A Passion Week Overview

As Passion week approaches, I would encourage you to take some time to reflect on the significant events that happened during this time. Passion week is the name for the last week of Jesus’ life , which includes His death, burial, and resurrection. In honor of Jesus’ sacrifice, churches have found numerous ways to celebrate this week, including handing out palm fronds to commemorate the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and focusing heavily on prayer to remember how Jesus fervently prayed in Gethsemane before He was arrested. To commemorate the passion week, churches often hold a service on Good Friday as well as Easter, Resurrection Sunday, in celebration of our Savior having risen from the dead. This article will walk through some of the major events that happened during the passion week and use all four Gospels as evidence. 

The Triumphal Entry 

Jesus made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter, riding  on a colt. The people put their cloaks on the road; they waved palm branches as they shouted, “Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest” (Matthew 21:9). This same crowd would later cry out something different. 

The Prayer at Gethsemane

A few days after His entry on Thursday night, Jesus and the eleven disciples went into Gethsemane to pray. There were only eleven disciples at this point because Judas had already left to betray Jesus (Luke 22). Gethsemane is the garden where Jesus called out to God in Mark 14:36 saying, “Abba, Father… Take away this cup from me nevertheless not what I wll, but what Thou will.” Gethsemane means oil press in Hebrew. The original Hebrew meaning is fitting because like an oil press Jesus was “pressed” as He poured out His heart before His Father. The pressure and strain Jesus was under during this time of prayer is evident in a number of ways including sweating blood. It says in Luke 22:44 that Jesus was sweating “as if it were great drops of blood falling to the ground.” Sweating blood is a rare condition called hemosiderosis. It is brought on by extreme stress that causes blood vessels to burst so that blood mixes with the sweat glands. During this intense time of prayer, Jesus asked His three closest disciples Peter, James, and John to watch and pray while He was praying. Jesus returned to check on His friends three times and found them asleep each time. 

The Arrest

That same evening Judas returned with Roman soldiers while Jesus and His disciples were still in the garden and kissed Jesus on the cheek. Judas’ kiss let the soldiers know Jesus was the one for whom they were looking. After the kiss, Jesus asks, “Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?” (Luke 22:48). Jesus asked them who they were looking for, and, when they replied, Jesus said, “I am He.” His answer caused the crowd to fall back. Their stumbling was caused due to the fact they recognized Jesus’ saying “I am He” which in the original Greek was “I AM,” a name used only to refer to God Himself as seen back in Exodus 3:14. Although Jesus could have overpowered the guards sent to take Him into custody, Jesus submitted to their demands.  

Jesus then faced six trials: three with the Jewish courts and three with the Roman courts. These trials were carried out on Good Friday between 2 and 10 am. In the three Jewish trials, Jesus was found guilty of blasphemy, and the people wanted death as punishment. However, in the Roman trials, Jesus was found innocent

It was customary at Passover to release one prisoner. Pontius Pilate asked the people who they would rather have released: Jesus, who claimed to be the Son of God, or Barabbas, who,was  a murderer. The crowd, who had only a few days prior cried out “Hosanna!” before Jesus, chose to have Him crucified and released Barabbas. Pilate is not pleased with this decision because he does not see any just reason for the demands for Jesus’ death. In Matthew 27:24, he physically washes his hands, symbolically saying he is not going to be held guilty for Jesus’ death. 

During these trials, Peter famously denied Jesus three times. This is a memorable event because earlier Jesus had told Peter that Peter would deny knowing Jesus three different times before a rooster crowed to which Peter responded, “If I should die with Thee, I will not deny Thee in any way” (Mark 14:31). However, Peter did deny Jesus three times, and, after the rooster crowed, “Peter called to mind the word that Jesus said unto him… And when he thought thereon, he wept” (Mark 14:72).

The Crucifixion

Following the trials, Pilate had Jesus flogged and then gave Him over to Roman soldiers to be crucified (Matthew 27:26). The soldiers first mocked Jesus by wrapping a robe around him, placing a crown of thorns on His head, and placing a staff in His hands. They also spat in His face. They then took the staff and beat Him with it. They made Jesus carry His cross to the Place of the Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha (John 19:17). Weak from the flogging, Jesus continually fell from the weight of the cross, and the soldiers grabbed Simon of Cyrene, who was watching from  the sidelines, and made him help carry the cross. They nailed Jesus to a cross between two thieves. The people continued to mock Jesus, but while on the cross dying, He said in Luke 23:34, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” Over Jesus’ head, written in Greek, Latin, and Hebrew, was, “This is the King of the Jews” (Luke 23:38). At the 6th hour, it grew dark, and the veil of the temple was ripped in half. The tearing was from top to bottom and signified that man and God were no longer separated. The fact that it was torn from the top tells us that God Himself tore it. 

Three hours later, “Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’ that is to say, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). He cried out one more time, “It is finished,” and He died (John 19:30). His last statement is significant because it signified His fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies of a coming Messiah. 

After they took His body down from the cross, Joseph of Arimathea took Jesus’ body and buried Him in his tomb according to Mark 15:43. According to Meg Bucher, and many in the Christian faith, “crucifixion is the cornerstone of the Christian faith.” In Hebrews 9:22, the Bible says, “without the  shedding of blood is no remission.” Through His death, Jesus took all the sins of the world onto His shoulders. Resurrection Sunday 

Through Jesus’ resurrection He liberated us from sin and death. Jesus is no longer in the tomb. He is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:14 that our preaching and faith would all be in vain without Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus’ resurrection proves He is God and can save. Without His resurrection, Jesus would be just another false prophet. But, He is not. Jesus conquered death and rose. 

Before Jesus fully ascended, He appeared to His disciples at least ten times. Before He ascended, He said to the disciples in John 16:33, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” This is the good news that Jesus died for our sins and rose again. 

I encourage you this Easter, and every other day, not to keep the good news to yourself but to go out and tell others what Jesus did for them. Jesus said in Matthew 28:19, “Go ye therefore and teach all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” Do as Jesus said and go and teach the Good News. 

Note: All Bible verses from the King James or English Standard Version.