2-1-1-1-Listening Church


Read Mark 1:1-8

When you experience the excitement of a big event you naturally want to till someone.  Telling the story can bring back that original thrill as sense his excitement.  Picture yourself in the crowd as Jesus heals and teaches.  Imagine yourself as one of the disciples.  Respond to his words of love and encouragement.  And remember that Jesus came for us who live today as well as for those who lived 2,000 years ago.

Mark was not one of the 12 disciples of Jesus, but he probably knew Jesus personally.  Mark wrote his Gospel in the form of a fast-paced story, like a popular novel.  The book portrays Jesus as a man who backed up his words with action that constantly proved who he is – the Son of God.  Because Mark wrote the Gospel for Christians in Rome, where many gods were worshiped, he wanted his readers to know that Jesus is the one true Son of God.

Jesus came at a time in history when the entire civilized world was relatively peaceful under Roman rule travel was easy, and there was a common language.  The news about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection could spread quickly throughout the vast Roman empire.

 Always the message of John precedes that of Jesus Christ; first the changed attitude of the will, then faith.  The greatness of John the Baptist revealed attitude of the will, then faith.  The greatness of John the Baptist revealed itself in his humility.  He saw what we must see, that a negative religion,  symbolized by water, it is not enough; we need to be set on fire.

In Israel, common men and women were ready for Jesus too,  There had been no God-sent prophets for 400 years, since the days of Malachi (who wrote the last book of the Old Testament).  There was growing anticipation that a great prophet, or the Messiah mentioned in the Old Testament; would soon come.

Isaiah was one of the greatest prophets of the Old Testament.  The second half of the book of Isaiah is devoted to the promise of salvation.  Isaiah wrote about the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, and the man who would announce his coming, John the Baptist.  John’s call to “make straight paths for him” meant that people should give up their selfish way of living, renounce their selfish way of living, renounce their sins, seek God’s forgiveness, and establish a relationship with the almighty God by believing and obeying his words as found in Scripture (Isaiah 1:18-20; 57:15).

Mark 1:2, 3 is a composite quotation, taken first from Malachi 3:1 and then from Isaiah 40:3.

Hundreds of years earlier, the prophet Isaiah had predicted that John the Baptist and Jesus would come.  How did he know?  God promised Isaiah that a Redeemer would come to Israel, and that a messenger calling in the desert would prepare the way for him.  Isaiah’s words comforted many people as they looked forward to the Messiah, and knowing that God keeps his promises can comfort you too.  As you read the book of Mark, realize that it is more than a story; it 9is part of God’s Word.  In it God is revealing to you his plan for human history.

Why does the Gospel of Mark begin with the story of John the Baptist and not mention the story of Jesus birth?  Important Roman officials of this day were always preceded by an announcer or her-old.  When the herald arrived in town the people knew that someone of prominence would soon arrive.  Because Mark’s audience was primarily Roman Christians, he began his book with with John the Baptist whose mission it was to announce the coming of Jesus the most man who ever lived.  Roman Christians would have been less interested in Jesus’ birth than in this messenger who prepared the way.

John chose to live in the desert (1) to get away from distractions so he could hear God’s instructions; (2) to capture the undivided attention of the people: (3) to symbolize a sharp break with the hypocrisy of the religious leaders who preferred their luxurious homes and positions of authority over doing God’s work; (4) to fulfill Old Testament prophecies that said John would be “a voice of one calling: in the desert prepare the way for the Lord” (Isaiah 40:3).

In John’s ministry, baptism was a visible sign that a person had decided to chang his or her life, giving up a sinful and selfish way of living and turning to God.  John took a known custom and gave it new meaning.  The Jews often baptized non-Jews who had converted to Judaism.  But to baptize a Jew as a sign of repentance was a radical departure from Jewish custom.  The early church took baptism a step further, associating it with Jesus’ death and resurrection (see, for example Romans 6:3, 4; 1 Peter 3:21).

The purpose of John’s preaching was to prepare people to accept Jesus as God’s Son.  When John challenged the people to confess sin individually be signaled the start of a new way to relate to God.

Is change needed in your life before you can hear and understand Jesus’ message?  You have to admit you need forgiveness before you can accept it.  To prepare to receive Christ, repent.  Denounce the world’s dead-end attractions, sinful temptations, and harmful attitudes.

John’s clothes were not the latest style of his day.  He dressed much like the prophet Elijah (2 Kings 1:8) in order to distinguish himself from the religious leaders whose flowing robes reflected their great pride in  their position (12:38).  John’s striking appearance reinforced his striking message.

Although John was the first genuine prophet in 400 years, Jesus the Messiah would be infinitely greater than he.  John was pointing out how insignificant he was compared to the one who was coming.  John was not even worthy of doing the most menial tasks for him, like untying his sandals.  What John began, Jesus finished.  What John prepared Jesus fulfilled.

