Jesus wasn't referring to every Jew
Jesus was not speaking of the entire Judean society - the Jewish people. Jesus, along with Jesus' teacher John the Baptist and Jesus' own disciples, were also followers of the Jewish prophets. And they shared the same ancestry. Rather, Jesus is speaking of the ecclesiastical Jewish institution that had allowed the persecution of prophets such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Micah, Amos and Zechariah - who suffered persecution at the hands of those inside or outside the ecclesiastical Jewish institutions.
To these we can add John the Baptist, Jesus' own teacher - who was persecuted by Herod. We can also add Jesus himself.
One might wonder how these Pharisees and ecclesiastical "teachers of the law" were held responsible by Jesus, and just who were the "ancestors" Jesus is seemingly referring to?
"Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your ancestors who killed them."
Thus a more appropriate translation of πατήρ (patēr) in this case would be "teachers" rather than "ancestors." Why? Because Jesus is speaking of the fact that they are following the teaching lineage of those who strictly abided by the ritualistic ceremonial trappings of the Jewish tradition all the while they disrespected those prophets who came - as did Jesus and John - to teach love for the Supreme Being.
Jesus is pointing out the hypocrisy of these teachers and their followers honoring the tombs of those prophets while at the same time following the teachings of those who disrespected those prophets and allowed them to be persecuted.
Yes, it is not necessarily as if they or their teachers physically killed these prophets. For example, John the Baptist was killed by Herod, yes. But the ecclesiastical Jewish institution and their high priests during the time of John did nothing to protest the imprisonment of John. Because John was not a respected member - read professional scribe - of their Jewish institution, these Pharisees and priests did nothing to help him. John's statement to these ecclesiastical Jewish teachers illustrates the tension between them:
But when he [John the Baptist] saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: "You brood of vipers! (Matt. 3:7)This also describes those who disrespected the prophets before John. As John and Jesus both indicate, this Jewish institution and its leaders were similarly entrenched. They could have protected those prophets, but instead they saw God's representatives as threats to their positions of authority. So they allowed these prophets to be arrested and killed.
They also murdered Jesus
This is the very same institution - the same high priests and Pharisees - that also saw to it that Jesus was persecuted. The institution might be able to claim that the Romans crucified Jesus, but it was the high priest's guards who arrested Jesus and it was the high priest who handed Jesus over to Pilate and then recommended Jesus' physical body be murdered.
"So you testify that you approve of what your ancestors did; they killed the prophets, and you build their tombs."As Jesus indicates, by these ecclesiastical teachers claiming their rite of position among the very same ecclesiastical Jewish institution that allowed previous prophets to be persecuted, they were ex facto approving the persecution of those prophets.
Ironically, this same issue relates to the priests of the the primary organized institution that supposedly represents Jesus. By the very fact that these priests represent an institution that in the past persecuted innocent people and in the more recent past molested children, they are approving those activities. By representing this institution, each is professing the excusing of these activities - and many have exercised direct approval by having allowed priests who molested children in the past to continue in their positions without being held legally responsible for those obscene acts.
Yes, they like to say that because God is merciful, we should have mercy upon those priests. But who are we to grant them forgiveness? Those who have not been abused are not in a position to forgive. Only those who have been molested are in that position.
And because many of those priests who molested children were never brought before trial and stood to face those they molested, there has been little opportunity for forgiveness in most cases.
As for the rest of us, we are in no position to forgive an institution that has broken its obligation to their followers to care for them. That trust was not only broken recently, but broken in centuries past as mobs of this institution persecuted people of various times and societies:
Hate crimes against humanity are numerous
These include the Roman slaughter of the Jews in the Roman-Jewish wars of the First and Second Century, the holocaust slaughter of Jews in Europe by the Nazis, and 70,000 in Jerusalem between the 11th and 14th centuries. They also include thousands being burnt at the stake during the first years of the Spanish Inquisition, and some 900,000 Waldensian Christians murdered during a 15th century period lasting three decades. More than 250,000 Dutch Protestants were murdered a decade later. Then they killed over 10,000 Protestants in Paris in 1572. Another 8,000 were slaughtered in the countryside.
In the Thirty-year's war of the 17th century, this institution's mobs attempted to exterminate all European Protestants. Some Europe countries lost nearly half their populations. Some 100,000 protestants were slaughtered in Ireland. Some 500,000 French protestants were exterminated by order of the French King who represented this institution.
This reign of terror against any person following another teaching other than that taught by this institution and related sects has continued through to the 20th century. This includes hundreds of thousands - even millions - of people among the indigenous peoples of North and South Americas, Polynesia and elsewhere around the world over the centuries - those who were considered "savages" if they didn't submit to forced baptisms by this and other sectarian institutions.
Yes, these modern institutions like to distance themselves from these acts of brutality, and certainly many of the leaders such as the pope may not be personally responsible for them. But what we know is that the institutional philosophy of this organization and its competitors remain responsible. These are fanatical sectarian philosophies not tolerant of any other forms of worship other than their own.
In many cases, these acts of terrorism can be compared to some of the modern acts of terror we see today propagated through the misinterpretation of the Koran.
All of these fanatical groups are mistaken that anyone can be forced to love or worship the Supreme Being.
Along with mass killings, these ecclesiastical sectarian institutions have also persecuted or disrespected those who represented the Supreme Being over the centuries.
Fanatical misinterpretations miss the real teaching
These ecclesiastical institutions are also responsible for the gross misinterpretations of the various scriptures over the years. Just as the Jewish institution Jesus is criticizing was responsible for its misinterpretation of the teachings of the prophets during Jesus' time, these sectarian institutions - with their various sectarian differences - have missed or ignored the meaning of Jesus' teachings.
They have completely missed that Jesus' mission - as were the prophets' - was to teach his students to come to know, love and serve the Supreme Being. As these institutional teachers have become lost in the pomp of sectarianism, ceremonial rituals and proclamations of being saved, they have missed the essential purpose of these representatives of God:
To call us home. The Supreme Being wants each of us as individuals to decide by our own free will, to return home to Him. He wants to give us the opportunity - out of our own free will without being forced - to decide to return to our loving service relationship with Him. He wants us to come to understand our spiritual identity, and stop misidentifying ourselves with these temporary physical bodies. He wants us to want to come to know Him again and renew our innate relationship with Him. This is why both Moses' and Jesus' most important instruction was:
" 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matt. 22:37-38 - drawing from Deut. 6:5)