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What does ‘woe’ mean and why does Jesus use it so much?

What does ‘woe’ mean and why does Jesus use it so much?


When we see the word WOE in the scripture, particularly when Jesus uses it, we know we better pay attention. Jesus has lots to say, all prefaced with WOE! Jesus is speaking to the leaders of the day. Jesus is speaking to the elites.

I am going to pay attention. Jesus is talking to me. I must learn.

This is critical in my life. I don’t want to be a hypocrite.

Whenever we see the word “woe” in the New Testament, then it is always a translation of the Greek word “ouai“. This Greek word “ouai” is used 47 times in the New Testament: 41 times in 33 verses it is translated as “woe“, and six times in three verses it is translated as “alas“.

Why watch out for yeast?

Image result for jesus unleavened bread Matthew 16

It is only one slight difference in an ingredient in breads. A tortilla or cracker is remarkable different from San Francisco sour dough bread. The difference is yeast.

Jesus is challenging me to understand that this is a spiritual issue, not a physical issue.

I am to keep a sharp eye for the yeast of Religious Leaders and elites. It doesn’t take much yeast for it to cause bread to rise. The result is remarkably different. So it was with the doctrines of the Religious Leaders. They are insinuating, artful, plausible. They conceal the real tendency of their doctrines; they instill them secretly into the mind, until they pervaded all my faculties like leaven.

Do religious leaders talk a good line, but don’t live it?

Image result for all talk no action

Jesus has a real thing about hypocrisy. His frequent target are the religious leaders. In Matthew 23 he goes on a real rant about the frauds. He introduces 8 “woes” on them. “Woe to you!” Jesus says over and over. Even more, “Your lives are roadblocks to God’s kingdom. You refuse to enter, and won’t let anyone else in either.

Now Jesus turned to address his disciples, along with the crowd that had gathered with them. “The religion scholars [Scribes and Pharisees] are competent teachers in God’s Law. You won’t go wrong in following their teachings on Moses. But be careful about following them. They talk a good line, but they don’t live it. They don’t take it into their hearts and live it out in their behavior. It’s all spit-and-polish veneer.” ~Jesus | Matthew 23:1-3 (The Message)

Why are religious elites accusing Jesus of being demon-possessed?

Pharisees (religious elites) opposed Jesus the Messiah during his ministry and were among those who brought about his crucifixion. Some Pharisees, however, accepted the Messiah’s teaching and believed in him.

The Pharisees (religious leaders and elites) were an influential religious sect within Judaism in the time of the Messiah and the early church.

We need to be careful. There is a slippery slope where being a religious zealot moves quietly into religious rule keeping. Has it happened to me? Yikes! I resemble that remark.

What is religious fraud all about? What does Jesus say?

Religious Fraud is not OK
Religious Fraud is not OK

Jesus spends special time with religious people. He is direct always. Are we frauds?

It is a question to ask ourselves. In this situation, it was a statement not a question.

The Pharisees, along with some religion scholars who had come from Jerusalem, gathered around him. They noticed that some of his disciples weren’t being careful with ritual washings before meals.

Seriously, this is all they had to think about. The Pharisees — Jews in general, during that time — would never eat a meal without going through the motions of a ritual hand-washing, with an especially vigorous scrubbing if they had just come from the market (to say nothing of the scouring they’d give jugs and pots and pans).

Of course, we have our religious ceremonies now. We pray before meals, even when we eat out. We go to church. We tell people we will pray for them when they are sick or someone in their family dies.

So, on this occasion, the  religion scholars asked, “Why do your disciples flout the rules, showing up at meals without washing their hands?”

Jesus has questions for us.  Are we more concerned with saying the right thing than doing what God wants right at that minute? Is our heart not in it? Do we just pretend to worship God? Do we use Jesus? Do we ditch God’s commands? Do we only care about the latest religious trend or fad?

Jesus looks us in the eye and asks us these questions. He isn’t cruel. He just confronts us. God has a goal in mind for us. He wants us to love Him and worship Him.

May our love for God and what He wants in our life rule every day. May we fulfill His goal for our life. May we do what He wants.

