“Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a new into the sea: for they were fishers. And He saith unto them, Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed Him. And going on from thence, He saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them. And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed Him.” (Matthew 4:18-22.) This is our introduction in the New Testament to Zebedee and his children. From Luke 5 we learn that Simon and Andrew were their partners in the fishing business, and from Mark 1 we learn that Zebedee not only had his two sons helping him, but “hired servants” also.
“They immediately left the ship and their father, and followed Him.” “I heard His call, Come, Follow! That was all. My gold grew dim, my soul went after Him, I rose and followed, That was all. Who would not follow, if they heard His call?”
We hear not a word of reproach from Zebedee: and when later his wife followed Him also, and ministered to Him of their substance (Matthew 27:55-56), we still hear of no protests. We know very little about him, though his name is mentioned some twelve times in the Gospels. We seem to know a little more about “the mother of Zebedee’s children”, than of Zebedee himself. Her heart was evidently won by the Master her sons had followed. She knew He was a King, and was one day coming into His kingdom. Perhaps she knew still more, for she worshipped Him. (Matthew 20:20-21.) But she did not know or realize that He was a rejected King, and that she was living in the time of His rejection. She came with her sons seeking the highest place in the kingdom for them. She did not know that Christ Jesus made Himself of no reputation. But the Lord answers her: “Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They thought they were able, and He replies that they should indeed drink of His cup, and be baptized with His baptism, but He did not promise the high place they were seeking.
It would take a book, perhaps many books, to meditate on all the path of the children of Zebedee: but I want to think a little of the scene we have just been looking at. They were not the first ones to whom the Lord had need to say: “Seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not.” (Jeremiah 45:5). And we are sometimes tempted to seek great things for ourselves, or for our children. “Seek them not.” This is the day of our Lord’s rejection. This is the day when we may share His cup of suffering and sorrow. Seek not wealth or power for your children. “They that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves though with many sorrows.”
(1 Timothy 6:9-10.) Far better like James and John, to forsake all and follow Him.
Earthly blessing and an earthly portion were promised to the Jew: but our citizenship is in Heaven, we are not of this world, even as our Lord and Master was not of this world. The day of glory is coming. We are joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together. But one who knew more of suffering with Him that almost any other, adds: “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:17-18.)
“I will give her My cross of suffering, My cup of sorrow to share: But with endless love, in My Home above, All shall be righted there.”