James and John were brothers who were also disciples of Christ while He was here on earth. They had good character qualities which included loyalty, faithfulness, and zeal for the kingdom of God. After Jesus’ ascension, the Zebedee brothers, both preached the Gospel. James became the first apostle to die for Christ. Legend has it that John was thrown into boiling oil, but survived and lived to write the book of Revelation on the island of Patmos.
Perhaps a lot of the passion, dedication, and toughness that these brothers showed can be attributed to their mother, Salome. Salome was also a faithful follower of Christ. She was a woman who wanted the best for her sons, even going so far as to ask Jesus to give them a special position in Heaven. She found out, however, that her request was not for Jesus to give. Let’s look at why below:
1. Salome, mother of the sons of Zebedee, did not realize that true greatness is found in serving. Salome asked that Jesus let one of her sons sit on His right hand and the other on His left. Jesus did not flat-out deny her, but He wanted to know if her sons were willing to suffer with and for Him. Both James and John replied, “We are able.” And as it turned out, the brothers were true to their word.
God does not hand out crowns for nothing. He does not reward people based on requests. In God’s Kingdom, the only way to sovereignty is through service. Matthew 20:26-27 reads: “Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave.”
The Christ Himself is a perfect example of what it means to be a servant. Philippians 2:7 tells us that Jesus made Himself of no reputation, but took the form of a servant, and came in the likeness of men. Jesus stripped Himself of all His glory, majesty, power, and Heavenliness to become like one of us.
And why did He do this? So that He could be tempted yet remain without sin, so that He could wash feet, so that He could be beaten and humiliated and nailed to a cross – all for our salvation.
All too often, we (like Salome) want Jesus to reward our requests. We want God’s power. But are we willing to endure persecution? We want His glory. But do we want the suffering? We want a throne and a crown and a kingdom. But can we drink from the bitter cup that Jesus drank from?
Humility comes before honor. Service must precede greatness.
Even though Salome’s request was not the right one, we can be assured that James and John did make it into Heaven. They are being rewarded well because they gave up earthly, temporary riches for eternal, incorruptible ones. They did not flinch in the face of death or deny the One Who loved them most. For raising such fearless, dangerous-for-Jesus boys, Salome deserves much credit.