Due to inclement weather, the 9 a.m. service for Sunday, Jan. 20 has been cancelled. We will have one morning service at 10:45 a.m. as road conditions improve.

Passion Week Guide

by Jeremy Shaffer


This Passion Week guide is designed to help you make sense of the events of the most important week in the life of Christ while He was on earth. Each day has a brief summary of events that could serve as a devotional of sorts for that specific day. Scripture readings from all four Gospels are also included for each day. It is our hope that this guide will be helpful as you reflect on the importance of Passion Week this year, and every year after.

PALM SUNDAY, April 2nd

Today marks the beginning of the end of Jesus’ work on earth. As Jesus and His disciples ascended toward Jerusalem, a large crowd gathered around them in anticipation of what was to come. Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead a few days before, and it seems the news of this great miracle was the talk of the crowds. Entering Jerusalem, Jesus is riding on the unbroken colt of a donkey; His actions are intentionally symbolic. Almost 500 years earlier, Zechariah 9:9 prophesied this very day! The prophet said that the future King of Israel would come into Jerusalem on the unbroken colt of a donkey. Some recognized the significance of the event, and they lay down their robes and palm branches (this is why we refer to this day as Palm Sunday) to form a royal red carpet. Furthermore, those same crowds begin to chant a few lines from Psalm 118, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”  

The religious leaders are completely taken aback by the whole event. Instead of responding with joy and excitement, they respond with jealousy: “we are gaining nothing, look, the world has gone after Him” (Jn.12:19). Some Greeks, who were among the Passover pilgrims in Jerusalem, come to Philip to ask him about Jesus. Philip finds Jesus, who responds to them by predicting His death and describing it as the very purpose for which He has come into the world; His words caused confusion (Jn.12:20-36). The Jews were looking for a king to be inaugurated, a king to lead them in the overthrow of the Roman government; instead, Jesus was talking about His upcoming death.  The crowds looked for a Messiah who would rescue them politically and nationally as a people, but Jesus had come with a more important mission: He had come to save them spiritually. Remember, these same crowds who are chanting “Hosanna!” on Sunday are chanting “crucify Him” on Friday.
Before heading back to Bethany for the evening, Jesus makes an initial visit to the temple complex and heals the blind and the lame. He will come back to the temple tomorrow, but His actions will be drastically different as He calls out the corruption of the religious establishment.

Events that happened this day:
  • Jesus enters Jerusalem: Mt.21:1-11; Mk.11:1-10; Lk.19:29-44; John 12:12-19
  • Jesus predicts His death: John 12:20-36
  • Jesus visits the temple: Mt.21:14-17; Mk.11:11

HOLY MONDAY, April 3rd

As Jesus and His disciples were returning to Jerusalem, He spotted a fig tree, hoping to find something to eat. However, instead of finding some edible fruit, He finds that the tree only has leaves on it. His response to the fruitless fig tree might seem strange, but we must consider both the larger context and the fact that Jesus often used object lessons to get His point across to His followers. Israel is often characterized in the Old Testament as a fig tree (Jer.8:13; Hos.9:10), so Jesus’ cursing of the fig tree is symbolic of God’s judgment on the generation of Jesus’ day who would reject Him. It was evident that there was a segment of the religious establishment that made a showing of bearing fruit, but within, they themselves were fruitless. In other words, they were spiritually barren.  

As Jesus enters Jerusalem, He heads straight for the temple to deal with the problem of corruption that He noticed yesterday. Three times a year, every man in Israel must celebrate three festivals – one of which was the Passover (Deut.16:16). If you lived close to Jerusalem, then you would likely select a choice animal from your flocks, one without blemish or spot as the law required.  During the short trip, however, there was always the danger of your sacrifice (animal) being tainted in some fashion. When you arrive at the temple to present your sacrifice, there is always a looming possibility that the priest might reject your sacrifice. Since the priests were known to have standards that no one could meet, most men would opt to bring money to buy a sacrifice when they arrived. Of course, the inflation rate of buying a sacrifice in the temple was exorbitant; and if you didn’t have a coin minted in Israel – the shekel – then you had to exchange your money, which would incur yet another fee.

