“Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me”. – Revelation 3:20
We have been thinking recently about art that would transcend the spiritual-secular divide to touch the hearts of those outside of the church. Here, my friends, is a fine example. Holman Hunt’s “The Light of the World” had people flocking from all across the country, and the painting even went on a tour across the world. It now stands today both in Keble College Chapel, Oxford (a few minutes away from me) and St Paul’s Cathedral (a second version made later in Hunt’s life). If you ever get the chance to see it for yourself then do not miss the opportunity.
For those of you who may be wondering why it was quite so popular, have a think about all of the imagery that Hunt has packed into this painting about who Jesus is and how he relates to us. Firstly, notice that the door has no outside handle – it can only be opened from within: Christ knocks on each of our hearts, but only we may open up to him. Notice too that it has become overgrown with weeds: this door has not been opened for some length of time.
The lights in the scene are full of meaning too. Whilst the rising lights in the background provide some illumination, the main illumination is through Jesus’ lamp (“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” – Psalm 119:105). And look at the rich orchard and beauty of the world that awaits they who open to Jesus! Remember too that the crown of the one who knocks is composed of thorns.
This is excellent artistry: beautifully painted, rich in symbolism and simple enough that everyone who sees it can take something away from it.