Holy Week Story of Jesus

Sunday. At Jesus' request the disciples bring a beast of burden - a donkey. He mounts it and crowds wave palm leaves and lay their garments in front. They also wave palm branches. He is escorted. This scene reflects the dedication and purification of the second century CE Temple. It connects this scene directly with the cleansing of the Temple to come and is also an attack on the Sadducees by the gospel writers. Saying, "Hosannah, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord," comes from Psalm 118. Riding a donkey was a statement of being humble; horses were used for war. Zechariah 9, 9-10 states the victorious, triumphant, humble king will ride on an ass. Isaiah wrote that the Messiah would bring peace to kingdom. Rather than being a warrior, Jesus was heralding a new age to come. Jerusalem had not seen quite such a procession, both popular and upon a donkey. On arriving he carried out some healing, which was likely to add to people's speculation about his status. He was certainly popular. This angered the Pharisees.

In the evening Jesus returned to Bethany.

Next day Monday Jesus went to the Temple to advance his criticism. This Temple was not the same as the one built during the reign of King Solomon. After the Exile in Babylon the Jews rebuilt the Temple, because the first one had been destroyed.

There, Jesus finds people trading. Doves are being sold for sacrifices, and there is trading in currencies between the local and Roman currencies in particular. Jesus reacts with anger, turning over the tables. A house of prayer has become a "den of thieves".

This angers the Sadducees. They think they should get rid of this troublemaker, but need to time it right. It will have to be after the main Passover feast. They realise Jesus is a popular preacher and healer from Galilee.

On Tuesday Jesus is seen to preach against the Pharisees. Jesus teaches a parable about men who hired a vineyard. They killed the owner's son, because they thought that they could gain the vineyard. This parable points to the crucifixion. God is the owner and Jesus is the son. Jesus also compares the Kingdom of Heaven to a marriage feast. A king who ended up inviting anyone to his wedding feast had tied up and thrown out someone without the right clothes and Jesus concludes that, 'Many are invited, but few are chosen'. In the Temple Jesus is challenged about the payment of taxes. The Pharisees reason that if Jesus says people should not pay their taxes, he will commit treason and must be arrested. If he tells people to pay taxes he will lose support. So the Pharisees ask him, should taxes be paid to Caesar? Jesus asks to see a Roman coin and then asks whose image is on it. He says give to Caesar what is his and to God what is God's.

A Pharisee later on asks which is the most important commandment of the 613. Jesus replies to love God and one's neighbour as oneself. The Pharisee agrees and is therefore told that he is not far from the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus warns people not just to be seen to do good deeds. A proud man places a large amount of money into the Temple treasury. A widow drops in two small coins. According to Jesus, she gave more because she gave all she had.

Jesus then leaves Jerusalem to go up on the Mount of Olives and Bethany.

One report says the Sudducees and Pharisees meet to connive Jesus' downfall, another says this is doubtful as they are very divided groups. The Pharisees even are likely to have been friendly with Jesus and concerned for his safety at this time. This is often overlooked. The Pharisees were not as opposed to Jesus as were the Sadducees.

Late Tuesday night/ Wednesday Judas goes to see the Chief priest. The Chief priest knows Judas Iscariot is one of Jesus's disciples so grants him an audience. The Chief Priest agrees to pay thirty pieces of silver to deliver Jesus to the authorities. Judas returns to Bethany.

On Wednesday Jesus asks Peter and John to go to Jerusalem ahead of the Passover to prepare. They are to see a man carrying a pitcher, and they should follow him and his master to an upper room. They find the man and he takes them. Peter and John make preparations, and in the evening they all go to this room.

Late Wednesday into Maundy Thursday. Maundy means commandment, and is about the meal Jesus was to have. First, however, Jesus washes the feet of the others. Jesus is thus acting like a servant. Peter is one who protests and Jesus says he must let this happen otherwise there can be no place in the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus instructs that they too should be like servants, and that masters are not greater than servants. Jesus then states that one of them will betray him. This raises astonishement and questions, but Jesus says it is the one who is eating with him. Judas is thus exposed and told to do whatever he will do quickly.

