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Holman Hunt’s Light of the World

One of greatest British painters of the Victorian era was the Pre-Raphaelite artist Holman Hunt. My favourite work of his is called ‘Scape Goat’. It depicts Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, with a red rag around its head, sent off into the wilderness to die there, cursed and carrying away our sin. I carried a postcard of this in my briefcase for over a decade, too crumpled and faded. But Hunt’s most famous work is the English icon, ‘Light of the World: This was probably painted in the garden of Oxford Press in the 1850s and was owned by an OUP printer, whose widow donated it to Keble College where it now hangs. It was based on the the depiction of Jesus in John’s Revelation, where Jesus says to the Church of Laodicea, “Behold I stand at the door and knock”

Hunt portrays beautiful Jesus, robed in splendour, standing outside a door in a tangled garden, holding a lantern, wanting to come in. Hunt stated that he purposely did not paint a handle on the outside of the door for only the individual inside can open the door of their heart. Jesus will never impose himself. He waits to be welcomed.

It is said the elderly Holman Hunt was upset when Keble College began charging people to see it, so he began another larger version, which was installed in St Paul’s Cathedral in 1908 during a Special service which included the reading from Revelation, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” Many years later, the painting went to be cleaned from all the grime seeping into the Cathedral from traffic around St Paul’s. When the restorer removed the frame and the moulding, there in script at the bottom, painted bu the artist Hunt and to be seen by the Lord alone, was this
prayer Forgive me, Lord Jesus that I kept you waiting so long.”

He stands at the door of our lives, and knocks, and knocks for he desires to come in and be with us. Don’t keep him waiting. Open the door of your mind, your heart, your life, and say “Please, Jesus come in.”

Simon Ponsonby

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From the book "Amazed by Jesus"

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