Salome, mother of James and John, wanted what was best for her sons, but she didn’t go about it in the best way.

Have you heard the term Bulldozer Mom? It refers to mothers who want the best for their child and do whatever they think it takes to get it for them, oftentimes bulldozing a clear path for them if necessary. It’s a modern term, but the concept is not. Today we look at Salome, a mother who got a little carried away in her efforts to help her sons.

Salome, Mother of James and John

Salome was the wife of Zebedee and the mother of James and John. Some Bible scholars also believe she may have been the sister of Mary, mother of Jesus. She was a devoted wife and mother as well as a follower of Jesus. In fact, she was one of the women who traveled with Jesus and his disciples and helped provide financially for them.

We’re first introduced to Salome in Matthew 20. Jesus is preparing His disciples and followers for what is to come in the days ahead. He tells them that when they get to Jerusalem He will be betrayed and condemned to death. They’ll crucify Him, but on the third day He will rise again. 

Jesus pauses, and Salome grabs her sons and rushes to fill the break with a request. They kneel down at His feet asking for a favor.

“What do you wish?” He asks.

“Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your kingdom.” (NJJV) she says.

What an audacious request at such an inopportune time, but Jesus doesn’t bat an eye.

He turns to the sons and tell them that they don’t know what they are asking for.

“Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” 

They say to Him, “We are able.”

He tells them that they will indeed drink His cup and be baptized with the baptism that He is baptized with, but it is not His place to decide who will sit on His right and left sides. 

When the rest of the disciples heard the brother’s request, they were angry with them, but Jesus turned the situation into a teachable moment. He explained to them that if they wanted to be great in the Lord’s sight, they would need to humble themselves and become a servant, just as He had come to serve rather than to be served. 

But look at how Jesus handled this inappropriate request. He let them know that they were going to share His experience, but it wouldn’t be in the way that they expected. They were probably even more confused when He started talking about serving verses being served, but they all understood with time.

Fortunately, Salome’s story doesn’t begin and end with that one conversation. We meet her again at the cross and at the tomb. She may not have understood what His ministry was all about, but nonetheless, she continued to follow and serve Him, even when it was unpleasant and uncomfortable.

Salome, though misguided, was a loving mother who encouraged her sons to follow Jesus. If she were alive to witness the beheading of James or the banishment of John, she could be proud of them, knowing they stood firm in their faith. 

What did Salome Do Wrong?

We can gather from the way Jesus addressed James and John and the other disciples reacted that Salome was merely speaking on her son’s behalf. 

At first glance, it seems admirable. She’s a mother looking out for her sons and helping them reach their dreams. But put it in the big picture and we see how out of touch they each were, and how misplaced were her good intentions. 

Jesus’ days were numbered, and He was trying to pack in as much instruction as He could in those final days. But no one could comprehend what He was saying. 

He was warning them that He was going to be crucified, condemned by the very people He came to save. 

It was a solemn moment that should have instilled a sacred hush as they absorbed what He was telling them. And yet, they weren’t grasping His words. They had in their mind that He was talking about an earthly kingdom. They heard what they wanted to hear. They ignored what didn’t make sense and waited for what they assumed would come. 

Think of how hateful and inconsiderate it was for Salome and her boys to approach Jesus when they did. They could not have picked a worse time. 

And yet, when is a good time to be self absorbed and overly ambitious?

What Can We Learn From Salome?

Are you guilty of being a bulldozer mom? Do you have lofty ambitions and goals for your children? Are you actively paving the way for them to reach those goals?

Ambition is not a bad thing, but it’s not the most important thing. Like Salome, we need to be encouraging our children to walk with the Lord. We need to have our own relationship with Him, willing to have conversations with Him. But we need to listen to Him and trust Him to provide what our children need. Worldly prestige must not be our focus.

Being a mom is one of the most difficult jobs we’ll ever encounter. We get so much conflicting advice, and it’s hard to know what is in our child’s best interest. 

When our children have dreams, it’s natural for us to want to step in and try to make those dreams a reality. We tell ourselves it’s the right thing to do. 

But just as Jesus showed Salome and her sons, our dreams should not be about having power and stature. If we want to be truly great, we must make ourselves small, serving others rather than demanding they serve us. As mothers we need to teach our children the value of humility. We must be willing to allow our children to suffer. This goes against everything the world teaches us. 

We must teach our children the truths that Jesus taught Salome and her sons. Whoever wants to be great, but be a servant. Whoever wants to be first must be a slave. “Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Listen to the All God’s Women podcast episode on Salome, mother of James and John.


Lord God, we come to You humbled by this painful reminder of how often we seek after worldly recognition of greatness when instead we should be serving and ministering to the least. Forgive our pride and arrogance in thinking ourselves better than we are.

Thank You for your gentle teaching and guiding when we get off track. Thank You for leading us back to where You want us to be. Give us the strength we need to stand strong when the world opposes or attacks us. Help us to remain firm in our believe however hard that might be. We love You. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

Salome: A Misguided Mother

Salome Bible Study

Scripture Background

Backstory: Matthew 20:1-19
Her Story: Matthew 20:20-24; 27:56; Mark 10:35-40; 15:40-41; 16:1-2

Bible Study Review

  1. Who was Salome?
  2. What was her request for Jesus?
  3. How did Jesus respond?

Thoughts to Ponder

  1. Why was it a particularly bad time for her to make her request?
  2. What did Jesus mean in his response?
  3. Why were the other disciples upset?

Personal Reflection

  1. What is your desire for your children?
  2. How do you handle rebuke? Do you get offended or learn from it?
  3. What can you learn from Salome?

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2 responses to “Salome Mother of James and John”

  1. Zanese Duncan Avatar

    The story about James and John sitting on either side of Jesus is a bit ironic to me, since, with Jesus sitting at the right hand of God, one of the brothers would be sitting in God’s lap!

    1. That’s funny to think of!

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