(Note: This is a portion of an article on Passion Week that is presented within The Biblical Story Course under ERA 6: Jesus, lesson 31).
The week of Jesus’ crucifixion is called “Passion Week,” after the Greek verb, “to suffer,” pascho. It began with His triumphal, popularly acclaimed entry into Jerusalem, and it culminated in His atoning death on the cross, His burial, and His resurrection. Today, the Church around the world celebrates those crucial days, now called “Holy Week.” Its sequence of observances outlines the events of that occasion: Palm Sunday, when the enthusiastic multitudes placed palm branches on the way as He rode into Jerusalem; Holy Monday, when Jesus cleansed the Temple of moneychangers; Holy Tuesday, when Jesus disputed with the Pharisees and later, while on the Mount of Olives, taught His disciples about future events; Holy Wednesday (also called Great Wednesday and Spy Wednesday), when Judas Iscariot made his treacherous arrangement with the chief priests; Maundy (“Commandment”) or Holy Thursday, when, after the Last Supper (where He washed their feet), and just before His arrest, He gave His disciples a “new commandment,” to love one another; Good Friday, when, at the urging of Jewish leaders and the command of the Roman ruler Pilate, He was crucified (with His enemies’ falsely charging Him with blasphemy and sedition, but with God’s turning their gross injustice into the great saving act of history); Holy Saturday, when He lay in the grave. Then, after “Suffering Week” comes Easter Sunday, when Jesus rose from the grave.
Many of Christ’s Passion Week actions and experiences fulfilled Scripture: He rode on a young colt in humility (Matthew 21:1-5; Zechariah 9:9); He cleansed and judged the Temple (Matthew 21:12-13; Malachi 3:1-3); He faced accusations with silence (Matthew 26:63; Isaiah 53:7); He was scorned and mocked in His suffering (Matthew 27:39-44; Psalms 22:6-8); and He died among the wicked and was buried in the grave of a rich man (Matthew 27:57-60; Isaiah 53:9)
The enormous significance of Passion Week’s is seen in the space given to it by the Gospel writers. Most notably, eight of John’s 21 chapters (one third of the book) are devoted to that single week, though Jesus lived 33 years and gave three years to public ministry. In Luke, five of 24 chapters (one fifth of the book) focus on the week.
Passion Week is the central event of the Bible. In Genesis 3:15, God predicted that the seed of the woman (Jesus) would bruise the head of the serpent (Satan) – a foreshadowing of Christ’s death and resurrection. The prophets foretold the Passion in more vivid detail, describing the Lord as a sacrificial lamb (Isaiah 52:13, Isaiah 53:12). Jesus Himself explained that His death was His purpose in coming to earth (Matthew 20:28), and He called His followers to “take up their own crosses daily” in sacrificial service (Luke 9:23). The apostles echoed this call when they commended the “crucified life” to their hearers (Galatians 2:20).
Quick-Take Video on Passion Week
Dr. Garry Williams, director of London Theological Seminary’s John Owen Centre, provides a brief teaching video on the events of Passion Week.