The Veil of Personality

Their eyes were holden, that they should not know him.

The story of the walk to Emmaus, on an afternoon which had been darkened by crushing disappointment, illustrates a human tendency that still abides to the serious disadvantage of our spiritual realization and ministry. The two disciples were sincere and loyal, but they were yet in bondage to a human sense of personality which, in view of recent events, rendered it impossible for them to recognize their Lord, even when he was at their side and speaking lovingly to them. Jesus' effort to raise the thought of his disciples to the recognition of his spiritual selfhood constitutes a salient feature of his ministry. Through all their captivities and humiliations his people had clung to the promises of the perpetuation of the throne of David, and impelled by racial pride, by an aggravated sense of intolerable wrongs, and by the prophet-nourished expectancy of a Messianic deliverer, they trusted that it was he which should redeem Israel.

The disciples evidently shared this universal hope, a hope which was forever blasted when Jesus frankly declared that his kingdom was not an earthly one, and that while a host of angels awaited his call, their service was not to be rendered in a strife for worldly empire. Moreover, his multiplied works of healing led the superstitious among them to look upon him as simply a wonder-worker, an ordinary man who could do extraordinary things, and to these he brought confusion when he said, "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.... I can of mine own self do nothing." In these and many kindred words Jesus tried, again and yet again, to lead their thought away from his human personality, and all it might suggest to them; and the saddening failure of his endeavor to accomplish this, was revealed when he said, near the close of his ministry, "It is expedient for you that I go away." A sincere and loving attachment to his person had come to be an occasion of separation from him! Prior to this he had assured them that he would not leave them comfortless, that they were ever to be one with him, even as he was one with the Father. Both his prayers and his promises precluded the possibility of his separation from them, and, therefore, in declaring the expediency of his going he emphasized the necessity of their escape from that sense of dependence upon his human personality which had so hampered his true appearing, his spiritual self-revelation. Centering their thoughts, their anticipations, their hopes upon the human, the divine had been hidden from them.

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Vital and Joyous Religion
February 25, 1905
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