Here is an overview of the week when Jesus last walked the earth just prior to His resurrection. In a chronological or time-sequence order of events, here is how the story of Easter forever changed history.
Day One of the Last Week – Palm Sunday
The last week of Jesus’ earthly ministry began so drastically different than the way it ended. The ones who welcomed Him as their King were the same ones who were calling for His blood by screaming, “Crucify Him” at the end of the week. It begins with Jesus telling His disciples to, “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.’” Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” They replied, “The Lord needs it.” They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road. When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out” (Luke 19:30-40).
Jesus’ popularity may have reached its peak at least until He cleansed the temple. This may have been the second time He had done so but it shows that Jesus was not always, as many portray, meek and mild. He had righteous indignation at times as you see in Matthew 21:12-13, “Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’” You can tell that Jesus was not concerned with being popular – He was concerned with truth. The chief priests and teachers of the Law heard about this “cleansing” and began plotting for a way to have Him killed (Mark 11:18). When these self-righteous men heard the children shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David” they were filled with rage and told Jesus, “Do you hear what these children are saying?” and He responded by saying, “Yes…have you never read, ‘From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise” (Matthew 21:14-16)?
When the Greeks requested to see Jesus, it seems Jesus ignored their request and replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me” (John 12:23-26). In what seems a validation for Jesus’ purpose for coming into the world, a voice came from heaven saying, “I have glorified it, [His name that is] and will glorify it again” (John 12:28b).
Tuesday morning of the Passover week, Jesus is confronted by the religious leaders once again. In an analogy of those who reject Him, the fig tree that was bearing no figs was cursed by Jesus and by the very next day it had withered (Matthew 21:20-22). The chief priests, the elders, and the teachers of the Law challenged His authority but Jesus asked them a question that they could not answer about whether John’s Baptism was either from heaven or from men. They had no idea how to answer this and so Jesus declined to give them by what authority He was doing His ministry, although they must have inwardly known that He was from God as Nicodemus acknowledged at one time (John 3).
Jesus then gave them a parable about two sons in Matthew 21:28-32 and they understood that it was about them and their rejection of Him as the vineyard owner‘s son. He quoted Psalm 118:22-23 when He told them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes’ Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed’” (Matthew 21:42-44). There is no doubt that they had read the Scriptures but their hearts were hardened by their jealousy and concern that the people would choose to follow Jesus over them. The parable of the Wedding Banquet clearly angered them because they understood that Jesus was saying that they would not be welcomed when the Kingdom of God came and they would be left out (Matthew 22:1-14).
When Jesus came to Bethany and resided at the home of Simon the Leper, “a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table. When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.” Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her” (Matthew 26:7-13). The symbolism here is that Jesus was being anointed for a coming death. The custom when the dead were buried was that they were anointed but this was done prior to His death as well as afterwards.
This day has been called by church historians as “Spy Wednesday” because of Judas’ conspiring to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. It is recorded:
Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot went to the chief priests 15 and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.” (Matthew 26:14-16)
Jesus said, “’As you know, the Passover is two days away—and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.‘ Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and they schemed to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him. “But not during the festival,” they said, “or there may be a riot among the people” (Matthew 26:2-5).
Jesus had arranged for preparations for the Passover ahead of time and then at the Passover reminded the disciples about the importance of this particular Passover as “It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (John 13:1) and so “When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God“ (Luke 22:14-16). Judas had already slipped out for the betrayal of Jesus (John 13:2) and so Jesus then “got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him” (John 13:4-5). Even though Peter as first, out of pride, refused this from Jesus, he was rebuked by Him. Jesus told them, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him” (John 13:14-16). It was one of the greatest examples of servitude ever done. Jesus Himself washed the disciples’ feet to remind them of their own role in the church of being a servant. Many churches do this on a regular basis to remind them of the Lord’s message to the church – a servant is no greater than his master (Jesus Christ) and He set this as an example for all believers to follow.
At about midnight, Jesus was arrested and illegally tried when “A large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people” (Matthew 26:47). The trial was illegal because of the many false and conflicting witnesses who gave false testimony and lies as evidence. No trials could be held at night and not all of the council was present. He was falsely charged with blasphemy and at this darkest of hours, even Peter denied Him and even cursed to remove all doubt that he was one of Jesus’ disciples (Matthew 26:57-75). This must have been a bitter pill to swallow by Jesus. He was denied by His own disciples, betrayed by one of them, falsely accused by His nation, lied about in the testimony, tried illegally at night, and abandoned by the same people who earlier in the week proclaimed, “Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” as recorded in Luke 19. These same people now screamed, “Crucify Him.” He is sentenced to death and dies at around 3 PM this day. He hangs on the cross for hours in unimaginable agony and dies for the sins of those who place their trust in Him. While He hung on the cross in one of the most incredible acts of forgiveness ever recorded, He says, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). He had been beaten, tortured, flogged, whipped, torn, and came about as near to death as possible in His scourging by the Romans. Then, while He hung on the cross in utter agony, He was mocked, ridiculed, and scorned by just about everyone. This was despite the fact that the law said a person could either be beaten or crucified but not both. Jesus endured both so under Jewish Law and Roman law, He was illegally tried, convicted, punished, and sentenced.
Day Seven and Eight
In the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea is where Jesus’ body was laid for three days. Just before dawn Sunday, the stone had been already rolled away and the tomb was found empty. He had risen! In one of the greatest historical events in all of human history, Jesus had risen from the dead. Since Jesus was sinless, death could not hold Him. In fact, the resurrection is perhaps the most prominent parts of the gospel as was proclaimed in Acts 2:24 by Peter, “But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.” This is why most Christian churches worship on Sunday. It is because this was the day of the Lord’s resurrection and it signifies this day as the Lord’s Day to many. The fact that the tomb was found empty is truly significant. And the stone was rolled away not so that Jesus could get out but so those who were His followers could get in…to see the empty tomb. The world would never be the same again. He is risen and since He is raised, so too might we be. The resurrection from the dead will be to eternal life for those who place their trust in Christ. If they don’t, then they will be raised for eternal punishment (Revelation 20, 21). It is our prayer that you will come to Jesus today to place your trust in Him (2 Corinthians 6:2) because He became sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21) so that the wrath of God, which was already placed on Christ, might not be placed on those who believe in Him.
Here are some more articles about Easter that you might want to read:
Resources: New International Version Bible, The Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblca, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.