Walk with Jesus through the final week of His earthly mission, from the swinging palm branches and shouts of Hosanna on Palm Sunday through His last supper on Thursday, to His redeeming death as He gasped His last breath and the sky went black on Friday. Then to Holy Saturday as Jesus lay in the tomb, and into the sunrise of the most glorious day in human history, Resurrection Sunday, on which the Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ, walked out of the tomb, alive forevermore.
We invite you to spend this week drawing near to our Savior Jesus Christ. Meditate on the Gospels' Passion narratives below and daily come before the Lord in prayers of praise and thanksgiving as well as repentance and longing. And then unite with your brothers and sisters in worship at the special times listed below.
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READINGS FOR TODAY: Matthew 21:1-11, Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:28-44, and John 12:12-19.
On the Sunday before His death, Jesus began His trip to Jerusalem, knowing that soon He would lay down his life for our sins. Nearing the village of Bethphage, He sent two of his disciples ahead, telling them to look for a donkey and its unbroken colt. The disciples were instructed to untie the animals and bring them to Jesus.
Then Jesus, the long-awaited Messiah and promised shepherd-king sat on the young donkey and slowly, humbly, made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, fulfilling the ancient prophecy in Zechariah 9:9:
"Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey."
The crowds welcomed Him by waving palm branches (a national symbol of Israel) in the air and shouting, "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!" The cheer of Hosanna being a cry, "Save us," "Deliver us," and "Bring us peace!"
On Palm Sunday, Jesus and His disciples spent the night in Bethany, a town about two miles east of Jerusalem. This is where Lazarus, whom Jesus had raised from the dead, and his two sisters, Mary and Martha, lived. They were close friends of Jesus, and probably hosted Him and His disciples during their final days in Jerusalem.
REFLECTION FOR TODAY: Your King has come to bring salvation. Rejoice greatly that Jesus willingly set His face towards the cross. As He entered Jerusalem the clock began to wind down to His death and the climax of His earthly ministry. Shout aloud in great hope that your Savior arrived triumphantly for in His death there is final victory over sin, evil, and separation from God!
READINGS FOR TODAY: Matthew 21:12–22, Mark 11:15–19, Luke 19:45-48, and John 2:13-17
The following morning, Jesus returned with his disciples to Jerusalem. Along the way, He cursed a fig tree because it had failed to bear fruit. Some scholars believe this cursing of the fig tree represented God's judgment on the spiritually dead religious leaders of Israel. Others believe the symbolism extended to all believers, demonstrating that genuine faith is more than just outward religiosity; true, living faith must bear spiritual fruit in a person's life.
When Jesus arrived at the Temple, He found the courts full of corrupt money changers. He began overturning their tables and clearing the Temple, saying, "The Scriptures declare, 'My Temple will be a house of prayer,' but you have turned it into a den of thieves" (Luke 19:46). Jesus would do more than merely cleanse the temple, He would replace the temple as the locus of God's presence. The place where heaven met earth, where sins were forgiven and the way to true worship to the Father, would all now be through Jesus (John 2:19-21).
On Monday evening Jesus stayed in Bethany again, probably in the home of his friends, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.
REFLECTION FOR TODAY: Jesus' cleansing of the temple made the way for all people to come and worship Him. Soon, as He died upon the cross, the temple's veil would be torn as Christ's atoning sacrifice once and for all would open up the way for everyone to enter into God's presence, giving access to the Holy of Holies for all who put their faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus is our way to forever peace with God and praise to Him that we no longer need any other substitutionary sacrifice as Jesus has paid it all. Ask Jesus today to cleanse your heart of any impurities and to remove anything hindering your true worship of our awesome God.
READINGS FOR TODAY: Matthew 21:23–24:51, Mark 11:20–13:37
On Tuesday morning, Jesus and His disciples returned to Jerusalem. They passed the withered fig tree on their way, and Jesus spoke to His companions about the importance of faith.
Back at the Temple, religious leaders were upset at Jesus for establishing Himself as a spiritual authority. They organized an ambush with the intent to place Him under arrest. But Jesus evaded their traps and pronounced harsh judgment on them, 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?" (Matthew 23:24-33)
Later that afternoon, Jesus left the city and went with His disciples to the Mount of Olives, which sits due east of the Temple and overlooks Jerusalem. Here Jesus gave the Olivet Discourse, an elaborate prophecy about the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the age. He speaks, as usual, in parables, using symbolic language about the end times events, including His Second Coming and the final judgment.
Scripture indicates that this Tuesday was also the day Judas Iscariot negotiated with the Sanhedrin, the rabbinical court of ancient Israel, to betray Jesus (Matthew 26:14-16).
