Comparisons are virtually always a bad idea (I’d say “always,” but I was taught that it’s always bad to say “always”). Inevitably, we favor ourselves in our comparisons and we fail to be objective in those comparisons.
Even in the church, it’s tempting to offer comparisons that are unfair to the ones compared. For example, how many comparisons have you heard about the disciples? Poor Peter is often touted as impetuous and loud-mouthed (as if we would never be that way). Andrew is too quiet. John has an unfair advantage because he is “the favorite,” and James and John have a meddling mother.
It might be that we will also create more unjust comparisons if we read Mark 9 too quickly. Here’s the sentence that made me stop this morning: “They seized upon that statement discussing with one another what rising from the dead meant” (v. 10).
Really? That statement means, “rising from the dead!” They had even seen Jesus raise people from the dead (Mk. 5:35ff). He had also already told them that he would be persecuted, crucified, and resurrected (8:31). How could they miss His meaning? One might be tempted to offer comments here about not missing the obvious (which was in fact my first thought). When you read and hear Scripture, let it mean what it means and don’t obscure the simplicity of the message by looking for something hidden and deeper. Don’t miss the obvious. (And the implication of that statement might be a comparison that sounds like, “if I had been one of the disciples, I wouldn’t have missed it.”)
Yet, we must be cautious with that kind of interpretation. In the preceding verse, Jesus told Peter, James, and John as the four of them descended from the mount of transfiguration that they were not to speak of what happened until after the resurrection. Why the time limit? Because it was only after the resurrection that they would have the appropriate perspective to understand what had happened. And furthermore, while the truth about the resurrection seems obvious to us (reading long after the resurrection and understanding much about it), the disciples were oblivious to the truth of the resurrection, in part, because it had been withheld from them by God (6:52; 8:17-18). They did not understand because they could not understand.
Here is a good lesson for us: not all truth is immediately known or comprehended. Some truth needs more truth before the fullness can be apprehended. And while we grow in maturity and understanding, we created beings will never (even in eternity) come to a full and complete knowledge of our infinite God. We will always be growing in comprehension without ever exhausting the limits of God’s person.
So as you read and hear the Word of God, don’t miss the obvious. And also know that you will always miss some truth, even if it might later appear obvious.