The mother of the sons of Zebedee is surely one of the sketchiest personalities in the Bible. We have exactly two dots to connect. She appears briefly here in the stock role of the ambitious mother and then once more later—that’s it.
She seems to be the wife of Zebedee (although even that’s not clear) and she is probably involved in the family fishing business. When those two boys of hers just up and leave the business to follow the pied piper, we might imagine her saying something like “What do you mean you’re not going after them? If you don’t, I will.” And she does.
Meeting up with them she begins to realize that she, too, is being drawn into the orbit of this strangely powerful man. A strong enough attraction to become a follower herself, it seems. So much for fishing. We later meet up with her at the cross. Something has happened; something has been transformed. She has, somehow, found her way to the heart of compassion. There is nothing she can do for Jesus on the cross, but she can be there, sharing the grief of a mother, sharing the agony and death of a son.
She surely had not imagined it would turn out like this, yet she has found her way to the very heart of compassion. And so it is. We may have very little understanding of why we feel drawn into Christ’s orbit when we first experience that attraction. And along the way there may very well be a confusion of immature motivations. Like Mrs. Zebedee’s ambitions for her sons. But the heart of compassion draws us inexorably into his orbit—sometimes even through and beyond self-centered ambition. Purity of motive may lag behind, but the gravitational pull draws us in. Closer, closer, closer to the heart of all compassion. Even to the foot of a cross.
“I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew
he moved my soul to seek him, seeking me;
it was not I that found, O Savior true;
no, I was found of thee…
for thou wert long beforehand with my soul,
always thou lovedst me.” [Hymnal 1982; #689]
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