James of the “Inner Circle”
The idea of an “inner circle,” a group closer to Jesus than the rest of the apostles, first appears the next time James shows up in the biblical record. There are three times where Jesus specifically separated James, Peter, and John from the rest of the apostles and had them join Him for an important event.
Jairus’ Daughter Raised
Jesus returned to Galilee where a crowd of people had been waiting for Him,1 and a man named Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue, fell to Jesus’ feet and begged Him, “My little daughter lies at the point of death; come and lay your hands on her so that she might be healed; and she will live.”2 Jesus, along with His disciples and a mob of people, followed Jairus towards his house; but then Jesus stopped, turned around, and said, “Who touched me?”3 James looked around at the massive crowd that was “thronging” Jesus, and in effect said, “What do you mean? Everyone’s touching you!”4 But Jesus saw the woman who had touched the hem of His garment, and told her “Daughter, your faith has made you whole; go in peace, and be whole of your plague.”5
Then someone from Jairus’ house came and said, “Your daughter is dead, why trouble the Teacher anymore?” Jesus responded by telling Jairus, “Don’t be afraid, just believe.”6 It is at that point that Jesus hand-picks James, his brother John, and Peter to be the only ones who are permitted to follow Him to the house. And when they got to the house, finding people weeping and mourning, Jesus told them “Why are you making this noise and weeping? The damsel didn’t die, but is sleeping.” When the people mockingly laughed at Jesus, He sent them all out, only allowing James, Peter, John, and the girl’s parents to come into the room and see what He would do. Then He took the girl by the hand and said, “Maid, arise.” And she came back to life. This was followed by a command not to tell anyone what happened.7
Some time later, Jesus took James (along with Peter and John) up to a mountain where He prayed. Then something happened. Jesus’ face began to shine like the sun,8 and His clothing was white as the light.9 But James, John, and Peter were extremely tired and had fallen asleep while Jesus was praying. When they woke up, they “saw His glory” and they saw Moses and Elijah standing with Jesus, talking to Him.10 James was silent, but he watched as Peter said to Jesus, “It’s good for us to be here. If you want, let us make here three tabernacles; one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”11
Then a [bright] cloud overshadowed them: and they feared as they entered into the cloud. And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, “This is my beloved Son, [in whom I am well-pleased]. Listen to Him.”12
And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces and were very afraid. And Jesus came and touched them, and said, “Arise, and don’t be afraid.” And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man except Jesus only.13
And as they came down from the mountain, He charged them that they should tell no man what things they had seen until the Son of man was risen from the dead. And they kept that saying with themselves, questioning one with another what the rising from the dead should mean.14
On the way down the mountain, James and the other two asked Jesus about the scribes’ contention that Elijah must come first. After hearing the Lord explain that the scribes were right, but that Elijah had already come, understanding washed over the “inner circle” and they understood that Jesus had reference to John the Immerser.15
Inquiring About the Temple
After Jesus tells His disciples that “There shall not be one stone left upon another that shall not be thrown down,” James (along with Peter, Andrew, and John) ask Him privately, “Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled?”16 Jesus proceeds to give them, in some detail, information about the destruction of Jerusalem, including the events leading up to it.17
The Garden of Gethsemane
After the Last Supper, Jesus took the apostles with Him to Gethsemane, and instructed eight of them to “Sit here, while I go and pray [over] there.” But He took with Him Peter, James, and John, and told just these three men, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death. You wait here and watch with me.” After going a bit further and praying, Jesus returned to find the inner circle sleeping, and woke them up, saying (primarily to Peter, but also to James and John),18 “What? Couldn’t you watch with me for one hour? Watch and pray, that you do not enter into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”19
Jesus again went off to pray, and when He returned, they had fallen asleep again. He said something to them, but then He went back to pray some more.20 After this third time, He told them (perhaps sarcastically), “Sleep on now, and take rest. Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let’s be going. Look, He who betrays me is at hand.”21
The Inner Circle
Each time Jesus specifically called Peter, James, and John to come with Him, He had something important in mind. First was to show His power to raise the dead. Second was to His transfiguration where His superiority to Moses and Elijah was spoken from heaven. Third was to watch with Him (apparently to keep an eye out for Judas and the soldiers) while He was deep in prayer. But just moments after this last event, the entire inner circle ran in fear as Jesus was taken prisoner by the band of soldiers led by Judas.
-Bradley S. Cobb
1 Luke 8:40.
2 Mark 5:21-23.
3 Mark 5:30 shows Jesus turning around and asking this question, but there the quotation is “Who touched my clothes?” Luke 8:45 gives the quotation as “Who touched me?” There is no contradiction here, for it is very possible that Jesus said, “Who touched me? Who touched my clothes?” Or it could also be that Luke records the exact quote while Mark gives the more exact meaning—since the woman didn’t actually touch Jesus, but touched His clothing. In both accounts, the disciples asked why Jesus said “Who touched me?”
4 Mark 5:31. This statement was made by all the disciples, and as is seen a little further in the narrative, James was indeed there.
5 Mark 5:32-34.
6 Mark 5:35-36. Most translations render it “only believe,” which is a legitimate rendering, but “just believe” carries with it the same meaning and is more in keeping with modern speech.
7 This paragraph is an amalgamation of the accounts given by Luke (8:49-56) and Mark (5:35-43). Matthew adds that Jesus’ fame spread because of this event (Matthew 9:23-26), probably from the people who had mocked Him just minutes before.
8 Matthew 17:2 is the only account where this description is given. Luke simply says “His countenance was changed,” which is quite the understatement!
9 Mark 9:3 adds “like as no laundryman on earth can bleach them.”
10 Luke 9:32 is the only place where this information is given to us. We aren’t told how exactly the three apostles knew that the two additional figures were Moses and Elijah. Most likely it was due to overhearing part of the conversation that they were having with Jesus. Perhaps they called each other by name as they talked.
11 It is interesting that with Moses, Elijah, and Jesus, God Himself was responsible for their deaths. God killed Moses on Mt. Nebo, and buried him in Moab (Deuteronomy 34:5-7); God took Elijah in the whirlwind, ending his physical existence (2 Kings 2:11); and God was the one who caused the death of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:22-23). Moses was buried, Elijah ascended, and Jesus Christ did both.
12 Luke 9:34-36. The bracketed material is found in Matthew’s account, Matthew 17:5.
13 Matthew 17-6-8. Matthew is the only writer to include this information.
14 Mark 9:9-10. The other writers do not give us the information about Peter, James, and John’s conversation.
15 Mark’s account reveals for us that it was Peter, James, and John who asked this question (see Mark 9:2-13, and put with Matthew 17:9-13), and it wasn’t until after Jesus answered that they came to the other disciples (Mark 9:14, Matthew 17:14).
16 Mark 13:1-4. That Andrew was part of this company is not surprising, since he was (1) Peter’s brother, and (2) is always joined with the other three in the listings of the apostles.
17 See Matthew 24, Luke 21, and Mark 13.
18 Matthew 26:40 shows that Jesus spoke to Peter, but he uses the plural “you” (“ye” in KJV) to show He is referencing the three of them. It appears that even at this point, Peter was viewed somewhat as a leader among the apostles, for Jesus said this to Him.
19 Matthew 26:36-41.
20 When Mark records this incident, He says that the three men “did not know what to answer Him” the second time He came back (Mark 14:40).
21 Matthew 26:42-46. That this is possibly sarcasm is seen in that Jesus tells them to “sleep on,” and almost immediately says “rise up.”