After a tiring day of confrontation and warnings about the future, once again, Jesus and the disciples returned to Bethany to stay the night.
REFLECTION FOR TODAY: What Jesus calls us to is not moral behavior modification which puts on masks and tries to appear righteous. No, so much greater, richer, and more peaceful is the life of imputed righteousness and transformational righteousness which our Savior gives us! He makes a way of gracious, miraculous heart transplant - the dead, stony hearts inside us are actually changed into living, holy hearts to no longer be filled with hypocrisy. Our acceptance by God is so thankfully not based on our moral performance but on Jesus' perfect holiness, true forgiveness, and the new life He gives us. We can be people who are inwardly righteous and outwardly obedient. Ask Jesus to search your heart today for any areas in which you are living a whitewashed tomb life.
READINGS FOR TODAY: Luke 20:1–21:36, John 12:20–38 (these continue from Holy Tuesday)
The Bible doesn't say what the Lord did on the Wednesday of Passion Week. Scholars speculate that after two exhausting days in Jerusalem, Jesus and His disciples spent this day resting in Bethany in anticipation of Passover.
Just a short time previously, Jesus had revealed to the disciples, and the world, that He had power over death by raising Lazarus from the grave. After seeing this incredible miracle, many people in Bethany believed that Jesus was the Son of God and put their faith in him. Also in Bethany just a few nights earlier, Lazarus' sister Mary had lovingly anointed the feet of Jesus with expensive perfume.
REFLECTION FOR TODAY: In Luke 21:34-36, Jesus warns people to live wide-awake, looking forward in expectation “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
Let's slow down today as we rest in Christ and prepare to celebrate Maundy Thursday. Let us too keep our eyes off distractions and the busyness of the cares of this world by keeping our eyes focused on Jesus. Ask Jesus to watch over, guarding our hearts and keeping us awake at all times with strength, passion, and trust to wait on Him.
READINGS FOR TODAY: Matthew 26:17–75, Mark 14:12-72, Luke 22:7-62, and John 13:1-38
Holy Week takes a most somber turn on Thursday, as Jesus' week inches ever closer to the cataclysmic climax of His earthly mission.
From Bethany, Jesus sent Peter and John ahead to the Upper Room in Jerusalem to make the preparations for the Passover Feast. That evening after sunset, Jesus washed the feet of His disciples as they prepared to share in the Passover. By performing this humble act of service, Jesus demonstrated by example how believers should love one another.
Today, many churches practice foot-washing ceremonies as a part of their Maundy Thursday services.
Then, Jesus shared the feast of Passover with his disciples, saying,
“I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.
For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”
(Luke 22:15-16, ESV)
As the Lamb of God, Jesus was about to fulfill the meaning of Passover by giving His body to be broken and His blood to be shed in sacrifice, freeing us from the penalty and power of sin and it's sting, death. During this Last Supper, Jesus established the Lord's Supper, or Communion, instructing His followers to continually remember His sacrifice by sharing in the elements of bread and wine (Luke 22:19-20).
Later, Jesus and the disciples left the Upper Room and went to the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus prayed in agony to God the Father. Luke's Gospel says that "His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground" (Luke 22:44, ESV).
Late that evening in Gethsemane, Jesus was betrayed with a kiss by Judas Iscariot and arrested by the Sanhedrin. He was taken to the home of Caiaphas, the High Priest, where the whole council had gathered to begin making their case against Jesus.
Meanwhile, in the early morning hours, as Jesus' trial was getting underway, Peter denied knowing his Master three times before the rooster crowed.
REFLECTION FOR TODAY: Let us together reflect on the type of amazing love our dear God has lavished upon us. Indeed as John reflects - "Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us" (1 John 3:1. NKJV) in making us children of God through Jesus. The NASB renders it, "See how great a love..." as both try to convey the expression that God's love is so astounding, so out-of-this-world, that it is hard to fathom and appreciate.
What humble, sacrificial and shocking love is it that our Lord and King, Jesus who designed us and against whom we have sinned, would get down on His knees to wash disciples' feet! What inclusive, forgiving love that He would so tenderly invite sinners like us to eat with Him at His royal table. What sacrificial love that He would lay down His life for us - "By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us," (1 John 3:16). Seek the Lord today, asking Him that you could better know and respond to His love for you. As you worship today in Communion, know this is Christ's love for you - His body broken to make you whole, His blood poured out to make you clean and new.
READINGS FOR TODAY: Matthew 27:1-62, Mark 15:1-47, Luke 22:63-23:56, and John 18:28-19:37
Good Friday is the most difficult day of Passion Week. Christ's journey turned treacherous and acutely painful in these final hours leading to his death.
