Faces of Jesus

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Light of the World


Crowds of people once flocked to see this picture of Christ. It even went on a world tour. One viewer said, “the vast crowd stood gazing in silent wonderment, and many in adoration, as though held by some irresistible magnet.”

Painted by Holman Hunt in the 19th century, it is one of the most famous images of Jesus, reproduced countless times.

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Jesus, crowned with thorns and carrying a lantern, stands outside at night, knocking on a closed door that is covered with weeds. Holman Hunt’s famous painting is full of symbolism, but the main idea, of Jesus knocking on a door, is taken straight from a passage in the book of Revelation…

“Listen! I am standing and knocking at your door. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in and we will eat together” (Revelation 3:20).

Holman Hunt later explained the meaning of the painting’s symbolism: “The closed door was the obstinately shut mind; the weeds the cumber of daily neglect, the accumulated hindrance of sloth; the bat flitting about only in darkness was a natural symbol of ignorance…” The lantern Jesus carries (click here to see the full-length image) refers to Jesus’s description of himself as “the light of the world”, which is the title of the painting.

The picture was so important to Holman Hunt that he painted it three times, at different points in his life, and said that working on it the first time had made him become a Christian. The final version below.

Prayer

Strong Son of God, immortal Love,
Whom we, that have not seen thy face,
By faith, and faith alone, embrace,
Believing where we cannot prove;

Thine are these orbs of light and shade;
Thou madest Life in man and brute;
Thou madest Death; and lo, thy foot
Is on the skull which thou hast made.

Thou wilt not leave us in the dust:
Thou madest man, he knows not why,
He thinks he was not made to die;
And thou hast made him: thou art just.

Thou seemest human and divine,
The highest, holiest manhood, thou.
Our wills are ours, we know not how,
Our wills are ours, to make them thine.

Our little systems have their day;
They have their day and cease to be:
They are but broken lights of thee,
And thou, O Lord, art more than they.

We have but faith: we cannot know;
For knowledge is of things we see;
And yet we trust it comes from thee,
A beam in darkness: let it grow.

Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-92)

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About this module

Christians have been making images of Jesus since the early centuries of the church. In this section, we look at pictures of the face of Christ – some of them centuries old, some of them from today.

NB: If you are hoping to reproduce these images you will need to seek permission from the original copyright holders (not rejesus). Please don’t contact us looking for permission or asking for contact details for the copyright holders.

Categories: Creativity, Art & image,

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