This exploitation from the priestly class angers Jesus in a righteous way. He overturned the tables of the moneychangers and merchants, declaring to them that “My Father’s house is a house of prayer,” but you have chosen to exploit the poor under the guise of worship. Calling out this corruption, Jesus was directly challenging the religious establishment. However, the religious leaders will not put up with Jesus’ challenge to their authority, and they seek a way to get rid of Him for good.

Events that happened this day:
  • Jesus curses a fig tree: Mt.21:18-19; Mk.11:12-14
  • Jesus cleanses the temple: Mt.21:12-13; Mk.11:15-18; Lk.19:45-48
  • Jesus enters Jerusalem: Mt.21:1-11; Mk.11:1-10; Lk.19:29-44; John 12:12-19


The religious leaders are eager to question Jesus about His actions on the previous day. As soon as Jesus enters the temple and begins to teach, the priests and elders interrupt Him and demand, “by what authority are you doing all of these things? Who gave you the right?” Jesus, however, responds to their question with a question of His own about John the Baptist’s ministry. He asks them, “did John’s authority to baptize come from heaven, or was it merely human?” The priests and elders refuse to answer, knowing that whatever they said would not help their cause. The Gospel writer Matthew follows up this interchange with three parables (21:18-22:14); all three are about these religious leaders, and they know it! (21:45-46)

A second group comes forward to put Jesus to the test. This group, made up of the Pharisees (religious) and the Herodians (political), asked Jesus whether or not it was lawful to pay taxes to Caesar. Jesus answered them with a comparison. Just as the coin He was holding bore Caesar’s image and therefore testified to his ownership of it, so also human beings bear God’s image and therefore testify to His ownership of us: we are made in God’s image, we owe Him everything. The Pharisees and Herodians marveled at Jesus’ wisdom, but then another sect, the Sadducees, stepped forward with a theological question concerning the resurrection. The question is not only far-fetched, but it’s also illogical because the Sadducees don’t believe in the resurrection. The question was designed to make Jesus’ belief in the resurrection look ridiculous; however, Jesus showed them that the Pentateuch clearly implied the reality of a future resurrection. Why did Jesus use only the Pentateuch? Because that was the only portion of the Old Testament that the Sadducees believed was authoritative. They walked away in amazement. A fourth question comes from a scribe who was part of the Pharisee sect. He asks Jesus which of the commandments is the greatest, and Jesus replies, “all of them!” Frustrated with all these questions, Jesus goes on the offensive, asking a question of His own – a question that no one is able to answer. After this, He launched into a full-blown verbal assault on these religious leaders, calling them hypocrites and blind guides, laying the root cause of the nation’s rejection of Him at their feet! (Matthew 23:1-36)

As Jesus leaves the temple on Tuesday, He makes a comment to His disciples that one day this temple will be completely demolished. Later that evening, when Jesus and His disciples stop to rest on the Mount of Olives, they ask Him about the timing of the prophecy that He spoke of earlier concerning the temple. Jesus then launches into a discourse about future events that would lead up to the establishment of the kingdom; we call this the Olivet Discourse.    

Events that happened this day:
  • The lesson from the fig tree: Mt.21:20-22; Mk.11:20-26
  • Jesus teaches in the temple: Mt.21:23-23:39; Mk.11:27-12:44; Lk.20:1-21:4
  • Jesus predicts the future: Mt.24-25; Mk.13:1-37; Lk.21:5-36


Wednesday of Passion Week was a relatively quiet day compared to the events of Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. Knowing what was to come in the next few days, it seemed that Wednesday was purposely quiet. Maybe this was a day in which Jesus carved out some hours to spend privately with the Father. The Gospel writer Luke (21:37-38) notes that Jesus continues His daily teaching at the temple, after which He returns back to Bethany to lodge there for the evening. This day has no active debates, no lively discussions, and no extended teaching session from Jesus, but there is much that is happening in secret. Not everyone is impressed with Jesus and His teaching, and He has a powerful group of enemies that are determined to get rid of Him.  

