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Timeline of Holy Week

What’s the timeline of “Holy Week”? Sometimes, it’s also called Passion Week or the Final Week. Whatever you call it, the week of Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion (Sunday to Saturday) had to feel to Jesus’ disciples like taking a week-long journey from heaven to hell.

Here’s a summary of how each day went (plus a bonus day at the end):

Sunday (Palm Sunday)

Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey, a huge crowd gathers, more and more people every moment, and they begin laying their coats before him as he rides into town. They take palm branches, wave them in the air, and shout, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” In other words, this is the Messiah we’ve been waiting for!

The disciples had likely never seen a more exciting day in all their lives than that Sunday, which we call “Palm Sunday.” Mark 11:11 tells us that they then leave the city to spend the night in Bethany, where their friends Martha, Mary, and Lazarus live.


Sunday of Holy Week: “Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey.”


Monday

On their way into Jerusalem, Jesus curses a fruitless fig tree as a parable of what happens when God’s people bear no fruit. He then goes into the temple in Jerusalem and begins overturning their tables and scattering the money, flinging open the doors of the cages of the animals, and using a whip to drive animals out of the temple. Jesus turns to those who had turned the Temple into a casino to make money, saying, “My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers!” (Matthew 21:3).

That was Monday, and it’s not difficult to see a connection between Jesus’ actions on Monday and the religious leaders’ response on Thursday and Friday. That evening, according to Mark 11:19, they leave the city again, presumably to stay in Bethany again for the night.


Monday of Holy Week: “Jesus goes into the temple in Jerusalem and begins overturning their tables and scattering the money.”


Tuesday

On Tuesday, they enter the city again and notice that the fig tree previously cursed has now withered (Mark 11:20-21). Jesus takes the day and teaches at and around the temple. Unsurprisingly, he is met with hostile questions, such as, “By what authority are you doing these things?” (Mark 11:28) and “Should we pay [taxes] or shouldn’t we?” (Mark 12:15). Jesus shows himself unfazed by their questioning, as he out-debates the scholars and delights the crowds. With a series of eight “woes,” Jesus calls the religious leaders to repentance, lest they come under imminent judgment (Matthew 23).

When Jesus and his disciples leave the temple, they head east to the Mount of Olives, where Jesus describes the coming destruction of Jerusalem as well as his own second coming (Matthew 24-25). This section of his teaching is called the “Olivet Discourse.” In the religious leaders’ minds, Tuesday seals Jesus’ fate: he must die. They scheme to arrest him secretly (Matthew 26:4).

It may have been this Tuesday evening that a woman anoints Jesus with expensive perfume while he stays in Bethany. This effusive outpouring of wealth seems to be one of the factors which provokes Judas Iscariot to meet with the chief priests and agree to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver (Matthew 26:6-16).


Tuesday of Holy Week: “Jesus takes the day and teaches at and around the temple.”


Wednesday

We aren’t told what happens on Wednesday. Perhaps it was a day of rest after a couple of intense days in Jerusalem. Perhaps some of what is described in the previous section (such as the anointing of Jesus and Judas agreeing to betray Jesus) actually happens on Wednesday.

Thursday (Maundy Thursday)

On Thursday evening, Jesus celebrates the Passover feast with his disciples. At the feast, in an upper room, Jesus washes his disciples’ feet and commands them to do the same for each other (John 13:1-17). The Latin word “mandatum” means commandment; thus, many Christians celebrate Thursday as “Maundy Thursday,” a time to remember Jesus’ command to “love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34).

Toward the end of the meal, Jesus takes elements from the Passover feast and applies them to a new covenant in his own blood. First, he breaks the bread and says, “Take it; this is my body” (Mark 14:22). He then takes the wine and says, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many” (Mark 14:24). In this, he gives his disciples an ordinance that we call the “Lord’s Supper” or “communion” (emphasizing its communal nature; see 1 Corinthians 10:16) or the “Eucharist” (meaning “thanksgiving,” since Jesus gave thanks before breaking the bread and before distributing the wine; see Matthew 26:26-27).


“Jesus takes elements from the Passover feast and applies them to a new covenant in his own blood.”


