“Lifesaving Station”

Mark 11:15-19


            On a dangerous sea coast where shipwrecks often occur, there was once a crude little lifesaving station.  The building was just a little hut with only one boat and a few devoted members who kept a constant watch over the sea.  With no thought for themselves, they went out day and night tirelessly searching for the lost.  Some of those who were saved, and various others in the surrounding area, wanted to become associated with the station.  They gave of their time and money and effort for the support of its work.  New boats were bought and new crews were trained.  The little lifesaving station slowly grew.

            Now some of the members of this lifesaving station were unhappy that the hut was so crude and poorly equipped.  They felt that a more comfortable place should be provided as the first refuge of those who were saved from the sea.  They replaced the emergency cots with beds and put better furniture in the enlarged building.  Now the lifesaving station became a popular gathering place for its members as they decorated it beautifully and furnished it exquisitely.     As it became more club like, fewer and fewer members were interested in going out on lifesaving missions.  So, they hired lifeboat crews to do this work for them.  The lifesaving motif still prevailed in all of the club’s decorations, and there was even a miniature lifeboat in the room where the club initiations were held.

            About this time, a large ship was wrecked off the coast and the hired crews brought in boatloads of cold, wet, and half-drowned people.  As the people came in, the beautiful new clubhouse was in chaos.  So the property committee immediately had a shower house built outside the club where victims of shipwrecks could be cleaned up before coming inside.

            At the next meeting, there was a split in the club membership.  Most of the members wanted to stop the club’s lifesaving activities as they were unpleasant and a hindrance to the normal life of the club.  Some of the members insisted upon the lifesaving as their primary purpose and pointed out that they were still called a lifesaving station.  But unfortunately, these few were voted down and were told that if they wanted to save lives of all who were shipwrecked, they could go down the coast.  And that’s what they did.

            However, as the years went by, the new station experienced the same changes which had happened at the other station.  It evolved into a club.  Another lifesaving station was founded.  But history just kept repeating itself.  The coast line is now lined with exclusive clubs and while shipwrecks continue to happen … most of the people drowned.

            As Jesus enters into the temple on the Monday of Holy Week … he finds an exclusive club where the religious elite are living it up and making money while the lost, while those who are spiritually shipwrecked are drowning.   

            And while we like the Jesus who says, “Let the little children come to me” and who finds the lost lamb and carries it on his shoulders … tonight we see a totally different kind of Jesus.  Tonight we see a Jesus who is irate, who is disgusted, and who flips over the tables of the moneychangers and cleanses the temple.

            But what do we mean when we say that “Jesus cleanses the temple”?  You see, Jesus doesn’t clean out the whole temple.  The temple itself is huge.  Here in Mark, Jesus is cleansing one particular area of the temple.  Jesus is in the place called the court of the Gentiles.  The court of the Gentiles is where the Gentiles, the non-Jewish people would come so that they too could approach God in prayer and worship.  The Jewish people had their part of the temple, the Gentiles had theirs.  And remember, this is Holy Week so there are extra people in town.

           As Jesus entered into the temple area, he found the place to be packed which would be great except for the fact that it was full of traders and moneychangers who were making large profits as they gave out Jewish coins in exchange for “pagan” money.  The place was full of people, but it was also full of animals, animal sounds, animal smells, people shouting and trying to talk over the noise.  There is so much going here on that it would be impossible for anyone to be able to concentrate to pray or let alone worship. 

            But instead of calling for a vote of the elite members, Jesus just takes matters into his own hands.  As Jesus overturns tables of money and benches of those selling doves, as Jesus stops those who are carrying merchandise who are just walking through, Jesus sternly teaches them saying, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers’” (Mark 11:17).

             The temple was built to be a lifesaving station, not a club house.  The exclusive clubhouse members, the religious elite, they had lost focus on what the lifesaving station was supposed to be.  They became distracted by the riches of the world, the elevation of themselves and the comfy positions they held and because of that, people who were looking for help, who were needing to be rescued, who were trying to cry out for help are drowning.

            What would Jesus think if he were to walk through these doors tonight?  I don’t know, but I would hope that we would pass His inspection.

            Whatever it is that we do, whether it is corporately or individually, we need to make sure we don’t become too comfortable that we forget what our mission is.  Before COVID, people within churches across the country craved for the “good ole days.”  In the midst of this COVID thing, I can’t tell you how many times I have heard people say, “I can’t wait for things to get back to normal.” 

            But maybe we, again both corporately and individually, need to be re-evaluating things.  Maybe now is the time to look at ourselves and ask, “is our lifesaving station becoming a club house?”  This question is one which the Church at large has fought for centuries.  In the letters to the seven churches in Revelation, John describes how some of them have become lukewarm in their ministry.  It’s a dangerous thing to become comfortable in doing things the way we have always done them.  It’s a scary thing to try to do things differently.  But what is our mission?  What is it God has given us to do?  Who is it who God wants us to reach out to?

            God’s mission has never been contained within the walls of any building.  God’s mission has always been not only to those on the inside, but also to those who are on outside.  The Lord through Isaiah says, “I will gather still others to them besides those already gathered” (56:8).  Jesus on the cross said to the one thief next to him, who up until that moment potentially didn’t believe in Jesus as the Christ, “today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).

            Christ is our Cornerstone.  He is our solid rock.  Jesus came to the temple on that holy Monday to not only cleanse the temple of the lazy club executives, but to remind the people then, and to remind each of us tonight, that God’s house … it is a lifesaving station.  A lifesaving station for people who are lost and drowning in their sin.  Through Christ, the living lifesaving station, all who sincerely come to him, will be saved.  Amen.

            The peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and mind in Christ Jesus our Lord, now and forever.  Amen.


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