"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!"
Matthew 23:23-28, 37-39
These solemn verses in which Jesus proclaims “woes” to the scribes and Pharisees contain several phrases that have become part of our everyday speech. To “strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel” means to worry about details and miss the main point completely. “Like unto whited sepulchers” describes a person who is inwardly evil but outwardly seems virtuous. After speaking harshly to the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus shows his compassion in a loving lamentation: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, . . . how often would I have gathered thy children together.”
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. . . .
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.