Jesus has an answer, “Isaiah was right about frauds like you, hit the bull’s-eye in fact: These people make a big show of saying the right thing, but their heart isn’t in it. They act like they are worshiping me, but they don’t mean it. They just use me as a cover for teaching whatever suits their fancy, Ditching God’s command and taking up the latest fads.” | Mark 7 (The Message)


About the Christian Training Center

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The Christian Training Center International was founded in the early 1970’s as The Inn of the Last Resort. It is now known throughout the world for its outreach to families, Christian leaders, and young people. Our focus is to enable individuals – especially young men and women – to face and overcome the mounting issues and pressures in their daily lives. Learn more here.

The most effective way to learn a foreign language is through immersion. In complete immersion, students spend all their time hearing and speaking a new language in a sequential and cumulative format. The goal is to become not only a proficient speaker, but to acquire an appreciation and understanding of a new culture. This approach describes the training process at CTCI.

Our programs are like an immersion into a new language – the language of living in Jesus.  The goal is fluency in the language of relationships.  Programs share a sequential vision, building an understanding of relationships and family culture.  The foundation is an encounter with Jesus.  This encounter is the means for both insight and vision.  Encountering Jesus leads a radical change in living and relationships.

Learn more here.

Is Jesus a fan of organized religion? What does He think about religious elites?

Religious Language

Jesus is not a fan of organized religion and the elite attitudes that go with it. Jesus is in favor of love and compassion. That is His focus and mission. We need to focus on what is important to Jesus. It isn’t about “being religious”. Jesus hates that. Seriously. We know it. Are we listening to Jesus?

Jesus is our Master. Jesus owns us. Jesus, as our Master, commands us to love. That is the essence of “the law” and what masquerades as “religion”. Traditional Christian denominations need to take heed. Christians need to pay attention. We must focus on being a disciple and learning from Jesus. We must focus on obedience.

What does Jesus think about our current toxic political and religious environment?

Radical Sayings of Jesus
Radical Sayings of Jesus

This is a special message for our current toxic political and religious environment. Jesus has something to say about all of what is going on. We have political and religious elites making all kind of wild claims. We are divided.

It is a wake up call for the disciples of Jesus. Now is the time we all need to stand for Jesus and His Kingdom. We need to seek to live and grow in the Kingdom of God, not in the City of Man.

We are to be salt and light in the world, but do not cross over into being “of the world” or insinuate that Jesus is “of the world.

Why should we watch out for religious elites?

Jesus is constantly challenging the religious elites and leaders of His time here on earth. He still does today. We have to be careful.

This time he took on the Scribes specifically.

Are we acting like religious elites some days? We need to be careful. The charade is dangerous.

Jesus offers us a way out. That is some very good news. The way out is to be His disciple and to follow His commands. Jesus wants us to focus on love, not the law. Our job today is to love God and everyone else we come in contact with. Love sets us free.

Did some religious elite appoint us as spokespersons for Jesus?

I am astounded at how many companions in faith I have. Due to the power of the world wide web, I meet more and more every day. What a joy. What a pleasure.

Where does our authority come from to say what we proclaim? Did we get elected? Does it come from a popular vote? Did some religious elite appoint us as a spokesperson for Jesus?

Nope! We are not wise from a theological point of view. I don’t have an advanced degree. The church doesn’t sanction what I say.

The only authority we have comes directly from Jesus, the anointed King (Messiah). It comes from God who raised Him from the dead.

Because of that we have great words. What are they? They are grace (the stunning beauty of Jesus) and peace!

I know what peace is because Jesus the Messiah rescued me from this evil world. I’m in on things because Jesus offered himself as a sacrifice for my missing God’s goal (aka sin).

God has a plan. God wants everyone to experience that rescue.

Glory to God forever. Oh yes, it is amazing.


What We Believe

Our programs are like an immersion into a new language – the language of living in Jesus.  The goal is fluency in the language of relationships.  Programs share a sequential vision, building an understanding of relationships and family culture.  The foundation is an encounter with Jesus.  This encounter is the means for both insight and vision.  Encountering Jesus leads a radical change in living and relationships.

We are an inter-denominational ministry, and our desire is for transformation: a genuine change of heart and lifestyle that flows out of an intimate relationship with Jesus.