John said Jesus would baptize them with the Holy Spirit, sending the Holy Spirit to live within each believer.  John’s baptism with water prepared a person to receive Christ’s message.  This baptism with water prepared a person to receive Christ’s message.  This baptism demonstrated repentance, humility, and willingness to turn from sin.  This was the beginning of the spiritual process.

When Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit, however, the entire person is transformed by the Spirit’s power.  Jesus offers to us both forgiveness of sin and the power to live for him.

In Mark 1:4-11 we meet John the Baptizer as a prophet – one who speaks a word for God, from God, to a nation of people desperate for a fresh, lively experience of God. He points beyond himself to the One who acts to create, recreate, redeem, and transform.

What happens out in the wilderness has never before occurred. John’s proclamation and the response of the people have stirred up quite a scene, as people from the whole Judea countryside and all the people of Jerusalem go out to him. Certainly this text contains some poetic license and preacher-counting, but the symbolism is vivid. People tired of what they have been receiving in their religious rituals and practices, as well as those who probably don’t have a religious bone in their bodies, are going to the wilderness to find hope in the preaching of a rugged man and the water of a river. God’s very presence is breaking into their lives, and their hungers and hurts find satisfaction. And it is like a new beginning for them.

Perhaps a new beginning will come for us outside the boundaries of the expected and the accepted. Perhaps as a journey to the wilderness – or at least away from the trappings of religiosity and the distractions of the culture – will open our hearts and ears to God’s word for our day. Listen.

Speaking and renewing God, stir up in me a hunger for the word that will heal and help, and direct me to the place where I will hear again your message of hope and renewal.

What do the context of the quotes (Mal 3:1; Isa 40:3) teach about the “coming one”?

Why is John’s ministry so popular (vv. 4-5)?

What does John’s clothing and diet say about him (v. 6; see 2 Ki 1:8; Mal 4:5)?

Given John’s message (vv. 7-8), what type of person is the crowd anticipating (see Isa 32:15-20)?  How do these expectations account for the crowd’s reception of John, despite his hard message?

What from your life illustrates what it means to repent?

When did Jesus Christ become more than just a religious figure or “cuss word” to you?

Why did the people flock to John the Baptist instead of avoiding him?

In modern words, what was the message of John?

Why was the establishment so upset with John?

What role did John the Baptist play in the overall plan of God?

If John the Baptist come to your town with this message, how would he be received?

Who played the part of John the Baptist in your life-who “prepared the way” for Jesus?

How would you describe your relationship with Jesus right now?

What would it take to move you forward in Your relationship with God?

Do we know Him? Do we know that God of Jesus Christ? Maybe we think that there are other things more important in the Christian walk than knowing God – like loving God, praising Him, thanking Him, keeping the commandments, living a good life. There are many things that make up a truly Christian life, but all of them are rooted in authentic knowledge of God.

Perhaps we think that because we are Christians and read the Bible and know a great deal about God, that therefore we know God. Nothing could be further from the truth. It does us little good to memorize chapter and verse, to master the language of the Bible, if we have nothing to share in that language, no experiential knowledge of God.

But most of our lives we are, as Soren Kierkegaard noted, “so busy” with other things that we don’t have time to wait patiently to hear the voice of the God of Jesus within us.

The most important thing that ever happens in prayer is letting ourselves be loved by God. “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalms 46:10). It’s like slipping into a tub of hot water and letting God’s love wash over us, enfold us. Prayer is like sunbathing. When you spend a lot of time in the sun, people notice it. They say, “You’ve been at the beach.” You look like you’ve been out in the sun because you’ve got a tan. Prayer – or bathing inn the Son of God’s love (Son-bathing?) – makes you look different. The awareness of being loved brings a touch of lightness and a tint of brightness and sometimes, for no apparent reason, a smile plays at the corner of your mouth. Through prayer you not only know God’s love, you realize it, You are in conscious communion with it.

From Lion and Lamb by Brennan Manning)

Do you feel like you communicate with God when you pray? Or do your prayers merely fulfill an obligation? Next time you pray, talk to God as you would a friend. Put any fancy prayer words aside and let God know how you feel.

The Gospel of Mark Introduction

Purpose: To present the person, work, and teachings of Jesus.

We’re number one! … The greatest, strongest, prettiest ,,, champions.  Daily those proclamations boldly assert claims of supremacy.  Everyone wants to be and be with a winner.  Losers are those who finish less than first.  In direct contrast are the words of Jesus, “And whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.  For even the Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (10:44, 45).  Jesus is the greatest – God incarnate,  our Messiah – but he entered history as a servant.

