Last year, during Holy Week, I shared my study I entitled “Holy Week in Real Time.” Each morning, I posted a brief description with the scriptures telling us where Jesus was and what He was doing that day of Holy Week.
I’ve had the great privilege to visit the land where our Lord physically walked on this earth. Walking where He walked made the scripture three dimensional for me. So, I thought you might join me this week, day by day, walking where Jesus walked as He’s heading to the cross. I invite you to read the scriptures each morning. Read them from each Gospel and see each writer’s personality and perspective. Meditate on the verses, and try to picture what Jesus was doing and what He might have been thinking and feeling. And imagine the other persons in these stories. Identify with them. With the confusion and chaos in the world today, emotionally we may be resonating more with Jesus’s disciples this week than we ever have.
So, what was Jesus doing on Sunday?
Read: Matthew 21:1-17, Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:28-40, John 12:1-18
For several days, Jesus had been in Bethany at the home of Lazarus. In His way, Jesus was preparing those He loved for what was to come. On Sunday, Jesus journeyed the two miles to Jerusalem. As He neared city, He looked out over it and wept. Perhaps, He wasn’t just weeping over Jerusalem. Wouldn’t it be just like Jesus to weep over all those who refuse to recognize Him for who He truly is?
Before He entered Jerusalem, He instructed two of His disciples to go to a certain place and get a donkey. The crowds gathered for a royal welcome, a rolling out of the proverbial red carpet. Many of these had been with Jesus before. They had heard Him teach and had seen the miracles He performed. They were looking for Jesus to be their new king and to save them from Roman rule, but King Jesus entered the city riding the lowly animal, signifying He was a different kind of king. Still the people shouted their hosannas, which means please save us. (See Psalm 118:25-26.) They spread their coats and shawls on the path in front of Him as they would have done for a leader returning home from a military conquest. Jesus went to the temple. Let this scene from Matthew become real to you as Jesus reminded the religious leaders that His house was to be a house of prayer. Ponder that. Late in the day, Jesus and His disciples returned to Bethany for the night.
So, what was Jesus doing on Monday?
Jesus had made His entry into Jerusalem on Sunday, and things were astir. People were wondering about this Jesus. They were asking questions. There was something different in the air. Late on Sunday, He walked the two miles to Bethany with His disciples. But on Monday morning, apparently Jesus woke them and said, “We’re going back to Jerusalem.” That was risky business.
Read the Gospel accounts as to how Jesus established His authority, especially in the Temple. Imagine being there in Jerusalem, and you had shouted your “hosannas” on Sunday, but what would you be doing on Monday? Would you be excited? Would you be afraid or disappointed?
So, what was Jesus doing on Tuesday?
Jesus literally had turned the tables, turned the tables over in the Temple on Monday with some strong reprimands. And now on Tuesday comes the direct confrontation with the high priests, the religious scholars, and the leaders. They pose questions. I’m not certain if they were sincerely looking for answers or for a way to trip Jesus up, but Jesus did something we were all taught not to do—He answered the question with a question of His own. His response was not something these religious leaders wanted to hear.
Jesus spends Tuesday in the Temple teaching, telling them parables, reminding the listeners of the Scriptures, answering questions, and telling them about the future events. Jesus knows this may well be His last opportunity to speak with them in the Temple, for He understands the fulfilling of His purpose is coming soon. Mark tells us how Jesus summed it all up in two great commandments. (Mark 12:29-31).
Can you even imagine being there, sitting at Jesus’s feet, hearing the Truth coming from His own voice? Can you imagine the expressions on His face as He told the parables? What questions might have you asked Jesus had you been there? How would you have responded to His answers?
So, what was Jesus doing on Wednesday?
Jesus has had three full days of being in the public eye – His entrance into Jerusalem on Sunday, His confrontations with religious leaders on Monday, and His teaching in the Temple on Tuesday. On Wednesday, He withdraws and is still and quiet. He continues trying to prepare His disciples for what is coming.
Sit there at the table in Simon the Leper’s house. Watch as Mary enters with her expensive bottle of perfume and bathes Jesus’ feet. Listen to His response. Which character in this story would you have been?
So, what was Jesus doing on Thursday?
All four of the Gospel writers report about the events of Thursday. Read these passages as if you were in the Upper Room with the disciples. How would you have reacted if Jesus insisted on washing your feet? Would you have understood when He explained the meaning of the Passover? If you had been there at the table when He told them that one of them would betray Him, what would have been your response? Would you have followed Him to the Mount of Olives? He went to pray and to wait, for He knew what was coming. Imagine what you would have felt when He was led away from the garden by the soldiers. Picture yourself as Peter in the courtyard, wanting to be near Jesus and yet so afraid.
We’ve all read this story so many times. Perhaps many of you have seen movies depicting the scenes on this day – the brutality, the beatings, the betrayal.
For six unimaginable hours, the Shepherd becomes the Lamb. Those at the foot of His cross had mixed reactions. Some jeered, others sneered, and those who loved Him could do nothing to stop it. They saw the man they thought would be their Messiah die a cruel death. They didn’t understand that Sunday was coming.