According to Scripture, Judas Iscariot, the disciple who had betrayed Jesus, was overcome with remorse and hanged himself early Friday morning.
Meanwhile, before the third hour (9 a.m.), Jesus endured the shame of false accusations, condemnation, mockery, beatings, and abandonment. After multiple unlawful trials, he was sentenced to death by crucifixion, one of the most horrible and disgraceful methods of capital punishment known at the time.
Before Christ was led away, soldiers spit on him, tormented and mocked him, and pierced him with a crown of thorns. Then Jesus carried his own cross to Calvary where, again, he was mocked and insulted as Roman soldiers nailed him to the wooden cross.
Jesus spoke seven final statements from the cross. His first words were, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34, ESV). His last words were called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last (Luke 23:46, ESV). This last breath and death of Jesus occurred about the ninth hour (3PM).
By 6PM, Friday evening, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea took Jesus' body down from the cross and lay it in a tomb.
REFLECTION FOR TODAY: Even as Jesus died hanging on the cross, look how He thought of and interceded for others - from His mother Mary and disciple John, to the criminal next to Him, to all of His abusers and murderers around Him, and all of us sinners before Him - "Forgive them Father," He lovingly gasped. What a lasting, forever freedom there is in those words because of Jesus' atoning death. Free from sin. Free from condemnation. Free from separation. Free from isolation. Free from captivity. And free to love God and be loved by Him.
Seek the Lord today, as you spend time contemplating His final words:
Father forgive them; for they know not what they do.
Today you will be with Me in paradise.
Woman, behold thy son! Behold, thy mother!
My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?
It is finished.
Father, into thy hands I commend My spirit.
READINGS FOR TODAY: Matthew 27:62-66, Mark 16:1, Luke 23:56, John 19:40
Jesus' body lay in its tomb, where it was guarded by Roman soldiers throughout the day on Saturday, which was the Sabbath. When the Sabbath ended at 6 p.m., Christ's body was ceremonially treated for burial with spices purchased by Nicodemus:
Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews.
(John 19: 39-40, ESV)
Nicodemus, like Joseph of Arimathea, was a member 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.
Similarly, both were deeply affected by Christ's death. They boldly came out of hiding, risking their reputations and their lives because they had come to realize that Jesus was, indeed, the long-awaited Messiah. Together they cared for Jesus' body and prepared it for burial.
While His physical body lay in the tomb, Jesus Christ had paid the penalty for sin by offering the perfect, spotless sacrifice. He conquered death, both spiritually and physically, securing our eternal salvation:
And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.
(1 Peter 1:17-19, ESV).
REFLECTION FOR TODAY: In some sense today, we Christians all live on Saturday. Friday has passed, and we are waiting for the final resurrection and glorification on Sunday when our Lord Jesus will again return to us. On that first Holy Saturday, Jesus' followers were filled with doubt - Was He really the Messiah? What would happen next? - but His followers today can live in confident expectation, full of hope because Jesus did resurrect and He is coming back to us!
READINGS FOR TODAY: Matthew 28:1-13, Mark 16:1-14, Luke 24:1-49, John 20:1-23
On Resurrection Sunday, or Easter, we reach the culmination of Holy Week. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most important event of the Christian faith. The very foundation of all Christian doctrine hinges on the truth of this account for it not only says that our Savior is alive, but in Him being alive we have proof that the Lamb's sacrifice was found sufficient. In Christ's resurrection, we find the proof then of His atoning sacrifice for our forgiveness, our acceptance by God, and the firstfruits of the resurrection life which all believers receive.
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 announced:
"But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where He lay." (Matthew 28:5-6, ESV)
On the day of His resurrection, Jesus Christ made at least five appearances. Mark's Gospel says the first person to see him was Mary Magdalene. Jesus also appeared to Peter, to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and later that day to all of the disciples except Thomas, while they were gathered in a house for prayer.
The eyewitness accounts in the Gospels provide what Christians believe to be undeniable evidence that the resurrection of Jesus Christ did indeed happen. Two millennia after his death, followers of Christ still believe this in faith based on the truth of God's word, the Spirit's leading, and these eyewitness accounts.
REFLECTION FOR TODAY: You now live a resurrected life in Jesus Christ if He is your Savior and Lord. You have died with Christ and been raised with Christ so therefore you are a new creation, dead to sin and alive to Christ. What glorious news we have today that we have real life in Jesus, eternal life, life set free from sin and life now united to God through Jesus Christ!
Portions of Jesus' daily schedule have been adapted from Fairchild, Mary. "Holy Week Timeline: From Palm Sunday to the Resurrection." Learn Religions, Feb. 11, 2020, learnreligions.com/holy-week-timeline-700618.