Jesus officially chose His twelve disciples in Luke 6:12–16. That group comprised Simon Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot. Of those twelve, three disciples (Peter, James, and John) seem to have been the closest to Jesus and acted as an “inner circle” to Christ.
Peter, James, and John were among the earliest of Jesus’ disciples who had been with Him the longest (Luke 5:4–11). But the Bible does not say why Jesus chose Peter, James, and John as His inner circle. These three men were present with Jesus during special events, being eyewitnesses of Jesus’ transfiguration (Mark 9:2–3), witnessing Jesus raise Jairus’s daughter from the dead (Luke 8:49–56), and accompanying Him while He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36–38). Thus, these three witnessed Jesus’ greatest moments of glory and His darkest trials. They were His closest friends.
Perhaps the reason why Peter, James, and John were chosen to be Jesus’ inner circle was that He was making a special effort to prepare these three for the leadership roles they would later occupy in the fledgling church. Peter, whose nickname meant “the rock,” was the first of the disciples to express faith in Jesus as the Messiah and Son of God (Matthew 16:16). After his failure and denial of Jesus, the Lord restored him, and Peter went on to be a leader in the early church (John 21:15–19). Significantly, on the Day of Pentecost, Peter boldly preached to the crowd, and the Holy Spirit worked in the hearts of the listeners, so that 3,000 people put their faith in Jesus that day (Acts 2:41).
James and John, who were nicknamed “Sons of Thunder” because of their boldness (Mark 3:17; Luke 9:54), also became prominent leaders in the early church. They both expressed a willingness to be martyred because of their faith in Jesus (Matthew 20:22), and they both suffered for Christ. James was the first of the disciples to be slain for Christ (Acts 12:1–2), and John was the last of the Twelve to die, after being exiled for his faith (Revelation 1:9).
Jesus deliberately chose His twelve disciples and purposefully chose His inner circle, as well. At the ascension of Christ, the eleven remaining apostles were given the same mission, to spread gospel and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18–20). Peter, James, and John, Jesus’ “inner circle,” were instrumental in fulling that mission. Having been eyewitnesses to several amazing events in Jesus’ ministry, the three were well-prepared for their future service.
The special attention Jesus gave to Peter, James, and John was, according to author Michael Hyatt, part of Jesus’ leadership strategy. Rather than try to build a broad reach for His ministry, Jesus shunned popularity and “focused on true depth and long-term impact” (“The Leadership Strategy of Jesus,” michaelhyatt.com/the-leadership-strategy-of-jesus, accessed 5/27/20). Jesus’ teaching was rooted deeply in these three men, and each one made a lasting impact in the church for the glory of God. These three fishermen were truly made into “fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19).