To Whom Written: The Christians in Rome, where he wrote the Gospel.


The Roman empire, with its common language and excellent transportation and communication systems, was ripe to hear Jesus’ message, which spread quickly from nation to nation.

Special Features:

mark was probably the first Gospel written.  The other Gospels quote all but 31 verses of Mark.  Mark records more miracles than does any other Gospel.

This is the Message of mark.  To prove beyond a doubt that Jesus is the Messiah.  Mark presents a rapid succession of vivid pictures of Jesus in action-his true identity revealed by what he does, not necessarily by what he says.  It is Jesus on the Move.

Mark shows us Jesus- moving, serving, sacrificing, and saving! As you read Mark, be ready for action, be open for God’s move into your life, and be challenged to move into your life, and be challenged to move into your world to serve.

The central Character: Jesus Christ

When Jesus rose from the dead, he proved that he was God, that he could forgive sin, and that he had the power to change our lives.  By trusting in him for forgiveness, we can begin a new life with him as our guide.


Because of Jesus’ example, we should be willing to serve God and others.  Real greatness in Christ’s Kingdom, is shown by service and sacrifice.  Ambition or love of power or position should not be our motive; instead, we should do God’s work because we love him.  We, too, must be careful we don’t reject God or his will because he doesn’t quite fit our image of what God should be.


The more convinced we become that Jesus is God, the more we will see his power and his love.  His mighty works show us he is able to save anyone regardless of his or her past.  His miracles of forgiveness bring healing, wholeness, and changed lives to those who trust him.

Spreading the gospel

Jesus crossed national, racial, and economic barriers to spread his Good News.  Jesus’ message of faith and forgiveness is for the whole world – not just our church, neighborhood, or nation.  We must reach out beyond our own people and needs to fulfill the world wide vision of Jesus Christ that people everywhere might here this great message and be saved from sin and death.

mark, the shortest of the four Gospels.  The Gospel of Mark is concise, straight forward, and chronological.

Historical Background:

mark was written for a Gentile audience; traditionally, the church of Rome.  It may have been occasioned by the great fire which devastated much of Rome in A.D.64.  Despite his efforts at rebuilding the city, many people believed the Emperor Nero himself had arranged for this fire.  To shift the focus off himself, Nero placed the blame for the tragedy on the Christians.  This led to an outbreak of severe persecution which tested the faith of many.  It was to people in this situation that Mark may have written this Gospel.  This book would encourage these suffering believers by showing them Jesus authority overall types of opposing forces.  At the same time, Mark called on them to serve Christ faithfully even as they shared in his sufferings.


Mark is not so much a biography of Jesus as it is a character sketch.

Write down three words that capture how you view Jesus right now.  Which words could be illustrated by a story in Mark?

Mark shows Jesus as a king come to free his people from that which oppresses them.  How have you experienced the freedom that which oppresses them.  How have you experienced the freedom that comes from Jesus?  At what points in your life do you need that freedom now?

To get the most out of the Gospels, what will you put into it?  How will you apply yourself to the disciplines (of study prayer, shared leadership, outreach, confidentiality, accountability, etc.)?

The Listening Church

The First Act of the People of God in Ministry

“He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”  This admonition of Jesus appears in all three of the Synoptic Gospels.  Hearing is a central activity in the Hew Testament.

“Hear me, all of you, and understand.” (Mark 7:14)

The dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.  (John 5:25b)

You cannot bear to hear my word.  He who is of God hears the words of God; the reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God. (John 9:43b, 47)

Even this cursory glance reveals that hearing is the gateway to the gospel.  Hearing is life.  According to Jesus, true hearing involves understanding, reflection, perception, discernment, and commitment as response.

martin Luther insisted that the gospel is always a matter of hearing.  Faith is a gift that we accept and reject over and over again.  Yesterday’s bread will not suffice for today.  We need a fresh supply!  The circumstances of our lives are never exactly thee same.  Our spirits are up and down and somewhere in between.  So the story of our lives is hearing thee Story over and over again.  Always again.

To listen is to be in a receiving position.  Before the disciples knew what to do or thought they knew what to do or dared to do what they did not know how to do – they listened.  Ears precede feet.  To listen is to focus on what God is doing.  If the church doesn’t begin here and come back here, it has no chance of going anywhere.  If the church does not receive the gifts of God, what has it to give to the world?

Listen to the wisdom of theologian Karl Barth:

The Bible tells us not how we should talk with God but what {God} says to us … not the right relation in which we must place ourselves to him, but the covenant which he has made with all who are Abraham’s spiritual children and which he has sealed once and for all in Jesus Christ …. We have found in the Bible … not the history of man but the history of God!”

