When the leading priests and teachers of religious law heard what Jesus had done, they began planning how to kill him. But they were afraid of him because the people were so amazed at his teaching. Mark 11:18 (NLT)
This past weekend, Wendy and I watched the classic film The Godfather. I never cease to be amazed at this compelling and tragic story. When his family’s lives, power, and money were threatened, Michael Corleone found himself resorting to any means necessary to hold onto their influence.
I thought about that as I read today’s chapter. Jesus was a big problem for the established religious leaders in Jerusalem. It was one thing when He was off in the north of Galilee attracting the crowds with his traveling side show, but now Jesus had moved back onto their turf and he was a direct threat to their power and, more importantly, their money.
The sacrificial system around the temple in Jerusalem was a cash cow for the religious elite. Since all good Jews had to make a regular pilgrimage to the temple for sacrifice, the system had evolved into a den of corruption that victimized the poor pilgrims and lined the pockets of the Chief Priest and his cronies. They were organized crime dressed up in religious robes. Jesus threatened not only to start a riot, but to diminish the profits and power of the Chief Priest and his religious racketeering.
Jesus was not ignorant. The handwriting was on the wall. He knew that he had made powerful enemies. He knew their hearts. He knew that they would have to kill him to keep their grip on earthly power and the purse strings of their lucrative religious racket. He knew that the interests of God’s kingdom were in direct opposition to the little earthly kingdom they’d established for themselves.
Today, I’m thinking about every human organization with which I’ve ever been involved: businesses, churches, ministries, governments and service organizations. I’m recognizing that every one of them has “power brokers” within the system and political maneuvering and machinations play a part in each organizational system. It would be a lie for me to say that I’ve never allowed my own heart, mind and actions to be tainted and skewed by positions of power and influence within them.
Lord, have mercy on me.
I’m praying today that in my sphere of influence and in my roles within each earthly system, I can be more like Jesus and less like the religious leaders. I pray that I will serve God’s kingdom and others more than I serve myself.