That evening, Jesus continues teaching his disciples. In what we call the “Upper Room Discourse,” Jesus promises his disciples the Holy Spirit, reminds them to remain in him, and prays for their oneness with himself, his Father, and each other (John 14-17).

That night, they camp on the Mount of Olives, where Jesus asks his Father if there is any other way to save humanity than what he would need to undergo on Friday. The answer is no, and Jesus’ responds, “Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36).

A mob approaches with torches and swords. They are led by Judas Iscariot. When they arrive, Judas kisses Jesus on the cheek as a sign that Jesus is the one to arrest. The soldiers seize Jesus, arrest him, and take him into Jerusalem.

Late that night, Jesus is put on trial twice—first before Annas, father-in-law to Caiaphas the high priest, and then before Caiaphas himself (John 18:12-13, 24). Before Caiaphas, Jesus is convicted of blasphemy, because he claimed to be equal with God (Matthew 26:63-66). In the process of trying to rescue Jesus amid the trial, three times Peter ends up denying that he has any connection with Jesus. After these three denials (which Jesus had predicted), Peter leaves, weeping bitterly.


Thursday of Holy Week: “A mob approaches with torches and swords.”


Friday (Good Friday)

Early Friday morning, Jesus is brought before Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, who sees no legitimacy in their demand for the death penalty. When Pilate hears that Jesus is a Galilean and that Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee, is in Jerusalem at the time, Pilate sends Jesus to Herod. Herod’s soldiers mock Jesus, dressing him in a robe, but in the end, Herod sends Jesus back to Pilate. To sway the mob to pity, Pilate has Jesus flogged, but when he presents a bloody Jesus before them, they continue to demand nothing less than crucifixion. When Judas Iscariot sees that Jesus has been condemned, he feels awful, returns the silver, and hangs himself.

Jesus is on the cross from approximately nine in the morning until three in the afternoon.

“It is finished!” Jesus shouts (John 19:30). He looks up to the heavens. “Father, into your hands I commit my Spirit” (Luke 23:46). He breathes His last. An earthquake occurs, during which the veil of the temple is torn in two starting at the top. Jesus is taken down from the cross. He is buried in a tomb owned by Joseph of Arimathea, a sympathetic member of the Sanhedrin. The tomb is sealed.


Friday of Holy Week: “Jesus is on the cross from approximately nine in the morning until three in the afternoon.”


Saturday

Never had a Saturday been so sad, confusing, scary, or frustrating. What are the disciples to do on a Saturday after a Friday like that? We get a single half-verse that tells us what they did, even though they couldn’t have wanted to: “But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment” (Luke 23:56b). How could they rest on such a Saturday? We don’t know how they could—but we do know why they should. It’s because Sunday was coming.

During our sad, confusing, scary, frustrating days, God is still at work.

Sunday

So, what happened on Sunday?

Oh man, this is where it gets good.

In short, it’s what the prophet Isaiah predicted of the Suffering Servant who was “pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities”: God would “prolong his days” (Isaiah 53:5, 10). Said the angels to the women who had come to the tomb hoping to anoint the body: “He is not here; he has risen, just as he said” (Matthew 28:6). Jesus starts appearing to his disciples—and when they refuse to believe their eyes, he tells them to touch the scars and believe (Luke 24:39). Sunday saw the religious leaders’ triumphalism turn to panic and the disciples’ despair blossom into persistent, unshakable tenacity.


“Sunday saw the religious leaders’ triumphalism turn to panic and the disciples’ despair blossom into persistent, unshakable tenacity.”


Jesus’ resurrection deserves its own article (which you can find HERE), but here’s a quick summary of what happened on Sunday (and why there’s never been a more important historic event for you and me today):

E – Jesus’ resurrection means his Execution wasn’t the End.

A – Jesus’ resurrection means there’s an Afterlife.

S – Jesus’ resurrection means he was Successful in Saving us from our Sins.

T – Jesus’ resurrection means he was Telling the Truth.

E – Jesus’ resurrection means he Ended the reign of our Enemies.

R – Jesus’ resurrection means he has begun Restoring all Reality.

To see these 6 points (EASTER) fleshed out, check out “What Is the Meaning of Easter?” as well as the book Real Life Theology Handbook.

Have a truly happy Easter!

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