Should we put God in the center of our lives, we find others will become envious. Why? Because they are alone and afraid. They do not have the comfort of knowing that they have a Best Friend and Companion.
A person who is sincerely seeking to achieve love for God and loving service to God will rejoice when they see another person trying to grow spiritually or help others grow spiritually. But a person who is not sincere will attempt to reduce those who are.
We need to face it: We live in hell.
Hell is a place where people are primarily self-centered rather than God-centered. In this hellish place, we find hellish people. In hell, people are envious. In hell, people are self-righteous. In hell, people are hypocrites. In hell, people care more about themselves than others.
All of these faults in others are to be forgiven, just as we want to be forgiven for our many faults. Most of us can relate to this. How many of us have not criticized another person? For those who criticize us, we should be merciful. We should also be understanding. After all, Jesus came to take us out of hell.
The fact that this is hell is precisely why Jesus and many of the prophets before Jesus have been persecuted for their acts of mercy in trying to save us from this hell we live in.
Jesus is reminding his students that they are in good company as they receive the insults and persecution of others, "in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."
Why does Jesus say "prophets who were before you"?
Is Jesus comparing his students to the prophets?
Certainly he is. Why else would he compare their situation to that of the prophets?
While many in the Christian world dismiss the word prophet as a title primarily belonging to people like Moses and Abraham, in reality, Jesus is using the word “prophet” - from the Greek word προφήτης (prophētēs) meaning one who teaches "by the Spirit of God" - to describe one who teaches on behalf of God. He is referring to God's representative.
And Jesus was expecting his students to teach on behalf of God by passing on his teachings:
"Therefore go and make disciples..." (Matt. 28:19)And he told 72 of his students to go out to every town and:
"Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’" (Luke 10:9)Jesus also accepted that his own teacher, John the Baptist, was not just any prophet:
"But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet." (Luke 7:26)While many believe being a “prophet” means to “prophesize” about some future event, we know that the kind of “prophet” Jesus references are those who have been empowered by the Supreme Being to speak on God's behalf - to introduce people to God. To teach people to love and serve God.
Certainly, this may also happen to give those great teachers the ability to predict certain future events. The primary of which is the fact that each of us will leave our physical body, and at that point, the choices we made during this lifetime will determine where we will go.
Yes, this is the future that many a prophet has predicted, yet most of us have misunderstood. The fact that the end of the world is coming for each of us - each of our physical bodies will die within a short period. It may be in 40 years. It may be in 20 years. It may be in a year. Or it may be tomorrow. We don't know the exact date our body will die -and the world will end for us - but we surely know it will be soon. This is judgement day - the day each of us will have to face the results of our lifetime of activities.
While we can certainly accept Moses, David, Abraham, Solomon and others as prophets, we must also accept that there have been many others who have represented God and His Teachings through the ages who have not been mentioned in the Bible. The lineages of these prophets all originate ultimately from God Himself, yet we can know and understand a true lineage of prophets by seeing that each taught a consistent message of love for God.
The fact that many of the prophets were persecuted for their dedication to their teachings is being confirmed by Jesus. Not only did Jesus and Peter and other students get persecuted for their dedication to the Supreme Being, but Jesus' own teacher John the Baptist was persecuted for his loving service and commitment to God.
And we know that Jesus also passed on the core teachings taught by Moses through John as Jesus quoted Moses' message word-for-word in his most important teaching:
"‘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 and Deut. 6:5)
(For a translation of Jesus' statements from the Gospel of Matthew without sectarian influence, see the Gospels of Jesus - translated from the original Greek texts.)