Matthew, Mark, and Luke all tell us that two days before the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread, the chief priests, scribes, and elders are plotting a way in which they can get rid of Jesus for good. The Gospel writer Matthews tells us that their brainstorming session took place at the house of Caiaphas the high priest. A strategy session was needed if they wanted to shrewdly rid themselves of Jesus without causing a major uproar with the people. If the people got word of their actions, then the results for the religious establishment could be disastrous. The group agrees to wait after the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Thursday) when the crowds disperse and return to their homes. This would ensure that they could arrest Jesus without fear of the crowds.  

Events that happened this day:
  • Jesus continues His teaching in the temple: Lk.21:37-38
  • The Sanhedrin plots to kill Jesus: Mt.26:3-5; Mk.14:1-2; Lk.22:1-2


Jesus had already made initial contact with some of His followers in Jerusalem to secure a place in which the group would share in the Passover meal. Some scholars believe that Jesus’ arrangement of the meal location was made secretly so as to prevent Judas’ betrayal plot from interrupting the meal. Sometime during the meal, Jesus gets up and washes the disciples’ feet, even the feet of Judas. Jesus knew that Judas had already planned to betray Him (Jn.13:11), but He still proceeded to wash his feet anyway – that is the epitome of love. After the foot washing, Jesus makes a public declaration that there is a traitor at the table; the disciples are a bit confused about what Jesus meant, but Judas understands and promptly leaves the group to commence his actions of betrayal. As Jesus and His disciples continued the Passover meal, Jesus abruptly introduced a completely new explanation of the symbolism of bread and wine. These two elements now become part of our present-day observance of the Lord’s Supper (communion) as we remember His body and blood that were given in sacrifice for all humanity.

As the evening continues on, Jesus gives His followers some additional instructions because He knows that the time of His death is quickly approaching. These instructions are collected into a body of material that we often call the Upper Room Discourse. We can thank the Apostle John as he is the only Gospel writer that includes this material (John 14-17). Toward the end of this discourse, Jesus offers up a prayer for His disciples (Jn.17:6-19) because He knows that these same disciples that are sitting at the table will fail in the face of persecution that very night. Specifically, He singles out Peter, saying that before the rooster crows, Peter will have denied Jesus three times. Of course, Peter vehemently denies that this would ever happen, assuring the Lord that he would follow Him to prison, even to death.  

The night is late, and Jesus and His disciples head to the Garden of Gethsemane. The time for teaching and instruction is over, and the time for sorrow and distress is here. Jesus instructs the disciples to sit in a certain location while He takes Peter, James, and John with Him a little further to pray. Jesus pours out His heart to the Father, asking Him if there is any other way in which redemption can happen that would not include the cross. He knows He is about to bear God’s judgment as a sin sacrifice for all the world. Nevertheless, He knows that the Father’s will is by way of the cross, and He willingly submits Himself to the Father’s plan. Taking a break from His time of prayer with the Father, Jesus finds His disciples fast asleep. The only source of human support and help during the hardest moment of His life was sleeping away. Yet even in this shocking moment of the disciples’ carelessness, Jesus is more concerned for their welfare than His own – He knows that they, too, must pray so that they can be equipped to face the difficulties that lie ahead (Matt.26:41).        

Judas, who left the scene earlier, now returns with a group of chief priests, Pharisees, and some Roman soldiers. Jesus steps forward and asks the group who they are here for, and when they answer, “Jesus of Nazareth,” Jesus replies, “I am HE.” When Jesus spoke these words (reminiscent of the phrase “I AM” in Exodus 3:14), the power behind those words caused the soldiers to retreat back and fall to the ground! Jesus permits the soldiers to arrest Him so long as they don’t arrest His followers. However, Peter does briefly resist by cutting off the right ear of the high priest’s servant; Jesus miraculously heals the ear and tells Peter that He must follow the Father’s plan. At this point, all the disciples flee the scene, leaving Jesus deserted and alone.

