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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Inner Circle

Photo of the Sea of Galilee by: Hendrik Sijens

Jesus’ three disciples, Peter, James, and John, were privileged to see many things that others didn’t get to experience:
  • The transfiguration of Jesus (Matthew 17:1-8; Mark 9:1-9; Luke 9:28-35)
  • The raising from the dead of Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:37; Luke 8:51)
  • A discourse by Jesus about the end times (with Andrew, Peter’s brother; Mark 13:3)
  • The garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives, when Jesus prayed before His betrayal and crucifixion (Mark 14:32-42)

I wonder why Peter, James, and John were singled out. I think we have a hint in the experiences themselves. Think about them and what the disciples learned from them:
  • The transfiguration—visual proof of Jesus’ deity and the resurrection of the dead (in Elijah and Moses). They heard the voice of God saying, “This is my beloved Son.” (It’s the same message they heard from God’s voice at Jesus’ baptism.)
  • The raising of Jairus’ daughter—visual evidence that Jesus has power over death
  • Personal teaching about the end times--what they would be teaching others
  • Witnesses of Jesus in Gethsemane--understanding later that Jesus knew He would offer Himself for sin

After Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, Peter, James, and John become leaders in the early church. Peter is the spokesman preacher throughout Acts. He also seems to have had some authority in the church, because it is he who questions both Ananias and Sapphira. James is the second Christian martyr. Herod Agrippa killed him, because Herod thought the Jews would approve. Peter goes on to lead the church, preach, and begin gospel outreach to the gentiles.

It’s interesting how God prepares people for leadership. Peter, James, and John had the perfect education: Jesus—God in the flesh—revealing Himself in power and glory to them, giving them a front row seat to His teaching and ministry, and preparing them (and us) for the end times. They didn’t do too well at the very end of Jesus’ time with them, but they were there, in Gethsemane, when Jesus sweat drops of blood.

Later, they knew what they had seen, heard, and experienced. They could testify boldly—unto death—of the truth of Christ crucified, buried, and risen again. They could tell about the transfiguration and the raising of Jairus’ daughter from the dead. They could share what they knew about the end times. They had seen and heard.

I believe God let them have those private privileges so that these three men would be strong. Think of James. Eleven years after Stephen was martyred, he gave his life for Christ. Peter and John: Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus (Acts 4:13). God used these uneducated fishermen to change the world! The people marveled! They could see Jesus in them.
How did the other disciples feel about Peter, James, and John? The Bible doesn’t tell us, except that it looks like they all stuck together until after Pentecost. If they were jealous, it didn’t damage their friendship. And after Jesus ascended into heaven, they were all together.

Some practical applications from Jesus’ inner circle:
  • Take Peter, James and John’s privileges as an encouragement. You, too, will see God do great things. (And, you’re not perfect, either.)
  • Don’t be jealous when others are singled out for special privileges. Jesus was always fair. His decisions were perfect, yet He picked three disciples as His inner circle. God is still fair and wise.
  • Remember that we serve the same great God that these men saw. He can heal the sick, raise the dead, talk with Elijah and Moses, and is still the Best Teacher. Appreciate God’s greatness!
  • Remember that God can use people who failed Him. Peter slept when Jesus prayed in Gethsemane and denied him not too long afterwards, yet he was the principal preacher in Jerusalem in the beginning of the church. God can use you, too, even though you messed up in the past.
  • The Lord has chosen people—normal, simple people—to change the world. He can use you, if you’re willing to be used.

God bless!

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