Zebedee, father of James and John, husband of Salome, fisherman.
In studying James and John I was struck by the account of their father, Zebedee. Zebedee was present when Jesus called his sons. He was in the boat that caught the surplus of fish and when it almost sank from the weight of the catch even though no fish were to be found prior to Jesus’ arrival. He heard Jesus preach from Simon’s boat…. yet he did not follow when Jesus called. His wife did, and was one of the women at the cross, one who supported Jesus, and was close enough to Jesus to ask favors for her sons, at her sons’ request, indicating that Jesus held her in such high esteem that his closest followers believed He would listen to her over them. So what happened to Zebedee?
Most scholars believe that Zebedee passed away at some time during Jesus’ ministry since his wife is known as the mother of James and John, and she has control of seemingly large sums of money. This may be true, but initially he is there. (There is indication that this is her money, and if you read Proverbs 31 you will see that she may have run her own business and had her own money as well.)
It is my belief that Zebedee is a good man who told his boys, and his business partners, and later his wife, to go, promising that he would stay behind and take care of the business, continuing to support the others. After Jesus dies we see Simon returning to his boat. Someone took care of it for him, and that someone was willing to relinquish it back to him when he returned. It is my belief that this was the faithful Zebedee, who loved his family enough to sacrifice an opportunity to follow the Messiah closely, so that those he loved could have the honor. His wife would not likely have been able to do so during this time in history had he not been a follower from afar and her closeness to our Lord suggests she was there for the majority of His ministry. Some are called to be close, in places of honor, while some serve from afar, supporting those whom God has called to a more public ministry. I believe Zebedee to be one of these faithful, humble supporters of Christ.
Photo by Matija Barrett
Don’t Worry, Immediately, In Scripture, Is Not As Fast As You May Think…
Undoubtably, if you have been a church goer for any length of time, you have heard a sermon referencing Matthew 4 telling you that James and John “immediately left the ship and their father” to follow Jesus. And then you would have heard the pastor go on about what that means for our walk with Christ. The problem with this line of thinking is that the Biblical writers’ sense of ‘immediately’ and our modern sense does not quite line up. And this is good news for those of us who feel guilty for our lack of an ‘immediate’ response to some matters of faith. For when you reconcile Matthew 4 with Luke chapter 5 you see a much different picture.
As you probably already know, Jesus came upon the group after a night when no fish, or at least very few fish, were caught. The lack of fish means the nets received very little wear. There were two ships present: Simon and Andrew’s and James, John and their father’s. And these men were partners in a fishing company of sorts. Jesus approaches and asks to borrow Simon and Andrew’s boat so He may preach from it. They put the boat out a little ways so everyone in the crowd can see Jesus, and He preaches. Andrew, Simon, James and John have thus just heard Jesus preach, and Jesus is not known for short sermons… (This is why feeding the crowd becomes important later on.)
Jesus then asks Simon to take the boat out and to let down the nets. Simon protests, but does it anyways. When the boat’s nets break, they call to James and John to join them, which they do, and both ships are filled with fish. They return to shore and begin to mend nets. It seems Jesus spoke to Simon and Andrew first at their boat, which would make sense as that was the boat he was in, and then moved on to speak to James and John. It was then, after hearing the preaching and after seeing the miracle, that James and John ‘immediately’ left their ship to follow Jesus. Additionally, scripture tells us in John 1 that Andrew had been a follower of John the Baptist and when he saw Jesus approaching went to Him, bringing Him to Simon and telling Simon that he believed Jesus to be the Messiah. This group of men already knew about Jesus prior to this meeting, and were already aware of the teachings of John the Baptist.
In many areas of scripture we are advised to consider our actions, to do our research and look into the scriptures and to seek wise counsel before making a decision. These men did just that. But when the evidence was there, they did not hesitate to do what is right. That is the Bible’s definition of ‘immediately.’