Journey Through Holy Week
Mar 24, 2023 · Courtney Jacob
Growing up, I remember our church observed Palm Sunday with the waving of palm branches and the singing of festive songs. We marked Good Friday with somber reflective music and by figuratively nailing our sins to the cross. Easter services were a time of great celebration, with joyous songs, Easter lilies, and white fabric draped on the cross (oh, and with each of us wearing our best Easter outfits). But it wasn’t until many years later, when I was in college, that I learned that some Christians observe Maundy Thursday. It was several more years after that that I even heard the term Holy Saturday. What has your experience with Holy Week been?
During the season of Lent, Christians around the world spend time reflecting on our universal need for a savior. Often, this includes special worship services that mark Jesus’ journey to the cross. However, since different Christian traditions place varying amounts of emphasis on the events of Holy Week, Christians have differing amounts of awareness about the days’ events and what they mean. In our Groundwork series, “Journey Through Holy Week,” we’ll continue the Lenten practice of preparing our hearts for Easter by examining the gospel accounts of the profound and meaningful events that took place during the last week of Jesus’ life—events that the church now calls Holy Week.
What is Holy Week?
Holy, or Passion, Week is the final week of the Lenten season. It begins with Palm Sunday and ends with Easter. While you won’t find a command in the Bible to observe Holy Week, you will find gospel accounts of the events that inform our observance of each of these holy days.
Palm Sunday recalls Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem as crowds hailed him as king, the Messiah for whom they had longed. Maundy Thursday commemorates the event that brought Jesus to Jerusalem—the celebration of the Jewish Passover. Christians who mark this day recall and reflect on what Jesus did during that particular Passover meal to teach his disciples and prepare them for his coming death.
Good Friday remembers the day of Jesus Christ’s arrest, trial, and ultimately his crucifixion. Holy Saturday solemnly reflects on the time Jesus was dead and in the tomb. And we all know the glory of Easter Sunday that marks Christ’s resurrection from the grave!
What is the Purpose of Holy Week?
You may be wondering, if observing Holy Week is not commanded in the Bible, why do Christians around the world intentionally mark these days each year?
The primary purpose of Holy Week is to intentionally set aside time to remember the incredible sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the salvation we are all offered through him. It’s an opportunity for Christians to do so together, as a community of faith—both locally and around the world. Celebrating Holy Week unites us together.
As we also remember and discuss the Old Testament prophecies that the events of Holy Week fulfill, we’re reminded of God’s love for us, a love so great, he planned for our salvation long before it finally came to be. Intentionally traveling with Jesus on his journey to the cross each year strengthens and roots the foundations of our Christian faith.
Take a Spiritual Journey
Our journey through Holy Week together will encourage thoughtful contemplation on Jesus Christ’s atoning sacrifice, help us eagerly anticipate our resurrection celebration on Easter, and cause us to earnestly reflect on what these events mean for how we live as followers of Jesus Christ today. I invite you to prepare your heart for Easter through our Groundwork series, “Journey Through Holy Week”:
- Experiencing Palm Sunday with Jesus - Matthew 21:1-9, Mark 11:11-17, Luke 19:41-44, and John 12:12-19
- Remembering Jesus' Sacrifice on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday - John 13:34-35, Mark 15:1-15, and Matthew 27:45-50
- The Anticipation of Holy Saturday and the Thrill of Easter Sunday - John 19:38-20:23, Luke 23:55-24:47, and Matthew 28:16-20
...and together we’ll join Christians around the world in reflecting on and giving thanks for God’s great work of salvation and victory over death through our Lord Jesus Christ.