Events that happened this day:
  • The Passover meal: Mt.26:17-29; Mk.14:12-23; Lk.22:7-30; Jn.13:1-17:26
  • Jesus predicts Peter’s betrayals: Mt.26:31-35; Mk.14:27-31; Lk.22:31-34
  • The Garden of Gethsemane: Mt.26:36-46; Mk.14:32-42; Lk.22:40-46
  • Jesus is betrayed: Mt.26:47-56; Mk.14:43-52; Lk.22:47-53; Jn.18:2-12

GOOD FRIDAY, April 7th

Now that Jesus had been arrested, the religious leaders wanted to try Him for His crimes. Jesus was tried six different times: the first three trials were before Jewish leadership, and the second three trials were before Roman officials. All six trials were expedited because the religious establishment wanted to arrive at the death sentence before the news of Jesus’ arrest got out among the people. Also, they needed the death sentence to be carried out before the Sabbath Day, which started Friday evening. The sixth and final trial takes place before Pilate. He renders his decision on the basis of expediency rather than truth or justice; he firmly believes Jesus to be an innocent man, but he also fears a riot and wants to satisfy the crowds who are yelling, “crucify Him!” In just a few hours, Jesus is tried six times and sentenced to death by crucifixion.  

It’s almost 9 am as Jesus begins His journey to Golgotha by carrying His cross.At some point along the way, Roman soldiers force a man named Simon of Cyrene to carry Jesus’ cross because He is too weak. The site of Jesus’ crucifixion was outside of the city in keeping with the Jewish law requirement for executions (Heb.13:12). None of the Gospel authors provide any details concerning the actual crucifixion; they simply note the fact that it happened. Jesus was crucified at the third hour of the day (Mark 15:25), which is 9 am. Even on the cross, Jesus’ enemies continue to mock Him to the very end, “...He saved others, but He cannot save Himself...” (Luke 23:35-38). The irony is that if Jesus had come down from the cross, He would have saved Himself but not others. At noon, darkness descends on the land (Mark 15:33), lasting for three hours. At 3 pm, Jesus died for the sins of humanity (Luke 23:46). Immediately, the earth shook, and the curtain of the temple was torn from top to bottom, signifying that God’s people will now have direct access to God because of Jesus’ sacrifice. Jesus was taken off the cross before sundown and placed in a tomb provided by Joseph of Arimathea (Nicodemus assisted with the burial of the body). Two women, Mary Magdalene, and Mary (the mother of Joses) (Mark 15:47) observe Jesus’ burial location. They believe His body has not been sufficiently prepared because of the hasty nature of His burial; they plan to return after the Sabbath with additional spices and ointments.  

Events that happened this day:
  • The six trials of Jesus: Mt.26:57-27:26; Mk.14:53-15:15; Lk.22:63-23:25; Jn.18:28-19:16
  • The road to the Cross: Mt.27:27-34; Mk.15:16-23; Lk.23:26-49; Jn.19:17
  • The crucifixion of Jesus: Mt.27:35-44; Mk.15:24-32; Lk.23:33-43; Jn.19:18-27
  • Jesus breathes His last breath: Mt.27:45-56; Mk.15:33-41; Lk.23:44-49; Jn.19:28-37
  • Jesus is buried: Mt.27:57-61; Mk.15:42-47; Lk.23:44-49; Jn.19:28-37


The Gospels do not provide any information concerning the activities of the Apostles on the Sabbath Day (Friday sundown to Saturday sundown). The previous day’s rapid-fire events probably left them drained physically, mentally, and emotionally. Their hopes and dreams for the establishment of God’s kingdom lie shattered as their leader was executed for religious crimes. Saturday must have been a truly quiet day, filled with plenty of introspection and fearful anticipation that the religious leaders would come after them next.    

