Yesterday, I put together a shortened version of this for the Pre-K Sunday school class that my husband and I teach every week. I admit that this timeline was also something that I wanted the parents of our students to benefit from, but I was happy to hear from my husband that even he found it incredibly helpful for himself. Thus, I wanted to share a slightly longer version with all of you in the hopes that it will help to bless your own Holy Week… and I highly recommend reading and praying with the accompanying Scripture passages!
*Please note- this timeline is approximated; Biblical scholars have yet to agree on the exact order of these events.
Palm Sunday- Jesus Enters Jerusalem
(Matthew 21:1-11, Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:28-44, and John 12:12-19)
Jesus enters Jerusalem riding on a donkey. The people shout “Hosanna!” waving palm branches and laying their outer garments on the ground for him to tread on. They welcome him as one would a triumphant king. If you’re familiar with your Old Testament Scriptures, then you know that almost every deliverer of Israel was a warrior. Joshua conquered the Promised Land. Deborah leads troops to victory. Samson defeated the Philistines. Gideon killed an enemy army with only 300 Israelite men. David reconquered parts of the Promised Land that had been taken over by pagans. The Maccabees took back Jerusalem from the Greeks… etc. Based on the pattern they had seen God use in the past, the Jewish people thought that Jesus was going to overthrow the Roman government. Thus they praise him, singing “Hosanna!”, shading and fanning him with palm branches as he enters the capital city to celebrate Passover.
Jesus spent the night in Bethany, a small town two miles outside of Jerusalem. Most likely, he spent the night at the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.
I know that I am one these people who would have welcomed Jesus in this manner. How often I praise him and believe in him for what I think he will do… or should do… and then get angry when his plan is actually to overthrow the kingdom of sin inside me… not the outside forces around me.
Holy Monday- The Cleansing of the Temple
(Matthew 21:12–22, Mark 11:15–19, Luke 19:45-48, and John 2:13-17)
The Temple was a sacred place, God’s dwelling place. Jesus arrives and sees that the Jewish merchants, who are selling the animals for people to buy and offer as a sacrifice, are actually cheating the people by charging outrageous prices. In a place where they should have been preparing others and helping them on their spiritual journey, they are instead making it more difficult and costly, not to mention benefiting financially by doing so. Jesus is maddened by the scene. He makes whips and drives these merchants out of the Temple, striking them and over-turning tables as he goes, calling them thieves. As a child, this story always scared me… now it brings me to shame.
Most likely, Jesus returned to the home of his friends in Bethany for the night.
Our bodies are Temples of the Holy Spirit, when Jesus enters, what does he find? A house of prayer or a den of thieves? Bishop Barron says that it is always risky business letting Christ into our hearts, because chances are, he’s going to want to cleanse things, and shift them around… which can be both painful and humiliating. Do we respond the way in which the Pharisees and Scribes do the following day?
Holy Tuesday- Questioning Jesus’ Authority
(Matthew 21:23–24:51, Mark 11:20–13:37, Luke 20:1–21:36, and John 12:20–38)
Jesus returned to the Temple, where the Jewish leaders — angry from the past and especially angry about the events of the previous day — vehemently question Jesus’ authority. This is a trap, and they are hoping to create a scenario in which they can get the crowds to turn against him and then they can easily arrest him. Jesus answers them with a question of his own, and when they refuse to answer it, he refuses to answer theirs. As you can imagine… this did not settle the fuming hearts of the Jewish leaders.
That afternoon, Jesus took his apostles to the Mt. of Olives and continued to teach them, preparing them for the adversity they would face shortly… and for the rest of their lives.
Once again, they spent the night in Bethany.
You know who hated this day? Judas. Judas did not like the warnings of Christ, and he especially did not like being associated with the madman who ransacked the Temple and spoke out (quite vehemently) against the Jewish leaders. Judas was embarrassed to be his follower, and not happy with how this discipleship was panning out for him. Most disciples found honor and recognition because of their rabbi… Judas was not finding that to be as a disciple of Jesus. Are we embarrassed of what our faith demands of us? Are we willing to be the outsider who is looked down upon?
Holy Wednesday- Judas betrays Jesus
Scripture does not give us the specifics of what Jesus did on Wednesday of Holy Week. It’s possible that he spent the day resting with his friends and companions… spending one last “normal” day with them before his Passion began. I often wonder if his mother was with him on this day as well…
Tradition tells us that Wednesday is the day that Judas went to the Jewish leaders and agreed to hand Jesus over to them in exchange for 30 pieces of silver. There are many devout Catholics around the world who do penance on this day — sometimes every Wednesday, year round — in atonement for Judas’ betrayal.
Is there something extra you could do this day, in atonement for the betrayal of Judas, as well as all the times which you yourself have betrayed your Lord?
