“The Light of the World”

A self-portrait by William Holman Hunt (1827-1910)


A painting by Englishman William Holman Hunt completed in the mid-nineteenth century was for many years the most famous picture in the British Empire.

Titled “The Light of the World” the painting was taken on world tours, and when it was brought to Australia in the early 1900’s it’s estimated that up to 80% of Australia’s population at the time came to see it.

Reports from the painting’s public viewings in Melbourne describe minor injuries in people stampeding in attempts view it. Large crowds are described as being in hushed reverence in front of the artwork. There are even reports of people fainting when they saw the painting.

The surprising aspect of this art story from over a hundred years ago is the painting – “The Light of the World” – is a portrait of Jesus Christ.

The artist had been inspired by a verse in the Bible, Revelation 3:20 – which says “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”

William Holman Hunt’s famous painting of Jesus as described in Revelation 3:20

And in the portrait Hunt paints Jesus standing with a lantern, knocking on a closed door overgrown with weeds. According to the artist this closed, dilapidated door represents the stubbornness of our hearts to have faith in Christ.

What’s not obvious when you first look at the painting is the door has no external handle or doorknob. The door can only be opened from the inside by the occupant of the home.

The message in the painting (and the words of Christ in Revelation 3:20) is clear: our Saviour Jesus is standing at the door of our hearts and knocking. And the person who hears that knock and also His quiet voice calling to them needs to open the door for Him. Christ doesn’t barge into our lives uninvited – His humility waits for each of us to open the door to Him.

Today the painting hangs in London’s famous St. Paul’s Cathedral, but the words of Christ in Revelation 3:20 that inspired the painting hang forever in our hearts.

Won’t you hear Christ knocking on your heart today and open the door for Him. He desires to come in and spend eternity in your company.


About this blog: Pastor David Riley is a minister of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and he lives on the Gold Coast in Australia. This article is from his “Reverential Ramblings” series – which you can subscribe to by clicking “follow” on this website.

Want to read more inspirational stories of faith from this series? Click here to read the fascinating story of what the thirteenth-century theologian Thomas Aquinas said when he walked in on Pope Innocent II counting his gold and silver.

David speaking 2



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