We believe:

  • Jesus is Lord. We exalt the One True God who made us and gave us the Lord Jesus Christ as our salvation. Our goal is to be a people with a heart for obedience to Christ in all things. His work made it possible for us to live – eternally and now – as children of God. Jesus made it possible for us to be rightly related to the Father and to one another. His desire is for us to succeed. We believe a right relationship with Him is the first and most important step.
  • The Bible is True. God’s Word is alive and active (Hebrews 4:12-13), which we take into our minds and spirits and live out through the flesh. When Jesus asked what the greatest commandment was, He said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31). The basis for everything we teach is “Life is Relationships.”
  • Presence and Power of the Holy Spirit. We desire to walk in and by the Spirit. The Holy Spirit (available to all believers) empowers Christians for living witness and dedicated service.

Learn more here.

Are we frauds?

Jesus has the number of the religious elites. They are constantly trying to trap him. They are constantly trying to undermine the message of God for the people trying to follow him.

Religious legalism is abhorrent to God. That isn’t what Jesus shows us to focus on.

We are warned. Are we a fraud? Being religious isn’t what Jesus is after. Jesus is clear. God commands obedience to the goal of love. That is the mission.

Do we make our words true by embellishing them with religious lace?

Religious Jargon

Religious Jargon

Jesus challenges us to make sure our words are clear and genuine. They should reflect all of His love.

Embellishing what we say with religiosity is useless in communicating the good news of Jesus. Being religious isn’t being genuine in God.

Sounding religious doesn’t make us religious.

God’s goal for us is to be clear in what we say. Religious jargon is not God’s way.

And don’t say anything you don’t mean. This counsel is embedded deep in our traditions. You only make things worse when you lay down a smoke screen of pious talk, saying, ‘I’ll pray for you,’ and never doing it, or saying, ‘God be with you,’ and not meaning it.

You don’t make your words true by embellishing them with religious lace. In making your speech sound more religious, it becomes less true. Just say ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong.

Matthew 5:33 – The Message Bible

We’ve probably all said “It’s Greek to me”. Language is important and translating words properly is important. Unfortunately some Greek word translations have lost meaning both to disciples of Jesus and those who don’t follow Him yet. Examples are “the Gospel”, sin, Christ, Lord, and more.

Here are some common Greek words, how they have historically been translated and my suggestions, based on the Greek. This is all supported by the major Greek lexicons.

  • Christ — Χριστός Christos — Meaning: Anointed One; the Messiah, the Christ. Translation: The Messiah
  • Church — ἐκκλησία ekklésia — Meaning: an assembly, congregation, church; the Church, the whole body of believers. Properly, people called out from the world and to God. Translation: called out assembly of disciples.
  • Glory — δόξα doxa — Meaning: glory, honor, renown;  an especially divine quality, the unspoken manifestation of God, splendor, stunning, beauty, brilliance, amazing. Translation: stunning brilliance and beauty.
  • Gospel — εὐαγγέλιον euaggelion — Meaning:  the good news of the coming of the Messiah, sometimes the human transmitter (an apostle). Translation: Good News
  • Lord — κύριος kuriŏs — Meaning: lord, master, owner; the Lord. Translation: Master
  • Repent — μετανοέω mĕtanŏĕō — Meaning: I repent, change my thinking, change the inner man. Translation: radically change my thinking
  • Servant — δοῦλος dŏulŏs — Meaning: someone who belongs to another; a slave, without any ownership rights of their own. Translation: slave
  • Servant — διάκονος diakŏnŏs — Meaning: a waiter, servant; then of any one who performs any service. Translation: servant
  • Sin — ἁμαρτάνω hamartanó — Meaning: I miss the mark, hence (a) I make a mistake, (b) I sin. Translation: miss God’s goal


Check out our upcoming ministry programs for young adults and families. Please click here.

Our programs are like an immersion into a new language – the language of living in Jesus.  The goal is fluency in the language of relationships.  Programs share a sequential vision, building an understanding of relationships and family culture.  The foundation is an encounter with Jesus.  This encounter is the means for both insight and vision.  Encountering Jesus leads a radical change in living and relationships.

Heroes Semester is a 10-week residential, “family style” living experience like no other! | — Sept 2 – Nov 9, 2019 | Participants ages 18-26 come with one purpose – to go deeper with the Lord.

Strengthening & Restoring Family Relationships — Train to Reign Program — Oct 20 – Nov 2 | Family is the most vital relationship and the one under the most pressure and attack. Come strengthen your family in a strong relationship with God.

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