Thaumaturgical or Revolutionist Response?

The crowd in John 6 was compelled to force Jesus into kingship. (Crossway Bibles, 2007) The mother of James and John, Salome, requests her boys sit at Jesus’ right and left in his coming kingdom (Walvoord, 1983). Jesus then teaches how leadership in his kingdom is different from the leadership they are all familiar with. (McFadyen, 1997, p. 66)

Using Robbins’ (1996) Social and Cultural Texture of these two areas of scripture, particularly looking at the Specific Social Topics portion of the texture, there is a strong case the crowd and Salome were responding from a thaumaturgical response. This response “focuses on the individual’s concern for relief from present and specific ills by special dispensations.” (p. 73) Being a suppressed people under Rome for the entirety of their lives, and having things worsen with the rule of Pontius Pilate (DeSilva, 2004, p.69), it is plausible Salome and the crowd were peering through a thaumaturgical lens.

Another possibility to consider would be the lens being used is a revolutionist lens. The revolutionist response understands the destruction of the current circumstances, whether natural or social, is the avenue for salvation of the people. (Robbins, 1996, p. 72) Possibly the focus was not on personal relief from the difficult lives of the Jewish people, but rather on the restoration of Israel to glory. Even had Jesus become king in those moments, the status of those in the crowd would not have been drastically changed, and Salome’s request indicates her doubt in her sons and their rulership at Jesus’ side is the only ticket to change for them. (Cheney, 1997, p.15) It would seem plausible the focus was not on personal relief from life’s difficulties, but rather on the nationalistic desire of the Jews to be rid of Roman rule and establish the nation of Israel to the glory days of David and Solomon.


Cheney, E. (1997). The Mother of the Sons of Zebedee (Matthew 27:56). Journal for the Study of the New Testament, (68), 13–21.

Crossway Bibles. (2007). ESV: study Bible: English standard version (ESV text ed.). Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles.

Dallas Theological Seminary. (1983). The Bible knowledge commentary: an exposition of the scriptures. (J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck, Eds.). Wheaton, Ill: Victor Books.

DeSilva, D. A. (2004). An introduction to the New Testament: contexts, methods & ministry formation. Downers Grove, Ill. : Leicester, England: InterVarsity Press ; Apollos.

McFadyen, P. (1997). Open door on Mark: his gospel explained. London: Triangle.

Robbins, V. K. (1996). Exploring the texture of texts: a guide to socio-rhetorical interpretation. Valley Forge, Pa: Trinity Press International.

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