Return to the foot of the cross. See yourself there. Maybe you’re standing, gazing at Him with your arms reaching to heaven in despair. Maybe you’re crumpled on your knees on the ground, weeping over His suffering and your own pain and grief. But I hope somewhere in that experience, you can look into Jesus’s face and say, “Thank you, thank you.”
Saturday—It’s a dismal day, but Sunday’s coming.
Read: Matthew 27:57–66, Mark 15:42-47, Luke 23:50-56, John 19:38-42
There isn’t much written about the day after Jesus was crucified. We know Joseph of Arimathea was allowed to take Jesus’s body, and he buried it in a tomb and sealed it with a rock late on Friday. Some of the women who were followers of Jesus were there and observed but went home at sundown, following the rules for the Sabbath. Many have speculated where Jesus was and what He was doing on Saturday, but the one thing we know is that He was quiet.
Jesus had told His disciples that He would die in Jerusalem but that He would rise on the third day. But on Saturday, they found themselves waiting and grieving. They had walked with Jesus, listened to His words, and observed His ways, but now He was gone. They felt abandoned with unfulfilled hope, unsure of Jesus’s return. I can imagine their fear, their grief, their confusion, and even their anticipation as they waited.
Jesus could have become immediately alive again after drawing His last breath, but He didn’t. The stone was still and in place for a whole day. Holy Saturday, as it is known, was the day of waiting. So we should look at Saturday as having meaningful significance and more than just the day between the crucifixion and the Resurrection. We’ve all had days of waiting, when God might have seemed absent to us—like the hours in a surgical waiting room, or the waiting for a prayer to be answered, or anticipating the birth of a baby, or waiting for our grief to subside. There is a certain quietness in the Holy Saturdays of our lives when all we have are our faith and the promises we find in God’s Word. Just as the disciples waited, we wait to see what God will do.
Think of how Jesus’s followers huddled together in their grief, afraid perhaps for even their lives. Imagine what they might have been doing. We know that some of the women prepared oils and spices so they could return to the tomb when the Sabbath was over. Probably some of them were so overcome, they sat in silence. Others might have attempted to give comfort or share stories of remembrance. Imagine how they tried to erase the images of what happened on Friday from their minds. Imagine their conversations as they waited. What do you during the waiting?
I leave this with you now. We know the end of the story, and Holy Saturday wasn’t it. For we know that Sunday’s coming.
SUNDAY—What we’ve been waiting for . . .
Read: Matthew 28:1-10, Mark 16:1-20, Luke 24:1-12, John 20
The women who had stayed at the tomb until sundown on Friday returned early on Sunday morning after the Sabbath. They came with spices to finish their burial preparation of Jesus’s body but were met with yet something else they did not expect, or rather Someone they did not expect to see. Jesus. He was alive! What joy! What restoration of their hope. Dark Friday and dismal Saturday were over. Jesus was alive and the world was bright in the cascading light of Resurrection Morning.
I can imagine these women could hardly contain themselves and the news they were given. Jesus was alive and with them again. They were probably so happy to see Him that they had little time to ponder what His presence actually meant. That would come later, just like it does for us. What Jesus did changed everything forever.
So, celebrate! Be joyful and grateful! He is alive! And because He lives, we live today and forever! Hallelujah!
So, what are you and Jesus doing on Monday?
Mark 16:9-20; John 10:9-10; Jeremiah 29:11
I hope that last week was a meaningful one for you as you followed Jesus through Jerusalem to Golgotha and then rising and walking away from the Empty Tomb. Truly the greatest story ever. Maybe you experienced deep emotion as you imagined what His followers experienced each step of the way. Perhaps you “pondered anew what the Almighty can do” as the hymn says.
Jesus was alive and walked with His followers for a time after His resurrection. I can only imagine how they soaked up every minute and every word that came from His lips. He had already given them the Greatest Commandments to love God with their whole beings and to love each other. And now before Jesus returned to heaven, He gives them the Great Commission to go and take His light into the dark places, spreading the good news of the Gospel. And so they went, and now two thousand years later, our marching orders are still the same.
I believe most of life is lived on “Saturday.” We don’t live continually in Friday’s crucifixion hours, and neither do we dwell daily in the mountaintop experience of Sunday’s Resurrection Morning. We are valley people, Saturday people, and we live mostly in the “in-between” times. Some of those times are wonderful, and other times are difficult. But we are to live with God’s purpose every day.
Sunday morning’s message said Friday’s events and Saturday’s waiting were not the end of the story. And two thousand years later, it’s still not the end of the story. God changed history and the human condition—my condition—forever. He’s still writing His story of freedom in our lives.
But now it’s Monday, and it’s real time. We’re Easter people, and that means Jesus’s Spirit dwells in us and our lives are supposed to be different. We are to make a difference by living out His purpose in us. So what difference will you allow Him to make in you today? And how will you let Him continue the writing of your story in real time?