In its heyday in the early 20th century, the painting “The Light of the World” (1851-53) was probably more famous than any of the works of the great masters of the Renaissance. As difficult as it is to imagine today, millions of people around the world flocked to see what was known as the “sermon in a frame.”
The allegorical painting that captured the imagination of so many was created by the English artist William Holman Hunt, who began the work at the age of 21 and finished it when he was 29. The painting illustrates the biblical passage in Revelation 3:20:
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, [then] I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me.”
Jesus, carrying a lantern, is depicted knocking at a door with no handle on the outside. The door is overgrown with weeds, and the nails and hinges are rusted, implying that the door has never been opened.
The message: it is up to the person on the other side of the door to let Jesus in.