Monday, April 18, 2011

Salome: Faithful and Giving

The women of the Bible fall in every category: rich and poor, famous and unknown, evil and righteous. Some stand out as main characters while others weave their way almost stealth showing up repeatedly in the background. One of these is Salome. Although she is mentioned several times much about her remains a mystery. She is the main character in Matthew 20:20-28 but only the last name on a list in Mark 15:41. Putting her story together is like gathering puzzle pieces and having to occasionally guess at the fit.

Salome was married to Zebedee—a very prosperous fisherman. She was the mother of James and John, and her sons were well enough connected to be personally known by the high priest of the nation. [1] Both parents were evidently deeply religious and also very generous. Zebedee made no objections when his sons walked off from the business to follow Jesus [2] and Salome was rich enough to be one of the women who bankrolled His ministry while traveling with Him for at least two years. [3] Yet, many mysteries remain.

One mystery is whether she was the sister of Mary, Jesus’ mother. The Bible doesn’t say for sure but it does give puzzle pieces that might be a fit. When John writes about the crucifixion, he names several women standing close to the cross. They are (1) Jesus’ mother, Mary, (2) her sister, (3) Mary the wife of Cleophas, and (4) Mary Magdalene. The fact that three of the four women are named “Mary” complicates the issue just a bit. Mark and Matthew identify three women who were watching the proceedings from a distance: (1) Mary Magdalene, (2) Mary the mother of James and Joses and (3) Salome. [4] Since it would be natural for the women to move around—as Mary Magdalene obviously did—some have connected Salome as Mary’s unnamed sister and the “wife of Cleophas” as the “mother of James and Joses.”

We can’t know for sure because neither the Bible nor history tells us with certainty. But it would not be unusual for family to gather at such a moment of such tragedy and it was not unusual for marriage lines to cross and recross in the close knit community. The Bible does confirm that John the Baptist’s mother, Elizabeth, and Mary were cousins. This made Jesus and him second cousins. If Salome was indeed Mary’s sister, then the disciples, James and John, would have also been His first cousins.

Yet, regardless of the earthly relationships, we do know that Salome loved her Lord. She was faithful with her money, faithful with her sons. Like most Bible characters, she had her faults; once Jesus had to correct her over ambitious attempt to secure special privilege for her boys. [5] But she stood faithfully as she anguished at the cross when her sons had run away and she was one of the first to arrive Easter morning in a futile attempt to anoint the body of Christ. Salome was probably one of the unnamed women gathered in the upper room when Pentecost brought the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Even though details of her life remain a tantalizing mystery, you can read about her in Matthew 20:20-24, 27:56; Mark 10:35-40; 15:40 & 41; 16:1 & 2, and Luke 8:3. And, although we dare not add or take away from scripture, the Lord trusts you enough to allow examination of the puzzle pieces with freedom and imagination. Who knows? You might find new inspiration as you follow the example of a woman named Salome.

[1] John 18:15
[2] Matthew 4:21&22
[3] Matthew 27:55; Luke 8:3
[4] John 19:25; Matthew 27:56; Luke 23:49; Mark 15:40
[5] Matthew 20:20-24, 27:56

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