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.”
I have been inspired over the years by the ministry of Bible teacher and author Judson Cornwall. I once heard him tell the story of his brother Robert, who was pastor of a small church in Salem Oregon USA. He looked to supplement his struggling income as a counsellor at a local state psychiatric hospital. When he arrived they took him to Room 37. The sight that greeted Cornwall took his breath away. This was a padded room reserved for the most severe psychotic patients who walked around in a drug—induced daze, half naked, some in nappies, some just defecating on the floor. These people were no longer being treated, but, like caged animals, they were being controlled. This was many decades ago, before the sophisticated medical and psychiatric treatments of today. The Lord whispered to Cornwall: ‘Sit on the floor.’ Robert sat in the middle of filth. The Lord said: ‘Sing a song.’ From deep within he began singing, ‘Yes Jesus loves me, yes Jesus loves me — the Bible tells me so. After an hour he was let out. A week later he returned to work and was taken back to Room 37! Again, he sang this song — this time a large black woman, touched deep in her being, drawn by love, sat behind him and joined in the song. He kept this up every visit. Within one month thirty-six of the patients had been transferred to self-help wards; and in less than a year all but two were released from the mental institution. In a year thirty-six had left hospital and two were members of his church. Oh, how the church needs to know God’s love. That love which sets life in order. That love which expands our heart for God, fuels our passion for worship and fills our language of praise. Worship, true worship, is the adoring of the adored — the church of the Beloved, loving the Lover.
In a recent article called Social distancing prevents infections, but it can have unintended consequences, author Greg Miller writes:
One hundred years ago, French sociologist Émile Durkheim used the phrase “collective effervescence” to describe the shared emotional excitement people experience during religious ceremonies. The same concept applies to sporting events where spectators simultaneously experience the rise and fall of emotions during the course of a game, says Mario Small, a sociologist at Harvard University. ‘It dramatically magnifies the sensation for you while also reinforcing the idea that you’re something larger than yourself.’
The believer in Jesus Christ, is part of something larger—much larger. We are part of an everlasting kingdom that spans all generations, over all time, for all people. We need to see it, feel it, and experience it in real life. Our kids need this experience, too—maybe even more than we do.
David Watson, the great evangelist of the 1970s and 80s was diagnosed with terminal cancer. As he was dying, he write a book called Fear no Evil. He wrote “the Christian does not prepare for death, but for life.”
On the cross, Jesus saw the Temple and the priests slaughtering the daily sacrificial lamb, the Tamid. This lamb was offered twice a day, at 9am and 3pm, the hour at which Jesus was crucified and the hour Jesus died. During these two hours of sacrifice Jewish tradition states that special prayers, the 18 benedictions were offered – including prayers for redemption, forgiveness of sins, the coming Messiah, the resurrection of the dead. As the prayed, the two lambs were offered, Jesus saw and understood.
In the SAS camp at Hereford, on Training Wing, the wall is covered with old photos of SAS troopers – on mountains, in jungles and in war zones – all there to inspire the new recruits. On the wall is a quote: “When living in the present, and planning for the future, remember that which connects you to the past.”
This Catholic title originates from the last words uttered by the priest in the Latin Eucharist Ite Missa est – God the dismissal is made. It is sadly ironic that “go away” has become the name for the meal in which Jesus says, Come sit and dine with me.
It appears that in Jesus’ mind, listening and truly hearing are two different things. I wonder if I’m that different from his early fans? These days I skim articles, newsfeeds and scroll through social media. TedX speaker, Crystal Kadakia, calls it the “Digital Coma.” Instead of dwelling, I visit, and briefly at that! Instead of gazing, I glance. Instead of seeking, I scroll.