In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out.  And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God.  And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.” (Luke 13:28-30)
There is a fascination with the prolonged drought in the American southwest. As one who has lived in Phoenix, I can see how some residents of southwest illustrate the main point of Jesus’ teaching in this passage.
In the Gospel, Jesus is challenging spiritually comfortable people. These residents of Israel were confident they would be among the chosen when God ushered in a new era through the Messiah. Jesus was cautioning them against being overconfident.
More than 28 million people live in Southern California, Arizona and Nevada. For decades people have relocated trusting that Southern California (and Phoenix in the winter) will always seem like the Garden of Eden. Yet what makes this region a paradise is potable water. In the midst of a historic drought, there is no guarantee there is enough water to support the population.
Like residents of the American Southwest, the people addressing Jesus were making an assumption about their future. They assumed they had earned the favor of the coming Messiah. This was a dangerous assumption, given they didn’t recognize the Messiah as Jesus was speaking to them.
What is to prevent us from repeating the mistake of those addressing Jesus? How can we be certain that we will be part of the future paradise, the “new heavens and new earth”?
Unlike those in the Southwest, we can count on water. In our case, the water of baptism. In the water of baptism we received the forgiveness of sins and the gift of faith in Christ. It is through this faith in Christ, who is Himself our water of life, that we have a certain hope of eternity with God.
(A Second Look devotions are written for the congregations of the Ohio District LCMS.)