The Holy Week Timeline of Events Explained

The Holy Week Timeline is a way of keeping track of the events of the Holy Week. Let’s explore and discover the significance of this sacred season.

What are the events that make up the Holy Week timeline? Why is it so important in the Christian community and how is it observed? Let’s get into details and find out more about the most important week in the Christian calendar. 

What is the Holy Week Timeline?

The Holy Week Timeline gives you a way to keep track of the events of Holy Week. It provides a visual timeline to see how all the events fit together. With it, you can remember the main events Jesus performed during the last week of His life before He was crucified and resurrected.

Holy Week Timeline

What is Holy Week?

Holy Week is the most meaningful week in the Christian calendar. It starts on Palm Sunday and concludes on Easter Sunday. It marks Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, His last supper with His disciples, His crucifixion on Good Friday, and His resurrection on Easter Sunday. Because of this, Christians worldwide celebrate God’s sacrifice for humanity, reflect on their own sins and shortcomings, and renew their commitment to living under Christ’s message.

History of the Holy Week

The history of the Holy Week timeline can be traced back to the early church when a celebration of Jesus Christ’s resurrection was performed on the first day of the week. The earliest reference to marking this entire week with special observances is the Apostolical Constitutions (v. 18, 19), mainly from the last half of the third and early fourth centuries. According to this text, abstinence from the flesh is commanded on all other days. 

Still, a strict fast is instructed on Fridays and Saturdays. During Dionysius Alexandrinus’ canonical letter (AD 260), he refers to the 91 fasting days, suggesting that they were being observed already at his time.

Another earliest documented reference to Holy Week, including Palm Sunday, is in the travel journals of an unknown woman named Egeria. In the late 4th century, Egeria, also known as Etheria, documented her pilgrimage to the Holy Land and wrote in detail the entire observance of Holy Week at that time.

The Holy Week Timeline

Here is the timeline that organizes these events so you can see them in order:

Palm Sunday – Jesus’ Entrance into Jerusalem

Palm Sunday, which begins Holy Week, is the Sunday before Easter. It celebrates Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

Jesus entered the city riding on a donkey and was met by crowds of people exclaiming, “Hosanna!.” They put and laid down their cloaks for Him to ride on. They also waved palm branches and laid them down in His path. 

Jesus and His disciples spent the night in the town of Bethany, which is about two miles east of Jerusalem. Lazarus, the one whom Jesus had raised from the dead, lived there together with his two sisters, Mary and Martha. They were close friends of Jesus and probably sheltered Him and His disciples during their last days in Jerusalem.

This triumphal entry of Jesus is described in Matthew 21:1-11, Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:28-44, and John 12:12-19.

Holy Monday – Jesus Clears the Temple

The following day Jesus returned to Jerusalem with His disciples. On the way, He cursed a fig tree because it hadn’t borne fruit. Some scholars believe that this cursing of the fig tree represents God’s judgment on Israel’s spiritually dead religious leaders. Others think that the representation applies to all believers and shows that genuine faith is more than outward devotion. The actual, living faith must bear spiritual fruit in a person’s life.

Upon arriving at the temple, Jesus found the courts packed with crooked money changers. He overturned their tables and cleansed the temple, saying, “The Scriptures say, ‘My temple is a house of prayer,’ but you’ve turned it into a den of thieves” (Luke 19:46).

On Monday evening, Jesus stayed again in Bethany, probably in the house of His friends – Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. 

The events of Holy Monday can be found in Matthew 21:12-22, Mark 11:15-19, Luke 19:45-48, and John 2:13-17.

Holy Tuesday – Jesus Preaches on the Mount of Olives

Jesus and His disciples traveled back to Jerusalem on Tuesday morning. They passed by the withered fig tree on their way, and Jesus preached to His companions about the importance of faith.

Back at the temple, the religious leaders were upset that Jesus had established Himself as a spiritual authority. They organized an ambush intending to arrest Him. But Jesus escaped their traps and declared harsh judgment on them (Matthew 23:24-33).  

Later that day, He left the city and went up to the Mount of Olives, east of the Temple, and overlooks Jerusalem with His disciples. Here Jesus delivered the Olivet Discourse, a detailed prophecy about the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the age. He speaks in parables and uses symbolic language about the end times’ events, including His Second Coming and the final judgment.

After an exhausting day of confrontations and warnings about the future, Jesus and the disciples returned to Bethany to spend the night.

The chaotic events of that Tuesday and the Olivet Discourse can be found and read in Matthew 21:23-24:51, Mark 11:20-13:37, Luke 20:1-21:36, and John 12:20-38.

Holy Wednesday or Spy Wednesday

Holy Wednesday is the day before Jesus Christ’s crucifixion. There’s not much about this day in the Bible. The day before the Last Supper, also known as Passover, could be spent preparing everything necessary for the event. But many believe that this is the day Judas Iscariot planned his betrayal of Jesus Christ. In memory of this event, the day is sometimes called Spy Wednesday. 

On Holy Wednesday, people start to prepare for Good Friday and Easter by fasting from food and drink. Some also give up other things they enjoy, such as watching TV or spending time on social media, to demonstrate devotion to God.

