Do you know what the Yiddish word "chutzpah" means? It's derived from a Hebrew word that means insolence, cheek, or audacity. And yet, the Yiddish word is a little softer, I think. It sums up a person who is audacious, or perhaps simply bold and fearless before others, and especially before authority.
I think we can say that this prosperous woman we're studying must have had some chutzpah. Salome was firmly entrenched in the middle class; her family had servants, and she had enough wealth to (with other women) support the ministry of Jesus as He traveled and taught. Salome was also ambitious for her two sons, James and John, and that is where our story begins today:
Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him.When we read this passage, we may be tempted to think, "What in the world was she THINKING?!"
But we are looking back on it, and you know what they say about hindsight . . . Salome was doing what many of us have done before; she was making an intervention for those she loved. She thought she was doing what would make them happy. Sure, they were all grown up, but Salome knew just Who they were all following -- she knew that this was the Messiah!
She had raised these two men; they were certainly men to be admired. Close to Jesus, they were passionate about His work, and they were purposeful in their efforts to help. She certainly set a wonderful example, for we read in Mark 15:41 that she was one of those who followed Jesus and supplied His needs. She loved Jesus and her two sons, and she was devoted to all three. She did not, however, have a clue about His Kingdom. She shared the disciples' view that the kingdom would soon be established, here on earth. He would drive out the Romans and establish a kingdom in the land of Palestine. And she wanted her sons to continue to be close to Jesus and perhaps be honored parts of His inner circle.
So, she gathered up her courage, her "chutzpah" if you please, and approached Jesus with her request. Salome was so sure that the kingdom was going to be established any day now, she requested that one of her sons be placed on Christ's right hand, and one on His left when He inaugurated His kingdom. The true sources of this request would have been her misunderstanding of His kingdom, and her maternal pride. She didn't really know what she was asking, but she had some chutzpah, and she asked!
How did Christ respond? It must have stung, and perhaps more than a little, for Christ rebuked Salome for her misguided ambitions. He didn't simply say, "No!" but He corrected her in a way that she would never have anticipated. He said that to be near Him on His throne (remember, high and lifted up....) meant they would have fellowship with Him in His suffering. Still, He didn't treat her as a horrible sinner - He was compassionate; He understood her love, and the ignorance of His mission.
In effect, Jesus was asking if her sons were ready to "drink the cup of martyrdom." That they would have to share His suffering.
And they did. James was the first martyr, according to tradition, and John was the last.
Her dreams of her sons sharing His rule when He was king would be rudely shattered when Salome saw the Messiah hanging on the cross. Oh, she must have thought, it was He who would have redeemed Israel! But instead, He is hanging on a Roman cross, the object of ridicule and in terrible pain.
Twice Salome would be taught a lesson in humility. Once when she had the chutzpah to ask her request for her sons, and again when she saw Jesus on the cross. She learned that greatness comes when we give of ourselves. She was one of the supporters of His ministry; she had social standing; she had chutzpah -- she could have turned away from Jesus with her pride hurt. But she learned her lesson, and she surrendered to Christ's call.
We'll finish our study of Salome tomorrow.