These "sermon notes" come from 11/28/20's sermon, "A Tale of Two Holidays."
One of the things that I think we often overlook when we read Bible stories is that these people that we're reading about are humans too, just like us! We often idealize or vilify these characters without digging deep and thinking about how we would react.
One of the places this happens is with those that chose not to return from Babylon to Jerusalem. God's will was obviously that His people would return (Jer 30:8-9). And yet when Ezra and Zerubbabel called for the Jews to return to Jerusalem, many didn't return with them! This was part of the reason that the elder priests and members cried in Ezra 3.
However, I think we're too hard on those that wanted to stay in Babylon. Looking at a map, ancient Babylon was anywhere from 900-1,200 miles from Jerusalem! With women, children, and the elderly, the trip would have taken over 4 months!
Ezra's call was essentially to leave everything, travel in the blazing hot desert for four months, arrive in the middle of nowhere with no personal belongings or even homes built, and then work tirelessly building and trying to protect your land from invaders and outsiders! Of course the offer was not well received! Let's not be too hard on those that didn't return; after all, could we honestly say that if we were in the same position, we wouldn't have done the same?
Another interesting point was that this return to Jerusalem by Nehemiah, Ezra, and the others, was the start of the Jew/Samaritan feud.
When the Jews arrived back to Jerusalem, they weren't returning to barren ground! There was already a group that was living there; the Samaritans, who saw themselves as the descendants of the Jews that weren't sent into exile. However, the Samaritans had intermarried with the surrounding pagan nations (a big no-no), and when the returning Jews didn't allow them to help build the Temple (Ezra 4:1-3) the Samaritans retaliated by trying to stop the rebuilding of the Temple (Ezra 4).
This led to a feud that would last all the way to Jesus' time! The parable of the Good Samaritan wasn't just a nice little tale; Jesus was placing a member of a tribe that broke God's covenant law by intermarrying and then tried to halt the rebuilding of the Temple as the "good guy!" And it all started in the 550's BCE with Ezra's return to Jerusalem.