In Christian tradition, Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday and goes through Easter Sunday, also known as Resurrection Sunday. This is a reverent time for Christians to contemplate the life, death, and resurrection of our savior, Jesus Christ.
Looking to learn more about the Lenten season? Check out these other posts!
Scripture Readings for Holy Week
These scripture readings come from the Revised Common Lectionary. A lectionary is a list of scripture readings assigned to each day of worship during the Christian calendar. The Revised Common Lectionary uses a 3-year cycle meaning the scripture readings rotate (to a certain extent). Holy Week scripture readings are actually the same every year.
|Holy Week Year B||First Reading||Psalm||Second Reading||Gospel|
|Palm Sunday – March 28||Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29||Mark 11:1-11|
|Monday – |
|Isaiah 42:1-9||Psalm 36:5-11||Hebrews 9:11-15||John 12:1-11|
|Tuesday – |
|Isaiah 49:1-7||Psalm 71:1-14||1 Corinthians 1:18-31||John 12:20-36|
|Wednesday – |
|Isaiah 50:4-9a||Psalm 70||Hebrews 12:1-3||John 13:21-32|
|Maundy Thursday – April 1||Exodus 12:1-4, (5-10), 11-14||Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19||1 Corinthians 11:23-26||John 13:1-17, 31b-35|
|Good Friday – |
|Isaiah 52:13-53:12||Psalm 22||Hebrews 10:16-25|
Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9
|Holy Saturday – |
Lamentations 3:1-9, 19-24
|Psalm 31:1-4, 15-16||1 Peter 4:1-8||Matthew 27:57-66|
|Easter Sunday – |
|Isaiah 50:4-9a||Psalm 31:9-16||Philippians 2:5-11||Mark 14:1-15:47|
Mark 15:1-39, (40-47)
How to Celebrate Holy Week
All of Holy Week is an important time for Christian prayer and spiritual reflection. However, certain days within Holy Week have specific designations. Not all church communities will hold services for all of these days, and not all Christians will worship these specific themes for specific days. However, if you are looking to prepare your heart fully for Easter Sunday, you might benefit from daily Bible study going through Christ’s days prior to His resurrection.
What is Palm Sunday?
Palm Sunday is the Sunday prior to Easter Sunday. Palm Sunday commemorates Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem.
Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
What is Holy Wednesday?
Before researching this post, I did not realize that some Christians celebrate Holy Wednesday as a distinct part of Holy Week. Holy Wednesday, also known as Spy Wednesday or Good Wednesday, is the Wednesday prior to Easter Sunday. Depending on specific church tradition, Holy Wednesday commemorates the annointing of Jesus and/or the betrayal of Judas.
Now while Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment, and she poured it on his head as he sat at the table. But when the disciples saw it, they were angry and said, “Why this waste? For this ointment could have been sold for a large sum, and the money given to the poor.” But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. By pouring this ointment on my body she has prepared me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”
Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I betray him to you?” They paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.Matthew 26:6-16
What is Maundy Thursday?
Maundy Thursday, also known as Holy Thursday, is the Thursday prior to Easter Sunday. Maundy Thursday commemorates two significant moments between Jesus and His disciples. The first is Him washing their feet. The second is the Last Supper.
After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.John 13:12- 17
While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”Mark 14:22-25
What is Good Friday?
Good Friday, also known as Holy Friday or Black Friday, is the Friday prior to Easter Sunday. Good Friday commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus on the cross. Instead of attempting to choose just a handful of verses to describe the crucifixion, I will point you to the chapters of the Bible to read.
- Matthew 27:26-66
- Mark 15:15-47
- Luke 23:24-56
- John 19:16-42
What is Holy Saturday?
Holy Saturday is the day before Easter Sunday. It also goes by many other names, depending on the country and the Christian tradition. These are:
- Great and Holy Saturday
- Great Sabbath
- Black Saturday
- Hallelujah Saturday
- Glorious Saturday
- Easter Eve
Holy Saturday commemorates both the day that Jesus’ body lay in the tomb and the Harrowing of Hell.
When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.Matthew 27:57-61
Therefore it is said,
“When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive;
he gave gifts to his people.”
(When it says, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.)Ephesians 4:8-10
Final Thoughts on Holy Week
When I was growing up, my church didn’t have any special services during Holy Week aside from Palm Sunday. As a teenager, I attended a few Maundy Thursday services with my mother at a different church in town. The beauty and solemnity of those services have stayed with me ever since.
It’s good for Christians to remember the last few days of Jesus’ life. If we only celebrate the triumph of His arrival in Jerusalem, and then the triumph of His resurrection, we forget the reality of His torture and His death.
Jesus DIED for our sins.
It’s easy to let this become a Christian soundbite rather than a bittersweet reminder of our own sinfulness and Christ’s enormous love for us.
This week, I encourage you to contemplate daily what Jesus experienced in the last week of His life. The betrayal of Judas. The Last Supper. His crucifixion.
Before we shout “Hallelujah! He is risen!,” let us first remember that Jesus died on the cross.
For you. For me.
Christ’s resurrection is all the more joyous and miraculous after we truly contemplate His death on the cross.
How do you celebrate Holy Week?