pressure!
Nepotism. It is the favor given to, or shown to others based on family relationships. This is what makes the old adage “It’s not always what you know, but who you know, that matters” so true in many cases. Nepotism is something we appreciate when we want our own to have a leg up on the competition, but we despise it when the competition has the leg up on us (the pun is intended).
What is astonishing is that the words of Salome were spoken right after Jesus announced, for the 3rd time, His impending suffering and death on the cross. It was as if she, James and John, didn’t hear Jesus at all. In His declaration He did not outline a plan of conquest and occupation. He outlined a plan of suffering and death. This was not a plan to position them for greatness. It was a plan to prepare them for martyrdom.
What is heart-breaking is the pressure these three put on Jesus by making such a request, knowing who they were in relationship to Him. What is preposterous is their initial request (Mark 10:35, the parallel to this text), Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask. Sounds like a modern prayer meeting! Now, I know there are those who say, “Jesus said that whatever we ask in His name, He will do it.” The problem is when you take a text out of context you come up with a pretext - something proposed in order to conceal a true purpose; a misleading statement. You can take a text out of context and make it mean anything you want. Satan did that in the Garden of Eden with Eve.
A spiritually mature Christian knows Jesus will not do whatever we ask because it’s not biblical. He will do what we ask if (1) it is in His name, meaning it is what He would do or ask of the Father, (2) it is consistent with God’s will, and (3) it brings glory to the Lord Jesus Christ. How many people have asked the Lord to heal someone who eventually died? to remove a political malcontent from office only to have him/her win another term? to allow a favorite team to win the game only to see them lose? For Salome, James, and John, to ask Jesus to do for them whatever they asked was presumptuous at best and absolute heresy at worst.
“Lord Jesus, I pray Your Holy Spirit will guide me in my requests to You. May Your will, Your glory, and Your name be honored in any and all I ask of You. Amen.”