Palm Sunday marks the start of what is often referred to as “Holy Week.” The importance of the events of this week that culminated in Jesus’s death on the cross and resurrection from the dead can be seen by the amount of space the New Testament Gospels devote to these events. For example, the Gospel of Matthew has 28 chapters, 20 of which recount the 30ish years of Jesus’s birth, life, and ministry, and 8 that cover this Holy Week (8 days!)! While all four gospels discuss the events of this week, the Gospel of Mark is unique by essentially giving a day by day account.
As we enter into Holy Week, examining Mark’s day by day summary might help us remember everything that occurs during this week and maybe even offer us new insights into their significance. I’d even encourage you this week to take the time each day to read what happened (though Tuesday is a bit longer than the rest of the days!).
Psalm Sunday (Mark 11:1-11)
Jesus enters Jerusalem on a colt with his disciples as the crowd puts cloaks and palm branches on the road and cry out for Jesus. Jesus then goes to the temple, looks around, and returns to Bethany where he will stay during this week.
Holy Monday (Mark 11:12-19)
As Jesus travels from Bethany to Jerusalem, he sees what appears to be a fruit-bearing tree, but actually it has no fruit (11:12-13). He then says that no one will ever eat from this tree again (11:14). When Jesus arrives in Jerusalem, he halts traffic in the temple and drives out those who were buying and selling – overturning the tables of the money changers and pigeon vendors (11:16). Jesus defends his actions by quoting the Old Testament, saying the people have distorted the purpose of the temple since it was no longer a place of prayer but now a place of commerce (11:17). These two events (cursing the fig tree and making a mess of the temple) are connected, as Jesus shows that the temple rituals are like the fig tree – all “show” but no real fruit. The fig tree will no longer grow fruit, and Jesus will replace the temple sacrifices with the sacrifice of his life. After all this, Jesus and the disciples leave the city (11:19) while the chief priests and scribes look for a way to get rid of Jesus without causing a commotion (11:18).
Holy Tuesday (Mark 11:20-13:37)
On the way to Jerusalem, the disciples notice the tree that Jesus cursed withered overnight (11:20-21). Jesus uses this occasion to teach his disciples about faith and prayer (11:22-25) and then goes to Jerusalem, where the authorities try to trick Jesus with various questions (11:27-33, 12:13-34). Jesus answers them wisely, leaving the authorities speechless (12:35-37), and warns the people about the way the scribes and religious leaders sought honor and took advantage of widows (12:38-44). He also tells a story about a master who sends out his “beloved son,” but that son is rejected and killed – this story points to Jesus’s death as the Son of God sent to his people (12:1-12) – and speaks about his second coming, highlighting the need to be ready for that day (chapter 13).
Holy Wednesday (Mark 14:1-11)
As the religious leaders are plotting to kill Jesus (14:1-2), a woman comes to the house in Bethany where Jesus is staying and anoints his head with oil (14:3-9). This odd event is preparation for Jesus’s burial (see 14:8). At this time, Judas decides he will betray Jesus (14:10-11).
Maundy Thursday (Mark 14:12-72)
Jesus celebrates the Jewish festival of Passover with his disciples for his last meal with them. At this meal, Jesus uses the bread and cup of wine to teach his disciples that his body would be given for them and his blood spilled for them – establishing the practice of communion (14:22-25). Jesus then predicts that Peter will deny him (14:26-31) and goes to a garden to pray with his disciples who fall asleep (14:32-42) – the other disciples aren’t any better than Peter! While praying, Jesus is arrested (14:42-52) and then brought before the Jewish officials for an unjust night trial (14:53-65) in which they seek to find charges against him, even though they are false (14:55-59). While Jesus stands firm in the face of taunting from high-standing Jewish officials, Peter crumbles, denying that he knows Jesus when asked by a servant girl (14:66-72).
Good Friday (Mark 15:1-47)
Jesus has his trial before the Roman ruler, Pontius Pilate, who tries to release Jesus but is forced by the crowd to have Jesus crucified (15:1-15). Before he is crucified, Jesus is mocked and beaten (15:16-20) so badly that someone needs to help him carry his cross (15:21). The mockery continues as Jesus is on the cross (15:22-32). Jesus dies at 3 PM (15:33-39), with his death accompanied by a darkness in the sky (15:33), the splitting of the curtain in the temple (15:38), and the realization of a Roman soldier that Jesus is the Son of God (15:39). Several women witnessed Jesus’s death and watched Joseph of Arimathea prepare his body for burial and place it in the tomb (15:40-47) – they know where he is buried.
Saturday is a day of rest (no references to this day)…and then on
Sunday morning comes the discovery that the tomb is empty (Mark 16:1-8)! Jesus is risen – he is risen indeed!
May this Holy Week remind you of the work of your Holy Savior to make you holy!
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