I write this post mainly to keep this information in one place where I can find it. It's a little study of the mothers who were close to the circle of Jesus's disciples, and of how these people were related to one another.
We know that John the Baptist was Jesus's cousin; their mothers were relatives, "kinswomen." This family relationship is established early in the gospels. The relationship between Jesus and his cousin John is close. John the Baptizer is the first person Jesus approaches as he enters His ministry. John, who jumped in his mother's womb as an unborn baby when he was in the presence of Jesus, another unborn baby, had known to some extent that Jesus was exceptional all his life.
These three verses are key, regarding the mothers I'm looking at:
Matthew 27:55, 56
The Matthew verse tells us that three women attended Jesus's crucifixion: Mary Magdalene, Mary the other of James (the Lesser) and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee (James the Greater and John).
The Mark verses tell us that the same three women were there: Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the Less and Joses, and Salome. It is reasonable to say that Salome is the wife of Zebedee, and therefore the mother of John (the disciple Jesus loved and the author of the five books in the Bible) and James the Greater.
The John verse tells us that four women attended: Mary, Jesus's mother; Jesus's mother's sister (his aunt); Mary, the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. From this we deduce that the wife of Clopas is Mary, the mother of James the Lesser and Joses. This Clopas is likely one of the two men on the Emmaus Road (Luke 24:18). The only snag in this theory is that James the Lesser is also called James, son of Alpheus. Did Mary's first husband Alpheus die, and then she married Clopas? Perhaps. It's also possible there are two different Mary's here, the wife of Clopas and the wife of Alpheus.
However, it's Salome I want to focus on. If we read these verses correctly, then Salome is Jesus's aunt, His mother's sister. She's married to Zebedee, and her two sons are James and John, the disciple Jesus loved.
That makes James (the Greater) and John (the beloved disciple) Jesus's first cousins, closer in relationship to Him that John the Baptist. He would have grown up knowing these boys. When Jesus first meets Andrew and Peter (brothers and fishermen), they are in a business relationship with His Uncle Zebedee (also a fisherman) and His two cousins.
Jesus draws His first disciples from among men He'd known for years. They were not strangers, picked out of the crowd. They were relatives, friends, neighbors. Later He did accost men He'd never met before, inviting them to follow Him as a teacher. But He begins with family.
And the women -- isn't it fascinating to know that the women who stayed with Jesus even until His murder, and then His burial, were the mothers of His disciples -- His own aunt? That the strong bond that joined some of these people together was a family tie? That fathers and mothers and sons were all involved, and followed Jesus together?
This understanding gives a little more color to the passage from Matthew 20 in which "the mother of the sons of Zebedee" came to Jesus, bowed before Him, and asked for special privileges and positions of honor for her two sons when Jesus had established Himself as King. She was asking for perks, as His aunt, asking for special treatment for His cousins, her sons. I've always felt this was a rather ugly passage, showing Salome's weakness. It shows how badly she's misunderstood Jesus's goal. She thought Jesus would be handing out positions of power in a new government that would overthrow Rome. Little did she know what she was asking for her sons: a life of martyrdom and suffering.
I hope you enjoyed this little study. If you have additional helpful verses on the subject, please share them in the comments section.