We live in a day marked by change in so many things that little seems to be stable or to remain steadfast. Although it is not new to make the observation, all would seem to portend the near return of our Lord, namely, at the rapture of the saints and the closure of the dispensation of grace. As always in such circumstances, there are many voices and a variety of views, so that the topic of our title, “One Thing”, is comforting as focussing the mind on the crux of a matter or its particular or predominating aspect. This is emphasized in its several occurrences in the Scriptures. Peter, for example, says in 2 Peter 3. 8, “be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day”. Minds that are finite might consider the Lord does not act quickly enough in certain circumstances; it was to the consternation of Martha and Mary that the Lord waited four days after the death of their brother Lazarus before visiting them. But then it was for the glory of God that Lazarus was raised, John II. 39-43.
There was an occasion in the life of the Lord when He was questioned by the chief priests and scribes as to the authority on which He was speaking and acting. In accordance with His custom, He entered into no long discourse in His reply, but presented them with a dilemma: “I will also ask you one thing; and answer me: The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men?”, Luke 20. 3-4. They did not know, and again watch Him as He is confronted on the sabbath day with a man with a withered hand, whom He heals. Knowing their thoughts, He says, “I will ask you one thing; h it lawful on the sabbath days to do good, or to do evil? to save life, or to destroy it?”, Luke 6. 9. So the Lord deals with His accusers, not with long arguments, but with the fundamental and essential “one thing”, leaving them to come to terms with a vital issue.
How true it is that the Lord, when questioned, answers not just the question, but the questioner. Would He not today raise with us the question of our commitment to Him and to the testimony, as to how full and how whole-hearted we are in this? In another incident, a certain ruler asked the Lord, “what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”. In the course of replying, He said, “Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me”, Luke 18. 18. At this the ruler was very sorrowful, for he was very rich, but not rich unto God. So the Lord simply tested one who was relying on good works, saying, “come, follow me”. How different and refreshing is the case of the one born blind, who bore witness to the scoffers around him: “one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see”, John 9. 25. His testimony was of “a man called Jesus”, and this was irrefutable; so must our witness be positive both in word and ways.
Are there portrayed at the home in Bethany features of an assembly? And is not the essential feature of the Lord’s Supper, the devotion to the Lord Jesus Himself, set forth in the devoted service of Mary when the house was filled with the odour of the ointment?, John 12. 3. All is set forth with beautiful simplicity in the instruction given by Paul, 1 Cor. 11. 23-25. Earlier, however, Luke tells of the attraction that the home at Bethany had for the Lord, “Martha … had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: but one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her”, Luke 10. 38-42. Undoubtedly, Martha also had great affection for the Lord while lacking the “one thing”. Nevertheless, it is recorded, “now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus”, John 11.5.
Paul recounts to us the longings of his heart in Philippians 3. 8-14, where he speaks of “the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord”, and of his desire to be found in Him and to know, not just a doctrine, but the power of His resurrection so that he may apprehend that for which he had been apprehended by Christ Jesus. This word “apprehend” is not simply a matter of mental understanding, but involves laying hold of. He ends the section by saying, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do … I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling (the calling on high) of God in Christ Jesus”. All other ambitions have been submerged, and the sole passion of his life, that on which he concentrated all his mental and physical energies, was “this one thing”. What a wonderful example for all to emulate, and for those just setting out in life, they should understand that this is the highest object it is possible to have.