what happened during holy week?

Every year we observe Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Easter.  

A summary of what some scripture scholars think happened that final week, loosely based on all the gospels put together, might help us understand what happened in that first Holy Week, Jesus’ final days on earth and the most important week of the Christian liturgical year.

Click HERE for our schedule of services during Holy Week.

Palm sunday

Palm Sunday observes the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, marked by the crowds who were in Jerusalem for Passover waving palm branches and proclaiming him as the messianic king. The Gospels tell us that Jesus rode into the city on a donkey, enacting the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9, and in so doing emphasized the humility that was to characterize the Kingdom he proclaimed. The irony of his acceptance as the new Davidic King (Mark 11:10) by the crowds shows when only five days would now shout for his execution. Traditionally, worshippers enact the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem by the waving of palm branches and singing songs of celebration. This is accompanied by a processional into the church. 

Holy monday

On Monday morning Jesus and the Twelve leave Bethany to return to Jerusalem, and along the way, in two of the gospels, Jesus curses a fig tree. 

Jesus enters Jerusalem and clears the temple. 

In the evening, Jesus and the Twelve leave Jerusalem (returning to Bethany).

holy tuesday

Jesus’ disciples see the withered fig tree on their return to Jerusalem from Bethany. Jesus engages in conflict with the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem. The Disciples marvel at the Temple. 

Jesus delivers the Olivet Discourse (in which he predicts the future) on their return to Bethany from Jerusalem.

holy wednesday

Experts note that nothing written can be confidently ascribed to Wednesday of Jesus’ final week. However, some believe that it is on Wednesday that Satan enters Judas, who seeks out the authorities in order to betray Jesus for a price. 

After this betrayal by Judas, the Sanhedrin (ruling rabbis), plot to kill Jesus. On this night the Church generally celebrates the service of Tenebrae that commemorates the movement of the week from light to darkness.

Maundy thursday

Jesus instructs Peter and John to secure a large upper room in a house in Jerusalem and to prepare for the Passover meal. In the evening Jesus eats the Passover meal with the Twelve, tells them of the coming betrayal, and institutes the Lord’s Supper. Jesus instructs the disciples regarding the bread and the wine as the new covenant by which all sins are forgiven.

In John’s Gospel, during supper Jesus washes the disciples’ feet, interacts with them, and delivers his last teaching. Jesus and the disciples sing a hymn together (probably from Psalms 113–118), then depart to the Mount of Olives. Jesus foretells Peter’s denials. Jesus gives his disciples practical commands about supplies and provisions. Jesus and the disciples go to Gethsemane, where he struggles in prayer and they struggle to stay awake late into the night.

The name Maundy Thursday comes from the Latin word "mandatum" coming from the Antiphon based on our Lord's "commandment" in the Gospel, "A new commandment I give you, that you love one another even as I have loved you."  (John 13:34)

good friday

Jesus is betrayed by Judas and arrested by the authorities (perhaps after midnight, early Friday morning). The Disciples all flee. Peter denies Jesus, as Jesus said he would.


Perhaps after sunrise, the final phase of Jesus’ Jewish trial where the final consultation happened before the full Sanhedrin; Jesus is sent to Pilate. Judas hangs himself.


The final phase then occurs of Jesus’ Roman trial: 

this is Jesus’ second appearance before Pilate and he is condemned to die.


Jesus is crucified (from approximately 9 AM until Noon). The sky darkens from noon until 3.

holy saturday & Easter Vigil

The Saturday after Good Friday, which recalls the day when the crucified Christ visited among the dead while his body lay in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. 

Holy Saturday ends at sunset. 

Fasting and other preparations end at sunset or with the Easter Vigil, which begins the celebration of Easter.

easter sunday

"he is risen"

The Gospels vary on how this event occurred. Three women arrive at Jesus’ tomb near dawn, Mary Magdalene arriving first. Mary and the other women, instead of finding Jesus’ body, are met by two young men who are angels.


One of them announces Jesus’ resurrection. The women, fearful and joyful, leave the garden—at first unwilling to say anything to anyone. In one of the Gospels they are commanded to go to tell the apostles and rush to Galilee where they will see Jesus.

In John’s Gospel, Mary Magdalene is left alone in the garden wondering what happened, sees the “gardener” then has a personal encounter with Jesus who tells her to go and tell the other disciples. The women arrive and tell the disciples that Jesus is risen.

Peter and John rush to the tomb (based on Mary Magdalene’s report) and discover it empty.

In Luke’s Gospel, that afternoon Jesus appears to Cleopas and a friend on the road to Emmaus; later Jesus appears to Peter. That evening Jesus appears to the Ten (minus Thomas) in a house (with locked doors) in Jerusalem.