Psalm 84; Ezra 6:1-16; Mark 11:15-19 (read online ⧉)
The restoration of the temple was not only of religious significance; it was also of cultural, societal, and political significance. This would be perceived as the raising of the Hebrews to a point of greater significance than in the past, though not in the highest levels of power. Also, as empire resources and taxes would also be going to restart then maintain the sacrificial system, there is an implied assumption of loyalty of the Hebrews, a people not always known as being loyal and obedient to their foreign kings.
King Darius states part of his rationale, “…pray for the life of the king and his children.” This is not just a political decision by Darius, but it is also a contingency plan for divine protection. While there was an official religion, it was not uncommon for rulers (and people) to cover their bases by trying to appease other deities. King Darius also knew that the local powers would not appreciate the Hebrews being given more power, so he made clear that this was his will.
Those who perceive a loss in their power, or a threat to their power, will often point to others as rebels or troublemakers to try and maintain their power and/or influence. While the rules guiding the use and practices of the temple were clear, leaders still felt the need (or were convinced of the need by those with ulterior motives) to add more rules and requirements. Ultimately, this led to Jesus clearing the temple and insulting those in power.
The leaders “…kept looking for a way to kill him; for they were afraid of him….” People tend to become corrupted by the power they hold, no matter how small or how large. It takes a strong will and humility to keep that from happening.
1) Religion is a powerful tool for the powerful or those seeking power. Where do you see religion, or the lack of it, as the tool being used by those in or seeking power?
2) Even a small amount of power, such as in our circles of influence, can be corrupting. Review how you have used power in your circle of influence. Was it humble? Was it Christ-like?
3) Fear is also a common tool of power. How have you seen fear and religion combined so that people have power over others?