Maybe you know about Jesus, but have you ever studied what the Bible says about the week leading up to his death and resurrection? Holy Week is remembered as the days when Jesus changed the world.
Spanning from Palm Sunday to Resurrection Sunday, here are the events and passages describing the days leading up to Jesus’ death and the moments afterward when he put death to death.
Read these passages all at once or by daily sections leading up to Resurrection Sunday.
(Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-44; John 12:9-19).
Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Riding upon the back of a colt, he started this week with a blatant indication of his identity as Messiah by fulfilling the description of Zech. 9:9. The people rejoiced at his coming, and a party filled the streets with an extravagant, grassroots fanfare. This moment was the first time he had returned to Jerusalem since bringing Lazarus back from the dead. After Jesus resurrected Lazarus, he mentioned that “the Son of God may be glorified through it” (John 11:4), and these people confirmed that by their joyous reception of him (John 12:18).
(Matthew 21:12-22; Mark 11:12-19; Luke 19:45-48)
Bent and determined, Jesus led his disciples back into Jerusalem to establish his authority over the religious systems flawed by manmade expectations. He walked in with a different type of stride. His pace and demeanor revealed that something was escalating, and he unashamedly seemed to be the provoker. He reentered the temple to turn over tables and disrupt the corrupt religious leaders.
(Matthew 21:23-26:5; Mark 11:27-14:2; Luke 20:1-22:2; John 12:37-50)
After causing quite the stir on Monday, Jesus reenters the temple on Tuesday to confront the religious leaders head-on. He informs these leaders that they have no authority over him, and he then, in turn, teaches with authority for those listening. This teaching will be the last official time Jesus will teach in the temple. After his confrontational approach, he leaves once he has accomplished his goal: “and the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to arrest him by stealth and kill him” (Mark 14:1).
(Matthew 26:6-16; Mark 14:3-11; Luke 22:3-6)
After 3 days of raucous activity, Jesus slows the pace a bit, but the events are no less significant. He has disregarded the religious elite, and he dines with a ragtag group of disciples in the home of a leper. This description of Jesus on his most important week describes him perfectly. Fellowshipping in a home of a man known for his inability to gather with others, Jesus is emphatically showing why he came. During this meal, Lazarus’ sister, Mary, breaks an alabaster box of perfume worth a year’s wages and pours it on Jesus’ head and feet. While others are indignant that this resource is “wasted” on Jesus, he comments that she is preparing him for his burial. He knows, and apparently she does as well, that they won’t have time to do that later. He mentions that what she was doing would be remembered throughout history. If you are reading this post, you are proving him to be correct.
(Matthew 26:17-75; Mark 14:12-72; Luke 22:7-71; John 13:1-18:27)
On Thursday, Jesus sends John and Peter to prepare the upper room to observe the Passover feast. When they all gather, Jesus washes the disciples’ feet, observes the Lord’s Supper, releases Judas for his betrayal, and provides some of his most foundational teaching and shares some of his sincerest of prayers for the disciples and the ones to come. Jesus then asks Peter, James, and John to accompany him to one of his favorite prayer places at Gethsemane. As he affirms his commitment to his death, Judas leads a group of opponents to his location and arrests him to face secret trials through the night.
(Matthew 27:1-61; Mark 15:1-47; Luke 23:1-56; John 18:28-19:42)
Through the night, Jesus is tried, ridiculed, beaten, and condemned to be crucified. The Jewish leaders convince the Roman government to go forward with his death sentence. Out of cowardice, Pilate and Herod attempt to calm the rising storm of hostility from the citizens by agreeing to Jesus’ crucifixion. Jesus endures a beating that almost kills him, and he is nailed to a cross open to public shame for six hours before he dies. During his suspension on the cross, the sun goes dark and the city gets eerie. At his death, the veil of the curtain in the temple tears in two. The separation between God and people is ripped asunder. A few remaining yet unexpected disciples are the ones who take him down from the cross. A rich man named Joseph of Arimethea gives Jesus his tomb. Just for a little while.
The Gospel authors do not record a great deal about Saturday because not a lot happened. The fact that the chief priests requested Roman soldiers to guard the tomb did indicate their remembering of Jesus’ teaching on his resurrection and their concern of his disciples attempting to keep this religious insurrection going. This Sabbath day is truly a Sabbath rest for Jesus. On Friday, he died for the sins of Mankind (which were created on the 5th day or Friday). On Saturday he rested (on the 6th day or the Sabbath). And then on Sunday, the first day of the week, at dawn, God once again said, “Let there be…”
(Matthew 28:1-15; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-49; John 20:1-23)
As light canvases a new day, a group of women come to the tomb to prepare the body of Jesus since they could not do it on the Sabbath day. They are surprised to find him missing. The awakened morning illuminates an empty tomb! Jesus approaches them. They worship. They run to tell the men. They are in disbelief. They run to see him but can’t find him. Jesus finds all the disciples; they never discovered him. Sin defeated. Death put to death. The devil disarmed. New life is given.
Jesus rose to life.
And he is alive today.
May we be like those original Resurrection Sunday worshipers, fleeing from the tomb with a message to share with all those willing to hear.
So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.Matthew 28:8
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Just (About) Married.