The Inner Circle
It’s a good feeling, being trusted and valued, invited to be a part of someone’s inner circle. It also feels good to be presiding over your own inner circle, surrounded by a few loyal friends with whom you can be your “authentic self.” You can meet with them all at once or in varied pairings. If you are married it’s vital that your spouse be a part of your inner circle.
Jesus had one disciple, the beloved one, who was his closest friend. This may be due in part to the fact that John was going to assume the role of Christ in being an earthly son and provider for Mary. Another dear friend undoubtedly was John the Baptist. We have little knowledge of their friendship as cousins and it’s possible they had more interaction beyond the record we have of Jesus’ baptism. I’m going to count him in, to the inner circle. To round it out we have Peter and James.
Brightness of the High Hill
The traditional location of the Mount of Transfiguration is Mount Tabor, measuring 1,800 feet. It was here that Jesus met with Moses and Elijah, all of them shining brightly with the glory of God. They were speaking about the soon departure of Christ after which they would be reunited again in heaven. Lk. 9:28-33 Peter expressed the joy of the moment when he said Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters. One for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah. How could it be anything but good, right? Being in the inner circle and illuminated by supernatural brightness.
Darkness of the Lowly Garden
The inner circle is not only exclusive but all inclusive. You are a privileged one, gaining entry into the full experience of the Master’s calling. The disciples shared the miracles, the growing popularity, and the vision of a new kingdom. But they were to soon learn about their inclusion into another part of their Master’s world. Welcome to Gethsemane.
Again, it was Peter, James, and John. In a way, John the Baptist had already been to his Gethsemane, successful in his mission and transcended to a new kingdom. For Jesus there was no bright light this time, nor the Father’s voice of affirmation from the cloud. Instead, he was deeply distressed. My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch. Mk. 14:32-34
Jesus prayed through his Gethsemane ordeal because he had his eyes fixed on the joy of his redemption. Heb. 12:2 I believe it was the joy of having many brothers and sisters that would carry on the Father’s mission in the power of the Holy Spirit. He had prayed: My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message…I have given them the glory that you gave me…I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory… Jn. 17:20,22,24
We have been prayed into the inner circle. We have the hope of glory (Christ) residing within us by the Spirit. There is also a future expression of that glory, which Moses and Elijah gave evidence to.
We are shall a common “on ramp” into the family don’t we. None of us was natural born; we are all adopted. We have received the Spirit of adoption (sonship) and by him we cry “Abba Father.” Now if we are children, then we are heirs, heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. Rom. 8:15,17
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. Rom. 8:18
[ Insert Name Here ]
He took with him Peter, James, John and [insert your name here]. I think we are all “inner circle eligible.” Due to the omnipresence of God this is a very LARGE exclusive group. Yet we must be vigilant to avoid comparison or envy among us. It brings to mind one of the final encounters that Peter and John had with Jesus before his ascension.
Jesus engages Peter in an intense but restorative conversation. Jn. 21:15-19 He probes Peter three times with the question Do you love me? He then indicates that Peter will die a martyr’s death. Finally, he says to Peter, Follow me. Must have felt good to be restored and then be going for a walk down the beach, exclusive, alone with Jesus.
But Peter turns and sees John following behind and he asks Jesus, Lord what about him? Jn. 21:21 Jesus replies: If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.
You – Follow Me
At surface level we might judge Jesus as being harsh. What’s it to ya? Mind your own business. But knowing the shepherd heart of Christ, it was a loving rebuke filled with wisdom. A couple of quotes from commentators:
“There is a touch of human interest in His rebuke of Peter for attempting to discover the divine will concerning another man.” (Morgan)
“I have come to the conclusion that, instead of trying to set all my Master’s servants right at once, my first and most important work is to follow my Lord; and I think, my brother, that it will be wise for you to come to the same conclusion.” (Spurgeon)
You, follow me. This was a direct challenge to Peter. Regardless of how we rank the favor of God displayed to us, we must decide in a singular way that we are going to follow Jesus. Others may look to my life and feel that they’ve got the short end of the stick somehow. Or I may be the one who is challenged with my perceived lower ranking in favor or assignment, compared to others.
All – Out Allegiance
The inner circle is not without its challenges. Judas left the circle for money and greed. The rich young ruler never entered in, for the same reason. Judas hung himself under the weight of his betrayal; Peter grieved and repented under the weight of his. He then had the courage to follow Jesus after being told he would die a martyr’s death. John the Baptist never got to experience the rich fellowship of the circle due to the enormity of his mission. He paid the price in solitude and then execution. Undoubtedly the inner circle was devastated by the horrific nature of John’s death. In today’s world we call it trauma recovery.
Yet the fortress of the inner circle is a safe place to dream and commit, a place of renewal and recommissioning. In moments of passionate prayer, we invite God to do whatever He desires in our lives. God takes note of these prayers of consecration, where we pledge our all-out allegiance – signing over blank checks of consecration unaware of the cost over a lifetime. Turns out we often feel overdrawn, lacking the funds to cover the amount on the checks we signed. No worries.
God is making deposits into our lives, especially in our weakest moments, that translates into a heart currency, from which we are empowered to obey Him. He not only calls us in, to the inner circle, but provides for us the staying power to abide.