Maundy Thursday – Jesus’ Last Supper

The Last Supper of Jesus with His disciples is remembered on Holy Thursday. He offers us Himself in the sacrament of the Eucharist. He also established a priesthood to carry on this ministry when He washed their feet. Here, He commanded them, “As I have done for you, so you should do for each other” (John 13:14-15).

Good Friday – Jesus’ Suffering and Crucifixion

Good Friday is a day of grief, fasting, and mourning. Though the name of the day is “good,” it’s called that because it marks a good event in Christian history: Jesus’ death on the cross. It is also known as Holy Friday, Great Friday, and Black Friday (not the holiday that goes by the same name).

Christians believe that Jesus Christ was crucified on a Friday, which is sometimes referred to as “the day of preparation” since it was on this day that Jesus was prepared for burial. Early church tradition teaches that Jesus died at three o’clock in the afternoon – known as “the hour of darkness” – and many churches will hold their Good Friday services.

The cross plays a central role in Good Friday services. When walking into a sanctuary for Good Friday worship, one will often see a plain wooden cross draped with black cloth or simply an empty cross.

Friday’s events are documented in the Bible in Matthew 27:1-62, Mark 15:1-47, Luke 22:63-23:56, and John 18:28-19:37.

Holy Week Timeline

Holy Saturday – Preparing for Christ’s Miracle

Holy Saturday commemorates the day between Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. It is a solemn time of reflection, hope, and anticipation of Easter Sunday. On Holy Saturday, Christians take this time to prepare for Easter Sunday. The Church celebrates a vigil mass on Holy Saturday evening, during which parishioners can partake in the blessing of fire, water, and paschal candle.

The central theme of this particular celebration is that of expectation: specifically, the anticipation that Jesus will be resurrected the following day. 

Easter or Resurrection Sunday – Christ’s Resurrection and Victory

Easter Sunday is also called Resurrection Sunday because this is when many Christians believe Jesus physically came back to life after His death by crucifixion on Good Friday. In the Scriptures, it says that Mary Magdalene and another woman went to visit Jesus’ tomb site only to find that He was no longer there (John 20:1) and He, later on, appeared to His disciples and spent time with them before ascending to heaven.

The end of Holy Week is an opportunity for renewal. Some people commemorate it through new clothing, Easter egg hunts, and feasts.

It’s also a time to remember Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross and be thankful for everything He has done for us, especially for giving us the ultimate gift of salvation. 

When is the Holy Week Timeline Observed?

Holy Week Timeline is the week leading up to Easter Sunday — a time when Christians commemorate and reflect on the dying and rising of Jesus Christ. Holy Week Timeline begins on Palm Sunday and culminates on Easter (also known as Resurrection Sunday).

The name ‘Holy Week’ is also sometimes used to refer to the last week of Lent (including Passion Week). This period is also known as Passion Week or Great Week. The latter includes some days that are not part of Holy Week.

Holy Week Timeline is observed during Lent and the Easter Triduum (the three solemn days before and including Easter). It is celebrated by Christians, particularly Catholics and Orthodox Christians.

Why is the Holy Week Timeline Observed?

The Holy Week is observed for several important reasons. The first is to remember the events of Jesus’ life leading up to His death and resurrection. These events taught us about God’s love for us, gave us hope in a Savior, and showed us the price that Jesus was willing to pay in order to save mankind from sin. This week also provides Christians all over the world with an opportunity to reflect on Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins, remember that He rose from the dead, realize that He is the Messiah, and meditate on how His actions have made Him our Savior.

How do Christians Observe the Holy Week Timeline?

There are a few different ways Christians observe the Holy Week Timeline:

  • Attend church services. During Holy Week, Christians attend church on each day of the week (Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday). The services generally follow the same format and focus on the events of Jesus’ suffering and death. Many churches also hold additional special services throughout Holy Week.
  • Read the Bible daily. Many Christians choose to read through a collection of verses that tell the story of Jesus’ suffering and death during Holy Week.
  • Pray and reflect. Many Christians take time out during Holy Week to spend quiet time in prayer and reflection.
  • Fast. This includes abstaining from meat, dairy, fats, and sweets for certain days of the week. Some even abstain from social media to take some time to reflect and meditate. 

A Short Prayer for Holy Week

Lord God, thank You for loving us so much that You gave Your only Son so that we too could be part of Your family and be called Your children. Lord, help us to live each day in the joy and grace of Easter Sunday. We pray to have a heart of gratitude for Your sacrifice.

Help us to fix our eyes on Your grace and rejoice in Your salvation. Help us to walk in Your love and proclaim Your good news to the world. We pray this in Your mighty name, Jesus, Amen.

Holy Week Timeline

In Summary

The Holy Week Timeline is indeed a beautiful remembrance of some of the most significant events in the life of Jesus. It’s a unique time of celebration and reflection and there are so many lessons we can learn from Jesus’ life. 

Most importantly, this week is a valuable time for us to remember the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and that He was willing to give Himself as an atonement for all our sins. As we observe the Holy Week, may it be a time of reflection and renewal of our hearts and spirits as we remember Christ’s radical love for us. 

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Alex Shute
Alex Shute, MBA
Alex is a family man and entrepreneur based in Los Angeles. His passion is to serve the global Church and bring people of diverse backgrounds together to learn & grow.

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