Focusing on this too much will discourage you, but it’s good to think about it occasionally, probably more than we do. Billions of people will wake up today, and they’ll eat, drink, work, play, read and love and live.

They’ll laugh and cry. They’ll marry and divorce. They’ll hug and fight and work and rest.

About 150,000 or so will die. What’s tragic is that so many of the living and dying have rejected Christ. Shortly before his own death, Jesus told this story to warn his own generation. But it’s still a bit scary to our own.

“A man planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a pit for the winepress and built a tower, and leased it to tenants and went into another country. When the season came, he sent a servant to the tenants to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. And they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Again he sent to them another servant, and they struck him on the head and treated him shamefully. And he sent another, and him they killed. And so with many others: some they beat, and some they killed. He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ And they took him and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard. What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others. Have you not read this Scripture: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?” And they were seeking to arrest him but feared the people, for they perceived that he had told the parable against them. So they left him and went away (Mark 12:1-12).

You may already know what each character in this story represents. God selected Israel to be his chosen people. He blessed them, guided them, and nourished them, but they rejected him. He sent them hundreds of prophets to encourage obedience, but they rejected all of them as well. Their rebellion culminated in their crucifixion of God’s ultimate gift; they rejected all he had to offer.

Could it be any sadder? Maybe so. Maybe because our own world has done just what the first-century world did. The vast majority trust in themselves—their religion, their morality, their intelligence, their ingenuity—but fail to recognize Christ as the Son sent by God to give them what they can never achieve on their own.

It’s sobering, of course, but it’s true, and it ought to remind us of a couple of things.

It ought to motivate us to commit ourselves today again to accept Jesus as our only hope to be what we’re supposed to be. There’s no fallback plan.

And it ought to lead us to live and love in a way that’ll reflect the Son to all the folks around us who still reject him. God called us to be his salt and light in the midst of a world that needs him so desperately.