Holy Thursday- The Last Supper, The Agony in the Garden, and the Trail before the Sanhedrin
(Matthew 26:17–75, Mark 14:12-72, Luke 22:7-62, and John 13:1-38)
Jesus celebrates the Passover in the city of Jerusalem. This feast was sacred to the Jewish people, and there was a very strict order of events and prayers that was supposed to be followed during the meal. Jesus — a “good Jew” — broke from the script twice. Once to wash the feet of the apostles (a dirty, dirty job usually reserved for the least of all the servants) and then again when he took the bread and broke it, gave it to them, and told them to eat it because, “…this is my body, which will be given up for you.” He did the same thing with the wine. Last of all, Jesus instructed his apostles to leave and follow him before they drank the fourth and final cup that was a part of this sacred Jewish dinner. The Apostles would have most likely been freaking out thinking, “…but the Passover isn’t over!” Of course, Jesus left it open-ended, because he was tying his own Passion to this sacred meal and creating it anew.
The group did not return to Bethany that night. Instead, Jesus lead them to the Garden of Gethsemane for prayer. All the disciples fell asleep. Jesus prayed, experiencing so much fear that he was sweating blood.
Then, Judas came with the guards, betraying Jesus with a kiss. Jesus was arrested and beaten, then taken before the High Priest Caiaphas and the rest of the Sanhedrin for questioning. Most likely, this trial spilled over into the wee hours of the morning. People lied about Jesus, and struck him for speaking truth. They spit on him, and mocked him. Jesus silently endured.
All I can think of in this, is Christ. His breaking heart, his strength, his fortitude, the immense love that he must have felt for all of us– even the people present who were spitting in his face– is so humbling. It is enough to make one weep.
Good Friday- Roman Trail, Crucifixion, Death & Burial
(Matthew 27:1-62, Mark 15:1-47, Luke 22:63-23:56, and John 18:28-19:37)
Jesus must stand trial, both before King Herod and Pontius Pilate. Chances are incredibly high that he would have been walking those entire distances. Before the really intense blood loss even happens, Jesus has already suffered greatly. He got no sleep and walked somewhere around 11 miles before his scourging even took place. Then, the very same individuals who had lined the streets to honor him five days previous, begin to call for his crucifixion. How quickly they turned on him when his Kingdom was not what they expected…
On this day, one man endured more pain than any other being in history. This pain was physical, emotional, and spiritual. He felt abandoned by his own Father. Near the end of three hours, Jesus finally accepted a drink… the fourth cup of the Passover feast… helping us all to understand that he himself is the Paschal Lamb whose blood was shed to save us from death.
Jesus was buried quickly as the Sabbath was fast approaching.
A thought that has never left my mind was how comforting it must have been for Mary to have a man named Joseph assist her with her son’s burial (some insight from my old college professor, Bob Rice). Even in the darkest moments of our lives, God sends us grace, through one another, to help us carry on.
Holy Saturday- Jesus descends into Hell
Another detail that is not included in Scripture, but it is among the core beliefs of our Catholic faith, as we profess it every time we proclaim the Apostles Creed. While Jesus’ dead body remained in the tomb on earth, his soul descended to hell. There, he proclaimed the Gospel to all those who died before his Passion. Those who accepted his love and wished to go with Christ were able to leave the fiery furnace and accompany him to Heaven.
This was a one-time event. It gave all those souls who lived before God became Incarnate to accept him as their Savior. We are all given this same opportunity during our lives here on earth. Thus, any soul that is now in hell, is forever there as he or she has fully rejected God.
Easter- Jesus is Raised from the Dead
(Matthew 28:1-13, Mark 16:1-14, Luke 24:1-49, and John 20:1-23)
In his encyclical on Divine Mercy, John Paul II points out that the first human to experience God’s mercy was actually Christ himself, as God brought him back to life after dying for the sake of others. I often wonder what this day was like for those individuals who lived during this time. First of all, for Jesus. Scientists studying the Shroud of Turin see evidence of some sort of electric burst on the burial cloth… could this have been from the moment Christ came back to life?
We know that when the women return to the tomb to complete the Jewish burial process, they find the tomb empty. Where did Jesus go? Why wasn’t he there waiting for them? I honestly think the very first place Jesus went was to see his mother. This guess is somewhat supported by Scripture, as Mary is not among the women who returns to the tomb to finish anointing his body. Most mothers, especially a perfect mother, would be there to finish burying her son. It’s logical to assume that she wasn’t there, because she was already reunited with him.
Everyone’s reactions were so different. Mary Magdalene runs to tell the apostles and then returns to the tomb and weeps. Peter and John run to the tomb and find his burial clothes left in place. The guards panic and are paid to tell people that his body was stolen. Other disciples of Jesus are leaving the city in sorrow… despite the rumors of a possible Resurrection.
This feast contains so much mystery and so much love, my heart can hardly stand it…
How do you think you would have reacted to the news?
Happy Holy Week dear friends! May God shower you with immense blessings!