Holy Week: Day by Day
The Gospel of Mark is unique in giving a chronological, day by day account of “Holy Week” (the events between Palm Sunday and Good Friday) – the other gospel writers talk about this week but not day by day like Mark.
I thought examining Mark’s day by day summary might benefit us, helping you see the events of Holy Week and their meaning in a new light. Looking at the week as a whole hopefully reveals new details and connections in these events. Perhaps you want to take the time each day this week to read what happened (though Tuesday is a bit longer than the rest and Wednesday is pretty short!).
Psalm Sunday (Mark 11:1-11)
Jesus enters into Jerusalem on a colt with his disciples as the crowd put their cloaks and palm branches on the road and cried out for Jesus. Jesus then goes to the temple, looks around, and goes back to his place of residence during this week, the town of Bethany.
Holy Monday (Mark 11:12-19)
As Jesus travels from Bethany to Jerusalem, he sees a tree that looks like it is growing fruit but actually has none (11:12-13). He then says no one will ever eat from this tree again (11:14). When Jesus gets to Jerusalem, he drives out those who were buying and selling and overturns the tables of the money changers and pigeon vendors. Traffic in the temple comes to a halt (11:16)! Jesus explains his actions by quoting the Old Testament, saying that the people have distorted the purpose of the temple, as it was no longer a place of prayer but a place of commerce (11:17). These two events (Cursing the fig tree and making a mess of the temple) might be odd, but they are connected, as Jesus shows that the temple rituals are like that 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 leaves the city with his disciples (11:19) while the chief priests and scribes start to devise a way to get rid of Jesus without causing a commotion (11:18).
Holy Tuesday (Mark 11:20-13:37)
As the Jesus and his disciples go back to Jerusalem, they notice the tree that Jesus cursed had 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 chief priests, elders, and scribes try to trick him Jesus with various questions (see 11:27-33, 12:13-34). Jesus is able to answer them smartly, turning the tables on them and leaving them speechless (12:35-37). Jesus warns the people about the way that the scribes and religious leaders sought honor and even took advantage of widows (12:38-44) and tells a story about a master who sends his “beloved son” but that son is rejected and killed – something that points to Jesus death as the Son of God sent to his people (12:1-12). Jesus also speaks about his future coming and the need to be ready for him; his death will not be the end of him (see all of 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 where Jesus is staying in Bethany 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 to 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 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 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), as they seek to find charges against him, even if they are false and don’t agree (14:55-59). While Jesus stands firm in the face of taunting from high-standing Jewish officials, Peter crumbles, denying that he knows Jesus to 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 bad 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 solider that Jesus is the Son of God (15:39). Women watch Jesus die and his burial by a man named Joseph buried Jesus (15:40-47) – they know where he is buried.
Saturday is a day of rest……and then comes the discovery that the tomb is empty on Sunday morning. Jesus is risen – he is risen indeed!
Without the resurrection, the events of this week are just like any other week in which we see a “celebrity” or “hero” rise and fall. But with the resurrection, we know that our sins can be forgiven and that we can be made right with God – the week becomes a holy week rather than ordinary week.
May this Holy Week remind you more of the work of your Holy Savior to make you holy!