With Judas gone, Jesus picks up a piece of bread, thanks God, breaks it, and all of them eat a piece to Jesus saying, "This is my body." Then Jesus takes a cup, thanks God, drinks it, says that this is his blood, shed for many for the sins of the world. They will not do this again with him until the new Kingdom has come. He also instructs that they should love one another as he loved them. Jesus tells Peter that he will deny him three times before the cock crows next morning. He also tells them God will comfort them if they keep the commandments in the traumatic times ahead. In the moonlight they all leave the upper room and go out of the east gate of the city. They go across a valley to the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. This is not unusual as they had slept there before. There, Jesus alone prays in anticipation of what will come, sweating blood, whereas the disciples sleep. Jesus returns to pray twice after seeing them sleep each time. The third time returning he wakes them to say the time of betrayal is near.

Judas returns with soldiers and identifies Jesus with a kiss. Peter draws his sword and cuts off the ear of a nearby servant but Jesus tells him to put it away. How else is scripture to be fulfilled? Jesus heals the ear. Jesus makes no effort to save himself and therefore the disciples run away. Jesus is led into Jerusalem as prisoner.

Maundy Thursday (continued). Jesus is brought to the palace of the High Priest. Peter and John follow at a safe distance. Peter is able to enter the palace. One report says all the Chief Priests questions him in a special sitting. Another says Caiaphus and perhaps his father question him in law Annas separately. Jesus is asked if he is the Messiah, Son of the Blessed One. Jesus said he has said so, and admission is seen as blasphemy, as is saying the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of Power and come on the clouds of heaven. There is real doubt as whether this would have been seen as blasphemy. Peter in the courtyard denied he was one of those with Jesus. Peter denied this to others twice more.

On Friday morning the Chief Priests decided to put Jesus to death. Judas therefore hung himself after he tried to return the thirty pieces of silver. This blood money could not go into the treasury.

One report says that to put Jesus to death needs the agreement of the Roman authorities. This is doubtful, from other historical incidents. Temple authorities had some power of execution for religious offences, e.g. gentiles going into the Temple. Perhaps the Temple authorities pass Jesus on to Roman authorities because Jesus was popular and they would have received a popular backlash. They the priests charge Jesus with treason, rather than blasphemy. Pilate's reluctance about prosecuting Jesus may be a reluctance to do the Sadducees' bidding. Pilate asks if Jesus is the King of the Jews and says he has said so, but gives no reply to the Chief Priest. Pilate having one person to free decides on Barrabas, following the crowd, which some reports think may have been arranged by the Sadducees, but some others say the crowd may have been disappointed that Jesus was not going to lead a rebellion. From the authorities point of view Jesus being free might cause more trouble (but Pilate could hardly care who dies or not).

Jesus is subject to ridicule including wearing a crown of thorns. Jesus has to carry his own cross. Simone from Cyrene also carries his cross. Nine O'clock Friday morning Jesus reaches Calvary where, with two robbers, Jesus is nailed to a wooden cross, with a humiliating note that states he is the King of the Jews. Jesus does not perform a miracle that saves him and the others. Jesus dies a slow death hastened, almost certainly, by having his legs broken (against the Tanakh text).

People in the area say there is darkness from noon 'til 3 p.m., then an earthquake and then the veil of the temple that separates God from humanity rips. Many tombs of saints are opened and they are raised back to life, appearing to many.

A secret wealthy follower and member of Sudducees, Joseph of Aramathea, gets permission to take the body of Jesus to a tomb not yet used (tombs filled up with different decomposing bodies). It is wrapped in a cloth that some later claimed was the Turin Shroud. The body is taken to the tomb.

Saturday. The priests arrange a guard on the tomb, so there can be no trickery as regards rising on the third day which some are predicting. The tomb is sealed.

On Sunday there is an earthquake and the stone is rolled. An angel appears and frightens the guards and stills them. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary going there are told not to be afraid. The Gospel accounts vary on who saw what and what they saw. Perhaps an angel said he is risen and the women are to tell the disciples. They come to the disciples and Jesus meets them there, and tells them to go to Galilee where they will all meet him. The soldiers who tell of what happened are told to say that the disciples stole the body.