Sunday 5th April 2020
Matt 21 v1-11
Introduction – Evidence for the Authenticity of the Bible
Throughout my Christian life, I have met many people who are antagonistic towards my faith
and the authenticity of the bible. They have tried to argue, that the contents of the gospels were fabricated and that Jesus of Nazareth was little more than a character of fiction!
In our sermon slot this morning, we do not have the time to go into all the evidence and arguments against such a stand point, but we will touch briefly on it!
For those wanting to explore the discussion further, there are many good books out there on the subject, such as ‘Cold Case Christianity by Jim Wallace’, ‘The Case for Christ’ by Lee Strobel, ‘The Bible Phenomenon’ by John Drane and ‘Questions of Life’ by Nicky Gumble, to name just a few that I can see by glancing over my shoulder!
Picking up on Gumble’s writings on the subject, he highlights two major flaws, when arguing against the existence of Jesus!
The first being that there is more historical evidence for the existence of Jesus of Nazareth than there is for Julius Caesar, and yet no self-respecting historian would deny his existence!
The second is that, both Jewish and Roman historian’s mention Him. This in itself is intriguing because Jesus was an embarrassment to both camps! For the Jew’s He was an antagonist and heretic, whilst for the Roman’s he was the one man who cheated their most brutal punishment, crucifixion. Surely both these groups would want to write Him out of their history, or argue that he was a fictional character. But neither do, they refer to him as a very real person!
Why raise the question about the existence of Christ and the authenticity of the bible on Palm Sunday?
Quite simply, because the Palm Sunday narrative also adds huge weight to the argument in favour of the existence of Jesus!
The Story in Context
Let’s consider the story in context!
This story is all about timings and symbolism.
It is the start of the Passover week, probably the most important festival in the Jewish calendar.
Jerusalem and the surrounding areas would have been engulfed in a sea of pilgrims.
In his book the longest week, Nick Page says, that ‘as Jesus rode over the crest of the mount of olives on that spring morning, there would have been a sea of makeshift tents and shelters spreading across the valley below’.
Just think Glastonbury but in the Kidron Valley!
But those gathered in the tent cities, would not just have been pilgrims. Amongst them, would have been people that Jesus had taught, healed and released from demonic possession over his three years in Ministry.
So is it any wonder, than when he appears the crowd is quickly whipped up in a frenzy?
But it’s the magnitude of this gathering that gives further weight to the existence of Jesus!
If you were going to fabricate stories, you would not create ones which could quickly and easily be dispelled!
Given the enormity of the crowd that would have gathered for the Passover week, it would not have taken long for the alleged stories of Jesus riding into on a donkey to reach people that were actually there. Quickly the credibility of the apostles claims, would have been eroded, as mass groups would have been able to say ‘I was there, that never happened!’
But history paints a different picture. Rather than the stories being questioned and challenged they quickly spread! Why? Because they were true, because there were so many witnesses to verify the accounts!
This is really important for our Christian faith, because as we head towards Easter, which in many respects is the corner stone of our faith, we can have greater confidence in it’s truth!
Returning to the crowd
Return briefly to the frenzy whipped up in the crowd!
If the impact that Jesus had on the living was not enough, the means by which he approached and entered Jerusalem would certainly have got the pilgrims attention!
Jesus was playing on the hype and speculation that surrounded His identity.
By acting out the words of the Prophet Zechariah:
Tell the daughter of Zion,
Look your King is coming to you,
Humble and mounted on a donkey.
And on a colt the foal of a donkey.
One apparently innocent act, was in reality making a very bold statement!
‘I’m riding into town as your king’.
The Crowds Expectations
This was the moment the disciples and the crowds had been waiting for, the moment when Jesus, finallyrevealed himself as the Messiah.
It’s no wonder the crowds laid coats before him, and broke of palm branches to wave. They weren’t just celebrating the arrival of Jesus, they were celebrating the arrival of the long awaited messiah and the actions that they thought would follow!
There was an expectation that as Jesus rode past the adoring crowds, He would head straight for the temple, ascend the temple steps, march into the inner court and grasp the horns at the corners of the alter, and in doing so signify his Kingship.
Had Jesus done this, the crowds would have raised up as an Army behind him, to overthrow the Romans. They were looking for a leader to make a stand against their oppressors, and if this man on the donkey was their long awaited Messiah how could they lose? God was with them, and his promises of liberation, and the restoration of Israel as a mighty nation were about to be fulfilled!
But Jesus had other plans! He was not interested in over throwing the Romans, or a physical battle, he had his eyes set on greater foes! His battle was not of flesh and blood, but of the spiritual realm. He had come to defeat mankind’s greatest enemies, those of sin and death, and to win that battle he needed to face Satan one more time!
Our Battle against Satan
As Christians we need to recognise that Satan is our enemy, he comes to cheat and steal, to deceive us about the identity of Jesus and lead us away from our heavenly father.
But he is an enemy that has been defeated on the cross!
We have the victory through Christ, so sin and temptation can no longer can claim to have power over us! Through Christ we can stand strong.
In John’s letter to the early Church he reminded them of this powerful truth, writing:
“You dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you, is greater than the one who is in the world.” (1 John 4v4)
Whatever we face, our God is bigger, stronger and more powerful. In these unusual times, it’s important that we cling to that truth, ‘God is bigger, stronger and more powerful!’
Growing in Christ
The trouble is, we often impose our expectations upon God. We see this in the crowd on that first Palm Sunday, placing their understanding and expectations upon Jesus. Interpreting his Kingship, as one to challenge the current political regime, wanting Jesus to exert His power and authority their way!
How often do we do the same? How often de we create God in our image, or we tell Him how to do His Job?
We should be seeking His will, not expecting Him to fulfil ours!
True discipleship requires us to be growing our relationship with Jesus, through the daily pursuit of a forgiven life! His grace is free, but we need to acknowledge our brokenness, allow God to work in our hearts on a deeper level than we ever imagined.
As we give him access all areas, he moves right into our hurts, hopes, bitterness, love, selfishness, mistakes and desires.
Christ rides victoriously into our deepest and darkest moments, to bring us, peace and wholeness.
He is the only one, who can truly know and understand our private thoughts and struggles.
And so I want to pause briefly, what are the areas in your life, where you have not allowed Christ access, or where you most need his healing touch?
Now welcome him, as your risen king, invite him into to your life, surrender all authority to him, and ask for his spirit to fall upon you afresh, to revive you and to bring transformation.
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