I wonder if Peter, James, and John were in the spotlight so much not because Jesus saw in them the most potential, but the least. It’s not like they had many flattering lines or proved to have been particularly insightful. Even Peter’s great confession is relativized when Jesus pointed out that his idea of who Jesus should be came from Satan himself. And if James and John weren’t awkwardly calling down fire from heaven, they were asking for to be seated at the right and left of Jesus in his glory–of course, they envisioned Jesus on a throne in all his glory, but Jesus envisioned himself on a cross. We shouldn’t, then, be surprised by the response: Indeed, “You know not what you ask!” (Mk. 10).
Maybe the term “inner circle,” is misleading given its sense of endearment. When I read the Synoptics, especially (that Triad doesn’t really show up in John), it seems to me that Jesus brings this trio closest to him perhaps because they are the furthest away. And if so, maybe the three years with these three stooges is as much a model of evangelism than it is discipleship–an unfortunate dichotomy in our language today–which may undermine our fast-food models of evangelism. This will only interest the few who are interested in discipleship/evangelism models (in which this trio always gets brought up), but I wonder if it would change anything if we read about this trio and Jesus’ perspective of them through that lens (which seems to me to be truer to the text) and then considered “models” (for lack of a better word).