Jesus’ last week in Jerusalem, known as Holy Week and Passion Week (from the Latin passio = to endure suffering), is the most significant and well-documented period of Jesus’ life. The Gospels all spend more time talking about this one week of Jesus’ life, along with the build up to it, than any other period in Jesus’ life or ministry.
Here is a timeline of the events which took place during this week:
Palm Sunday – The Triumphal Entry
The week begins with Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on a donkey, fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9. The people of Jerusalem lay down their cloaks and palm branches as a sign of honor and welcome. Jesus enters the city to the cheers and acclamations of the people, who cry out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Matthew 21:9).
Monday – Cleansing the Temple
On Monday, Jesus returns to the temple and cleanses it of the merchants and moneychangers who had set up shop there. He teaches in the temple, and the religious leaders challenge his authority. Jesus responds with a series of parables, including the Parable of the Tenants and the Parable of the Wedding Banquet.
Tuesday – The Olivet Discourse
On Tuesday, Jesus continues to teach in the temple, and his opponents attempt to trap him with questions about paying taxes and the resurrection. Jesus responds with his famous declaration, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s” (Mark 12:17). He also delivers his Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24-25), in which he prophesies about the destruction of the temple and the signs of his coming and of the end of the age.
Wednesday is traditionally known as “Spy Wednesday” because it is believed to be the day on which Judas Iscariot agrees to betray Jesus to the authorities. This event is not recorded in the Gospels, but it is mentioned in Matthew 26:14-16, Mark 14:10-11, and Luke 22:3-6.
On Thursday evening, Jesus shares a Passover meal with his disciples in the Upper Room. During this meal, he institutes the sacrament of the Eucharist and washes his disciples’ feet, giving them a powerful example of humility and service. After the meal, they go to the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus prays and his disciples fall asleep. Judas arrives with a crowd of soldiers and betrays Jesus with a kiss, leading to his arrest.
The word maundy comes from the Old French mande, in turn from the Latin mandātum, which means “mandate or command.” After washing the feet of his disciples during the Last Supper, John 13:34 tells us that Jesus told his disciples: “A new commandment (mandate) I give you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”
On Friday, Jesus is brought before the High Priest and the Sanhedrin. They accuse him of blasphemy and condemn him to death. He is then taken to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, who finds no fault in him but is pressured by the crowd to have him crucified. Jesus is beaten, mocked, and forced to carry his own cross to a hill outside the city walls called Golgotha, where he is crucified alongside two criminals. He dies in the afternoon and is buried in a nearby tomb.
On Saturday, Jesus’ body lies in the tomb, and his followers observe the Sabbath in mourning and prayer.
On Sunday morning, several women go to Jesus’ tomb to anoint his body with spices. They discover that the tomb is empty, and they encounter angels who tell them that Jesus has risen from the dead. Jesus appears to his disciples throughout the day, including to the women at the tomb, to two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and to the disciples gathered in a locked room. He commissions them to go and make disciples of all nations, and he ascends into Heaven forty days later.
A Possible Alternative Timeline
Along with this traditionally held timeline, is a popular and plausible view which sees some of the events of Monday-Wednesday being combined, and has Jesus actually being crucified on Thursday rather than Friday, since John’s Gospel tells us that it took place on a “special Sabbath.”
For more on that timeline, check out: Was Jesus in the Grave Three Days and Three Nights? Here’s How It Adds Up