While the disciples are quiet on the Sabbath, the religious leaders are not. The book of Matthew tells us that the chief priest and the Pharisees approach Pilate and ask him to secure the tomb wherein Jesus was buried. Their concern was over something Jesus had said earlier in the week: “after three days, I will rise.” These religious leaders were worried that the disciples had planned to steal the body of Jesus so as to make a resurrection plausible, which would make “the last fraud worse than the first” (Matt.27:63-64). Pilate agrees to their request and places a guard of men at the tomb, and a large stone is rolled over the entrance to seal the tomb. Ironically, it’s the actions of the religious leaders in wanting to secure the tomb that make the resurrection of Jesus even more supernatural (if that is actually a thing?). Even if the disciples were to somehow maneuver past the guards undetected, they would still have to deal with a huge stone that sealed the tomb. God used this group of religious leaders to make sure that no one could get into the tomb, and if, humanly speaking, no one can get into the tomb, then how is the resurrection possible? It is possible because Jesus is exactly who He said He was – the Messiah! The resurrection event on Sunday would be undeniable!

Events that happened this day:
  • Guards are placed at the tomb: Mt.27:62-66


Resurrection Day is finally here! The story of Jesus is not over yet, and the world is about to be turned upside down! Near the early dawn hours of Sunday (perhaps at sunrise), a group of women head to the tomb (looking at all four Gospel accounts, we can gather a complete list). It’s hard to be precise at this juncture in the narrative, but it seems that as this group of women arrived at the burial site, they noticed that the stone had been rolled away. Mary Magdalene immediately leaves to run back and tell the disciples what has happened. The rest of the women continue towards the tomb and are greeted by an angel who tells them the Good News, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen...” (Matt.28:5). The angel tells the group to go and spread the news to the disciples that Jesus has risen and that He will meet them in Galilee. By the way, women were the first eyewitnesses of the events on Resurrection morning, not the male disciples!

Peter and John rush to the tomb based on Mary Magdalene’s report and find it empty. Peter enters first, followed by John. The presence of the linen cloths and the folded napkin point to a supernatural resurrection indeed. If grave robbers had taken Jesus’ body, the tomb would have been turned over; and grave robbers would not have left behind the clothes and spices. John specifically recounts how the sight of the linen cloths and face cloth caused him to believe (Jn.20:8). Peter and John head back to their homes as Mary Magdalene comes back to the tomb. However, her spirit of sorrow and mourning is drastically altered as she encounters the resurrected Christ.

After Jesus’ resurrection appearance to Mary Magdalene, Jesus then appears to two disciples who are traveling back to Emmaus from Jerusalem. During their walk back, they discuss the week’s events, trying to make sense of everything while Jesus appears beside them. Jesus curiously asks them about the events, and they reveal their disbelief. This does not sit well with Jesus, and he rebukes them: have you not read the Old Testament? Jesus takes these two disciples on a messianic tour of the Old Testament, demonstrating how all Scripture points to Him! Eventually, these two disciples finally recognize Who is with them, but it’s too late as Jesus vanishes. They were so excited about what had happened that they immediately traveled back to Jerusalem to tell the disciples. As they are in the process of recounting their story, Jesus appears to all those in the Upper Room; the only one of the eleven who is not present is Thomas. In the coming days, Jesus would appear to all the disciples again; this time, Thomas would be present, and he would be able to see the hands and feet of Jesus.

Events that happened this day:
  • The empty tomb is discovered: Mt.28:1-7; Mk.16:1-7; Lk.24:1-7; Jn.20:1
  • News of the resurrection gets out: Mt.28:8-10; Lk.24:8-11; Jn.20:2-18
  • Jesus appears on the Emmaus Road: Lk.24:13-35
  • Jesus appears in the Upper Room: Lk.24:36-43; Jn.20:19-23


The Bible tells us that for forty days after the Resurrection, Jesus appeared to many other people and groups of people to demonstrate the reality of his resurrection! The Good News is that Jesus is alive today! Christ has defeated death and the grave, and one day He is coming back for those who believe in Him! But until that time comes, all believers are entrusted with one mission, “to make disciples of all nations” (Matt.28:19-20).

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