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EXCERPT: "Praying through the Beatitudes" • Understanding the Power of "Blessing"

WIth thanks to Featured Contributor Dr. Dan Crawford

for permission to post


from his book "Praying through the Beatitudes"


     A rumor had spread among the people that Jesus was returning to Galilee. It was whispered from small group to small group, from home to home, and business to business. Excitement grew. Suddenly, Jesus arrived, followed by his newly- called disciples and a multitude from Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond Jordan. Others from Tiberius, Bethsaida, and Capernaum would soon join them.              

     Together these new followers fell in line, leaving their places of business, their homes, their places of learning, their leisure activities. They followed him until they reached the summit of a dusty hill. There Jesus motioned for them to sit. Overwhelming anxiety gripped the multitude as they waited expectantly. His first word to them was “blessed,” the Greek word being markarios, which is a complete, self-contained joy. Some, feeling the translation “blessed” to be too religious, have substituted the word, happy, but this translation is entirely too secular.

     Happiness is a chief goal of humankind. Many philosophers have held that happiness is the summon bonum—the highest good in life. In writing the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote about the “right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” This pursuit has caused humankind to look in many places and try numerous experiences to discover happiness.

     One French philosopher said, “The whole world is on a mad quest for security and happiness.” This quest has led to interesting pursuits. It was said that Leo Tolstoy, the Russian fiction writer and social reformer, was told by his older brother Nicholas that the secret of happiness is for everybody to love everybody else and the rules for such a life were written on a green stick buried in the forest under an oak tree near a deep, dark ravine. Ernest Newton in his book entitled, This Book- Collecting Game, states about one of his characters, “Gilbert White discovered the formula for complete happiness, but died before making the announcement.” A book of famous quotations lists 137 quotes on the subject of happiness. The quest for happiness is universal, but for many happiness is elusive.

     Happiness has within it the seeds of its own disqualification. The word is based on hap – a chance, a happenstance, whereas the kind of happiness referred to by Jesus means more than this. This “man of sorrows” knew the real meaning of happiness was based not on probabilities, but upon certainties.

     Nor is the word “blessed” enough when judged by the popular use of the word. We tend to relate blessing to the material things of life, but this falls far short of the meaning as used by Jesus. This word markarios here refers more to an inward, distinctive joy and bliss. It is an inner joy that is untouched by the things of this world and unrelated to the outward accumulation of possessions.

     The full meaning of markarios may perhaps best be understood when seen from the perspective of the Greeks themselves. They called the island of Cyprus, hemarkia (the feminine form of markarios) which literally meant The Happy Isle. So beautiful, lovely, rich, and fertile was Cyprus that the Greeks believed a person would never need to leave its shores to find genuine happiness. The climate, flowers, fruits, trees, minerals, and natural resources on Cyprus were everything anyone required. Thus, markarios describes a distinctive joy whose secret is within itself, untouchable, self-contained, independent of all the happenings of life.

     This blessedness was superior to the blessedness known by persons in the past. Just as the Ten Commandments of the Old Testament summarize the Law, so these eight attributes of the New Testament summarize the gospel. Moses was a servant of God; Jesus was the Son of God. Moses came down from a mountain with ten statements engraved on stone tablets. Jesus spoke from a mountain eight statements that became engraved on human hearts and minds. Moses spoke of the law, judgment, and wrath. Jesus opened his mouth and said, “Blessed.” The laws spoken by Moses related to outward conduct. The attributes spoken by Jesus related to an inward attitude. Moses spoke of the kind of life one must live to be godly. Jesus spoke of the blessedness of those who are godly. In contrast to the old words stands this new word: “blessed.”

     Likewise, this blessedness is superior to the blessedness known in the present world. Over against the worlds offer of quick-fix solutions is this word “blessed.” Over against the world‘s offer of delight through dependencies is this word “blessed.” Over against the worlds offer of meaning through madness is the word “blessed.” Today the world’s beatitudes might read like this:

     Blessed are the movers and shakers, for they get what they want

          in this world.

     Blessed are those who insulate themselves with a hard shell, for

          they never get hurt by life.

     Blessed are those who gripe and complain, for they seem to get

          all the attention.

     Blessed are the apathetic, for they never feel another‘s pain.

     Blessed are the workaholics, for they get results and promotions.

     Blessed are they that explore outer space, for they shall fill the

          inner void.

     Blessed are they who place all their faith in hi-tech, for the

                        future belongs to them.

     Blessed are the intellectuals, for they know how to cope with


     Blessed are the religious, for they will know inner peace.


     Finally, this blessedness is superior to what the world offers for the future. Today’s voices loudly and confidently proclaim their promises of future hope: utopia reached through universalism, an eternity of eradication, an inheritance of annihilation, a future based on fatalism. If you give today, God will bless you tomorrow, proclaims a televangelist. Others have named it the delayed gratification ethic. Contrast these offers to the words of Jesus concerning the future of His disciples. Using the same word, markarios, Jesus speaks from heaven saying, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord . . . that they may rest from their labors” (Revelation 14:13).

     Having pronounced his disciples “blessed,” Jesus begins to list attributes or characteristics often called beatitudes. Eight times Jesus draws attention to an inherent characteristic of one who could be called truly blessed and in so doing outlines the attributes of a disciple.

     Keeping in mind the meaning of markarios, what would have to happen today for you to feel genuinely blessed? Spend some time in prayer right now. Ask God to help you feel blessed today.

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Eph 1:3 NIV 

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.


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