Easter: The 7 Days of Holy Week

Holy Week (also called Passion Week by some churches and publications) is the week leading up to Easter Sunday. This sacred week commemorates the events that led up to and include, the death of Jesus on the cross.

From Jesus’ arrival in the City of Jerusalem to the empty grave, here’s a quick look at the days, events, and scripture of the Holy Week.

Palm Sunday

Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday, which memorializes Jesus Christ's arrival in the city of Jerusalem.

Main events:

  • Jesus and His disciples traveled to Jerusalem for Passover
  • He sent John and Peter ahead, with instructions to find a donkey and its colt
  • Jesus then rode the donkey into Jerusalem
  • Crowds along the road praised Him, waving palm branches and cheering

John 12:12-13 reads “The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna! “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the king of Israel!” 

On Palm Sunday, palm branches are often distributed in churches and to children to commemorate this event and the beginning of what would transpire in the following days.

Holy Monday

Holy Monday is the second day of Holy Week, following Palm Sunday.

Main events:

  • Jesus continues into Jerusalem
  • On the way, He sees a fig tree that has no fruit and curses it
  • He uses the tree to teach about being fruitful and good on the inside, not just by outward appearance or showy displays
  • Jesus bows His head and weeps over the lack of faith of those living in the city
  • He cleanses the temple, driving away merchants

Matthew 21:12-13 says “And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers”.

The Bible describes Jesus as having spent his second day in Jerusalem teaching and cleansing the temple. On this day, we celebrate Jesus' cleansing of the church, when He drove out sin and overturned the tables of the unrighteous.

Holy Tuesday

Holy Tuesday, or Great Tuesday, is the third day of Holy Week.

Main events:

  • Jesus sees the withered fig tree He cursed and uses it to teach about the power of faith
  • Jesus tells several parables, condemning the religious elite and highlighting the Kingdom of God
  • Jesus addresses the religious leaders
  • Jesus talks with His disciples on the Mount of Olives about the end times

Matthew 24:42-44 reads “Therefore keep watch because you do not know on what day the Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his home unguarded. So you must also be ready because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him”

This day also represents the Pharisees' collaboration with Herod the Great, the Roman-appointed king of Judea, to condemn Jesus.

Holy Wednesday

On day four of Holy Week, Holy Wednesday (also called Spy Wednesday by some leaders and publications), one of Jesus' disciples, Judas, agreed to betray Jesus in exchange for thirty pieces of money.

Main events:

  • Jesus continues to teach
  • The Sanhedrin plot to kill Jesus
  • Judas agrees to betray Jesus for money

Luke 22:2-6 says “The leading priests and teachers of religious law were plotting how to kill Jesus, but they were afraid of the people’s reaction. Then Satan entered Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve disciples, and he went to the leading priests and captains of the Temple guard to discuss the best way to betray Jesus to them. They were delighted, and they promised him money. So he agreed and began looking for an opportunity to betray Jesus so they could arrest him when the crowds weren’t around.”

Churches frequently hold lessons, events, or special services on Holy Wednesday. This somber event marks the ‘beginning of the end’ of the earthly life of Jesus Christ.

Maundy Thursday

On Maundy Thursday, during his Last Supper with his disciples, Jesus introduced the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, often referred to as Holy Communion or just Communion.

Main events:

  • Preparations began for the Passover
  • That evening, Jesus and all 12 disciples gathered in the Upper Room
  • Jesus washed their feet and they broke bread
  • He told them again that He must suffer and die, and that one of them would be the one who betrays Him
  • Judas leaves to alert the guards, leading to Jesus’ arrest on the Mount of Olives
  • Jesus is sent before the authorities and found guilty of blasphemy
  • He is condemned to be killed

Mark 14:22-26 reads “While they were eating, Jesus took the bread, gave thanks, broke it and gave it to His disciples, saying, ‘Take it; this is my body.’ Then He took a cup, and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,’ he said to them. ‘Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.’ When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.”

With an emphasis on service and humility, represented by the washing of his disciples’ feet, Maundy Thursday is a somber day that reminds us of who Jesus was and what He suffered to pay for our sins.

Good Friday

Good Friday commemorates the crucifixion and death of Jesus on the cross. On this sad day, we reflect on what Jesus gave up to give us life, and what God allowed to bridge the gap between life and death.

Main events: 

  • At the crack of dawn, Jesus is brought before Pontius Pilate
  • The governor offers the crowd a criminal to be crucified instead, but the leaders stir the crowd, demanding it be Jesus
  • Pilate agrees and Jesus is forced to walk to Golgotha, where He hangs on a cross
  • After hours of great suffering, Jesus dies on the cross
  • His body is taken down and placed in the tomb

John 19 details the horrific events and death that Jesus faced on Good Friday

John 19:28-30 reads “Jesus knew that his mission was now finished, and to fulfill Scripture he said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of sour wine was sitting there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to his lips. When Jesus had tasted it, he said, “It is finished!” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”

Many churches offer Good Friday services that focus on how Jesus suffered to pay our debt, meditating on the events that led up to His death on the cross.

Holy Saturday

On Holy Saturday, believers anxiously await the resurrection of Jesus and impending celebrations, knowing that God is faithful and trusting Him to fulfill His promise.

Main events: 

  • Guards are placed at the entrance of the tomb
  • The Sabbath is observed

Luke 23:55-56 says “The women who had followed Jesus from Galilee then followed Joseph and saw the tomb, seeing His body laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandments”

 Many churches have Easter events, with activities like Easter egg hunts for children or candlelight vigils.

Easter Sunday

One of the most significant days in history is Resurrection Day, also known as Easter Sunday, or most commonly, Easter. A day of great joy, Easter memorializes the resurrection of Jesus. The grave could not hold Him, and the power of God prevails. Death is defeated and He is risen. Hallelujah!

The main event: 

  • Mary Magdalene and another woman, also named Mary, went to the tomb 
  • There they found an angel sitting atop the large stone that once covered the tomb’s entrance
  • The angel tells the women that Jesus is not here, He has risen.
  • The tomb is empty

Mark 16:2-6 reads “Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, ‘Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?’ But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. ‘Don’t be alarmed,’ he said. ‘You are looking for Jesus of Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where He laid’”.

Families and friends alike get together for meals, fellowship, and celebrations, and churches host special services and events. Easter is a day of great joy as we celebrate the greatest day in history.

For believers, the events of Holy Week are foundational to our faith, what we believe, and how we live. Nothing else could bridge the gap that sin created and Easter is a sacred time of worship, celebration, and hope.

“By His wounds, we are healed” - Isaiah 53:5

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