PETER, JAMES AND JOHN
JESUS CHOSE twelve men to be his apostles. A listing of the original twelve can be found in Matthew 10:2-4; Mark 3:14-19; Luke 6:12-16; and Acts 1:13 (minus Judas). There was no mistake in choosing these men, as the Lord had prayed all night long before taking this step (Luke 6:12), and he knew what was in man (John 2:25). Each of them with his respective background, personality and abilities would fit into the Lord’s plan in being his official spokesmen and eyewitnesses.
However, in the listings of the apostles, Peter, James and John always head the list (Mark 3:16, 17; Acts 1:13; sometimes with Andrew, Matthew 10:2; Luke 6:14). These men had been the first ones chosen by Christ to make up the twelve. It seems they had been previously associated in the fishing trade (Luke 5:10). Repeatedly, they are mentioned as the three-some who accompanied the Lord in unique situations (Matthew 17:1-9; Mark 5:35-43; Mark 14:32-42). They were leaders among leaders. And of these three, Peter seems to always be in the forefront.
We don’t know much about the other disciples (of the twelve), but Peter, James and John were men with strong, robust and assertive personalities. Of them, Peter always seemed to be the first one to speak or to take action in any given situation (Matthew 14:28,29; 15:15; 16:13-16, 21-23; 17:4; 18:21; 19:27; 26:33; John 6:68; 13:6-9,36; 18:10; etc.). They didn’t hesitate to let others know what they thought. Sometimes they seemed emotional and impetuous. Sometimes they seemed self-centered and even abrasive (Mark 10:35-45; Luke 9:51-56). It is no wonder that the Lord called James and John the “sons of thunder.” And, yet, the Lord chose these men. And they always head the list of the disciples, and that was not without reason.
Even in the rough, these kind of men are leaders. They just need to get the “rough” edges “knocked off” so that the Lord can use them. Christianity refines our personalities. Men who have been rude and intrusive can go through a radical change. That driving force is still in them, but they are now unashamedly bold and outspoken in a good way, presenting the message of heaven. The night before his crucifixion, looking ahead, the Lord told Peter, “When thou art converted [when you turn], strengthen thy brethren” (Luke 22:32). The “sons of thunder” would experience the baptism of which the Lord spoke (Mark 10:39). Even in the Old Testament, the impulsive Moses who killed an Egyptian, after forty years of exile in the desert, was a different man. Numbers 12:3 says, “Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.” When one gets all of the “rough” edges “knocked off,” sometimes there’s not much left. And that is the way it should be so that Christ might be all and all (Galatians 2:20). Self just needs to be gotten out of the way.
With the coming of the Holy Spirit and the establishment of the church, Peter, James and John are still in the forefront (with Peter leading, Acts 1:15; 2:14,37,38; 5:3,29; etc.). As we stated, they were leaders among leaders (Galatians 2:9). That fleshly tendency and impulsive urge to be the first to speak up has been turned into boldness and outspokenness for the Lord. That being the case, they became lightening rods, drawing the wrath of those who opposed the gospel. Peter and John are the first to end up in prison, but that did not silence them. Later we read that “Herod killed James the brother of John with the sword. And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also…” (Acts 12:2, 3). However, Peter was spared by the deliverance of the angel. Of the “sons of thunder,” James becomes the first of the twelve disciples to suffer martyrdom. The years mellowed his brother John. We remember him now as the “apostle of love.” He would become the last of the twelve apostles to die, and it would be a natural death.
The Lord has set different kinds of workers in the church (1 Corinthians 12:14-27), and those who have leadership abilities are the ones who should lead. Those were the kind of men the Lord chose. But leaders are to meet certain qualifications (1 Timothy 3; etc.). From conversion, through Christian growth and experiences in life, the “rough” edges are “knocked off.” With the “rough” edges “knocked off,” self is gotten out of the way. Then we are controlled by God. We are refined to channel our energies in an acceptable way in serving the Lord. This is true of leaders and every one of us. Let us comply accordingly.