Starting with Palm Sunday and culminating with the Resurrection the following week, Scripture records events that took place during Holy Week. While the exact order of events is debated by biblical scholars, this timeline represents an approximate outline of major events of the holiest days on the Christian calendar. Follow along with the steps of Jesus and His followers, from Palm Sunday through Resurrection Sunday, to see Jesus continue to serve others through His final breath and hear His call for us to do the same.
Most of Jesus’ ministry took place in northern Israel, around the Sea of Galilee. But when the “fullness of time” had come, Jesus turned towards Jerusalem. This was to fulfill the prophecies concerning the Messiah and in obedience to The Father.
Jesus and His disciples traveled to a small city just outside of the capital, Bethphage. There Jesus instructed two disciples to go ahead into Jerusalem and “find a donkey tied there with her colt. Untie them and bring them to me“. He added, “If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill Zechariah 9:9, “Tell Daughter Zion, “See, your King is coming to you, gentle, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
Doing as Jesus instructed, “They brought the donkey and the colt; then they laid their clothes on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their clothes on the road; others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them on the road. Then the crowds who went ahead of him and those who followed shouted: ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!‘”
That evening, Jesus and His disciples spent the night in Bethany, a town about two miles east of Jerusalem. This was the hometown of Lazarus, whom Jesus had raised from the dead, and his two sisters, Mary and Martha. They were close friends of Jesus, and probably hosted Him and His disciples during their final days in Jerusalem.
The following morning, on the way back into the city, Jesus cursed a fig tree because it had failed to bear fruit. A strange encounter, some believe this event represented God’s judgment on the spiritually dead religious leaders of Israel. Others believe the symbolism extended to all believers, demonstrating that real faith is more than a label or outward appearance, but true, living faith must bear spiritual fruit in a person’s life.
When Jesus arrived at the Temple, He found the courts had been turned into a market, full of greedy money changers and corrupt chaos. He began overturning their tables and clearing the Temple, saying, “My Temple will be a house of prayer,’ but your have made it a den of thieves!“.
On Monday evening Jesus stayed in Bethany again, probably in the home of his friends, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.
On Tuesday morning, Jesus and his disciples returned to Jerusalem again on Tuesday. It was on their journey that the disciples noticed the withered fig tree and Jesus taught on the importance of faith.
Back at the Temple, the religious leaders were threatened and angered by Jesus’ spiritual authority. Though they organized an ambush with the intent to place him under arrest, Jesus dodged their traps. He pronounced judgment, saying: “Blind guides!…For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness…Snakes! Sons of vipers! How will you escape the judgment of hell?“
That afternoon, Jesus exited the city, traveling to the Mount of Olives, which sits due east of the Temple and overlooks Jerusalem. There He gave the Olivet Discourse. Teaching through parables and symbolic language, Jesus prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem and spoke about the end of the age, including His return and final judgment.
The Bible tells us that it was on this day that Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, negotiated with the religious leaders and Sanhedrin, the rabbinical court of ancient Israel, to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.
After a day of confrontation and warnings about the future, Jesus and the disciples, once again, returned to Bethany for the night.
Holy (Silent) Wednesday:
The Bible doesn’t say what the Lord and His followers did on Wednesday. For this reason, many refer to this day as Silent Wednesday. Most scholars suspect that after several days of travel, confrontation, and ministry, Jesus simply sent this day with His closest friends and followers, resting in Bethany in anticipation of the Passover.
Holy Week takes a somber turn on Thursday. Scripture records many events that took place during this day, and in great detail. The gospel authors desire to convey the importance of these events through their precise detailing and length of time given in their accounts. This was their final night with their closest friend, they didn’t want history to miss a thing.
Events that took place on Maundy Thursday:
- Jesus and the disciples share the Passover Feast (Last Supper)
- Jesus washes the disciples’ feet
- Jesus gives a new commandment (Maundy (latin): ‘mandatum’, or ‘command’) to “Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another.”
- Jesus prophesies Judas’ betrayal, Peter’s denial, and the disciples’ abandonment of Him
- Jesus establishes the Lord’s Supper (Communion), instructing followers to remember His sacrifice through the bread and wine
- Jesus and the disciples go to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray and submit to the will of The Father
- Jesus is betrayed by Judas by a kiss
- Jesus is arrested
- Jesus heals a man after being violently attacked by Peter
- Jesus is taken to the home of Annas, and then Caiaphas, the High Priest, to stand trial by the Sanhedrin
- Jesus was denied by Peter
Much like Maundy Thursday, the events of Good Friday are told in great detail. According to Scripture, Jesus’ betrayer, Judas, filled with remorse, repented by returning the money to the religious leaders and in great agony hanged himself early Friday morning.
Meanwhile, by approximately 9 AM, Jesus has endured the shame of false accusations, condemnation, mockery, beatings, and abandonment. After multiple unlawful trials, with the Sanhedrin, Pontius Pilate, and Herod, Jesus was sentenced to death by crucifixion. On His journey toward death, Jesus was tormented and mocked. Roman soldiers placed a robe on His severely beaten body and pierced His brow with a crown of thorns. After this, Jesus was forced to carry His cross to Calvary where, again, He was mocked and insulted by soldiers, two other convicted criminals, and onlookers.
While on the cross, the gospels record seven final statements made by the dying Messiah:
- “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34
- “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke23:43
- “Woman, here is your son,” and “Here is your mother.” John 19:26-27
- “Eloi, Eloi, lemá sabachtháni?” which is translated, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” Mark 15:34
- “I’m thirsty.” John 19:28
- “It is finished.” John 19:30
- “Father, into your hands I entrust my spirit.” Luke 23:46
Then, about the ninth hour (3 p.m.), Jesus breathed his last breath and died. By 6 p.m. Friday evening, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea took Jesus’ body down from the cross and lay it in the tomb.
Jesus’ body lay in the tomb, where it was guarded by Roman soldiers throughout the day on Saturday, which was the Jewish Sabbath. When the Sabbath ended at 6 p.m., Christ’s body was ceremonially treated for burial with spices purchased by Nicodemus: “Nicodemus (who had previously come to him at night) also came, bringing a mixture of about seventy-five pounds of myrrh and aloes. They took Jesus’s body and wrapped it in linen cloths with the fragrant spices, according to the burial custom of the Jews.“
Risking their reputations and their lives, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea were members of the Sanhedrin, the court that had condemned Jesus Christ to death. For a time, both men had lived as secret followers of Jesus, afraid to make a public profession of faith because of their prominent positions in the Jewish community. After His death, they realized that Jesus was, indeed, the long-awaited Messiah, and boldly came out of hiding.
On Sunday, we reach the culmination of not just Holy Week, but the life and ministry of God incarnate, Jesus the Messiah. The resurrection of Jesus Chris is the most important event of the Christian faith. It is the foundation of all Christian teaching.
Early Sunday morning, several women (Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Salome, and Mary the mother of James) went to the tomb and discovered that the large stone covering the entrance had been rolled away. An angel proclaimed: “Don’t be afraid, because I know you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here. For he has risen, just as he said…”
On this day, Scripture records at least five appearances. The Gospel of Mark says that Mary Magdalene was the first person to see the risen Lord. Jesus also appears to Peter, two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and then later to all of the disciples, except Thomas, while they were gathered in a house for prayer.