This week millions of Christians worldwide celebrate Palm Sunday – the official start of what’s known as Holy Week. It is a time outlined thoroughly within the pages of the New Testament in the Bible.
For centuries, those who do not believe in Jesus have used the Bible to beat Christians over the head. “It is not carefully written. It is not accurate. It is not reliable,” they argue. In his book The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable, F.F. Bruce makes the point that “the evidence for the New Testament writings is ever so much greater than the evidence for many writings of classical authors, the authenticity of which no one dreams of questioning.” As well, Neil Lightfoot, in his book How We Got the Bible points out, “There are far more copies of the New Testament than of any other book from the ancient world.”
In terms of actual manuscript evidence that exists today, there is simply no comparison between ancient classical works and the New Testament. For instance, there are in existence approximately thirty manuscripts from Plato’s writings, about six hundred and fifty of Homer’s Iliad in contrast to 24,000 manuscripts of the New Testament. Scholarly textual comparisons of these manuscripts – a word for word evaluation of the content from one New Testament document to another — is simply staggering in its accuracy.
One of the most famous observations about the veracity the Bible still standing today comes from a renowned secular archeologist from the 19th century. Sir Frederick Kenyon wrote:
The number of manuscripts of the New Testament, of early translations from it, and of quotations from it in the oldest writers of the Church, is so large that it is practically certain that the true reading of every doubtful passage is preserved in some one or other of these ancient authorities. This can be said of no other ancient book in the world.
Following his exhaustive archeological research Kenyon too came to faith in Christ.
Still, no amount of research, historical fact or archeological digs can change a person from an unbeliever to a confessing Christian. That’s primarily because belief is a supernatural affair between God and man. For those who do call themselves Christian, there is one common denominator – that each person, in his or her unique way, had an encounter with Christ. It is an experience that they are hard-pressed to explain, but they know it from a point of absolute certainty. This encounter, or experience, cannot be taken away or altered and as a result, they are changed forever.
The first Palm Sunday was recorded in all four gospels from four different perspectives: that of a Palestinian Jew, a tax collector, a fisherman and a Gentile physician. And yet when blended there is a harmonious account of what happened on that day:
Matthew 21:8-11 reads:
Most of the crowd spread their garments on the road ahead of him, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Jesus was in the center of the procession, and the people all around him were shouting,
“Praise God* for the Son of David!
Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Praise God in highest heaven!”
The entire city of Jerusalem was in an uproar as he entered. “Who is this?” they asked.
And the crowds replied, “It’s Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”
Ironically the crowd in Jerusalem that day asks the very same question that millions of people ask today. Who is this? And that is a question that every man, woman, and child must answer for themselves. No one can give them faith. One may ask why this is such an important question? What possible relevance does it have to my life?
And the answer is simple: There is within each of us a God-sized hole that cannot be filled by any worldly thing or any one. This quest may come in the deep hours of the night or on a lonely afternoon. But each of us desires to know why we are here and what will happen to us when we die. Jesus answers all those questions and more as every Christian well knows. We know though we die to this earth we will live again in glory with the one who made us. We know that we will see those in Christ who have passed before us. And as the Bible says so eloquently, there is so much more:
No eye has seen, no ear has heard,
and no mind has imagined
what God has prepared
for those who love him.”
And so, this Palm Sunday if you desire to know who you are, why you are here and where you will go, a good place to start is with the words of Jesus found in the Bible which say ever so clearly:
Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for.
Keep on seeking, and you will find.
Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks, receives.
Everyone who seeks, finds.
And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.