The poor in spirit are blessed in the Sermon on the Mount because their basic posture is willingness to admit need.  Whatever else we are as the people of God in ministry, we are first of all a listening people.

The Ultimate Therefore:

Because God has embraced you with the promise and claim of Jesus Christ, therefore live your life  accordingly.  Therefore, respond to life in ways that are appropriate for one for whom Christ died.  And care for others for whom Christ died in a way appropriate.  The most crucial decision in life is whether life is my story or God’s story.  If life is fundamentally about God and God’s purposes in life and creation: then to be part of God’s story is to be involved with a Word – Jesus Christ – that at times heals in such a remarkable ways that it could only be God’s Word; that at times hurts to much to be anything else but Tod’s Word.  The church’s reason for being is to live out the Great Therefore in relationships and acts of caring.  To hear the Good News is to be touched by a mysterious love Who calls all life into being, yet is before us and after us.

Designed Hearing Aids

The function of prayer is to be a hearing aid.  While prayer may be speaking silently or audibly, it also is a means of listening.  The Quaker tradition of “centering down” and listening to the Spirit of God, both in community and in solitude, can be a means of grace in which a deeper God-consciousness can take place.  Perhaps we are too prone toward “talking prayers” and need to sit still in “listening prayers.”  Is it not true in human relationships that we are too often talking when we should be listening?  Reading, hearing, and meditating on the Scripture, like prayer, is a hearing aid given to both the gathered congregation and the people scattered.

Scripture is a cornerstone and touchstone of the people pf God in ministry, providing content and substance to our consciousness, our life as a community, and our commitment in mission.

Un-designed Hearing Aids

Luther declared that if God once spoke through Balaam’s ass (Num. 22), God can speak through anything, whether stone, stick, or thunder!  All of this is to say that our ordinary hearing aids (“means of grace”) in the life of the church point to what God has already done and is doing in life.  We should not be surprised, then, when we hear God in daily events.

Many Christians have discovered their most profound experience of God in ministering to others through personal care.  God can only seem real to us if our lives reflect a reaching out to the need of others.  In the cries of our neighbors we hear God speaking.  To listen and respond is to find ourselves as well.

Hardness of Hearing

When we are able to experience our “wounds as occasions where God intimates a new creation” (Henri J. Nouwen), we are hearing the gospel.

When availability to the suffering of others becomes a higher priority than acquisitiveness of things, our ears are tuned in.

When our economic and political opions serve no greater cause than our own vested interests, we are having hearing difficulties.

If anything has become more important than faith working through love, we need a checkup on our hearing aids.

If we’ve allowed ourselves to become cynical and have no sense of expectancy about what God can do through committed people, hardness of the hearing arteries is setting in.

When suffering is transformed into a deeper compassion for others, we have met the risen Christ.

When through jesus Christ our failures become our buildong blocks instead of our stumbling blocks, the empty tomb is a fact of our experience.

When the gospel frees us to make mistakes because we dare to get our hands dirty in linkage with lepers, somebody is doing some listening.

As people of God in ministry we will do well to ask ourselves, “What hearing aids has God given us that equip us to hear?”


1.  What “designed” and “un-designed” hearing aids are most important for you?

2.  In what ways could the listening church become more faithful in your congregation?

3.  As you read Scripture, ask yourself, “How is God speaking or revealing the divine purpose to human beings? How does God come into life?  How does God become real?”


BIO:Lee Rutland Scarborough

Baptist minister and educator. L.R. Scarborough was born in
Colfax, Louisiana, on July 4, 1870. His father was a farmer
and preacher. Lee, one of five children in the family, was
converted to Christ at the age of 17 at the First Baptist
Church in Waco, Texas, and was ordained as a Baptist minister
by the First Baptist Church of Abilene, Texas, in 1896. After
graduating from Baylor University in 1892, he taught at that
same institution for the next two years. He then entered Yale
University, where he received an additional degree in 1896.
Upon completion of his seminary work at Southern Baptist
Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1900,
Scarborough pastored in Texas for the next eight years. In
1908 he went to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in
Fort Worth, Texas, as a professor in the school of theology,
where he served until elected president of the seminary in
1915. He served in that capacity for the next 27 years until
he retired in 1942.
During this period he also served as president of the
Baptist General Convention of Texas (1929-31), vice president
of the Southern Baptist Convention (1934-35), president of
the Southern Baptist Convention (1938-41), and vice president
of the Baptist World Alliance (1940-41). Dr. Scarborough was
the author of 14 books, as well as a great preacher and soul-
winner. He died in Amarillo, Texas, on April 10, 1945.

Ruckman ’66


About georgehach

I am a retired Lay Minister, acting as a prophet for God to understand the end times that is comingg and how to prepare for it.
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