Scripture Readings for Holy Week

A chronology of Scripture readings for Jesus’ last week can be tricky business. The gospels were written by four different individuals highlighting different features and collecting the information in different ways.

So, for instance, it’s difficult to ascertain exactly when Judas conspired with the Sanhedrin, or the placement of the anointing (in Matthew 26.6-13 and Mark 14.3-9), or if John 18.28-40 recounts Jesus’ first or second trial before Pilate, or to what event John 14.31b refers to, or the duration of the Jewish trial and Peter’s denial, or the timing of Jesus’ evenings in Bethany, etc., etc. Not only this, but the Jewish reckoning of the start of a new day is at sunset rather than midnight, making the translation to our calendar imprecise.

Despite the challenges, here is an attempted Bible reading guide for Holy Week. If you and your family read the passages according to the days of the week (Wednesday is short, Thursday is lengthy!), you will gain a richer sense of the atmosphere in Jerusalem leading up to Jesus’ death and resurrection of our Lord.

A handy copy will be available at our Palm Sunday (March 28) service. You can also download a copy here.

Saturday Evening

Jesus arrives in Bethany, on the eastern side of the Mount of Olives, to stay with friends (Lazarus, Mary, and Martha) where He has dinner and is anointed by Mary. John 12.1-8; Mark 14.3-9; Matthew 26.6-13

Soon, a crowd gathers. John 12.9-11

Sunday (Early in the Day)

The disciples make preparation for His entry into Jerusalem. Mark 11.1-6; Luke 19.28-34

Jesus enters Jerusalem, an event that has come to be known in the history of the church as His Triumphal Entry. Matthew 21.1-11Mark 11.7-10John 12.12-19Luke 19.35-40

Jesus weeps over Jerusalem (which He will do again Tuesday afternoon). Luke 19.41-44

Some Gentile God-fearers, in Jerusalem for the Passover celebration, learn of His arrival and desire to meet with Him. John 12.20-36a

Sunday (Evening)

Jesus enters the Temple court itself (see also Malachi 3.1). Mark 11.11a

He and His disciples depart Jerusalem, likely for Bethany. Matthew 21.17; Mark 11.11b; John 12.36b-50

Monday Morning

According to Mark, the curse of the fig tree event likely occurred in two stages on Monday and Tuesday morning. Matthew compresses this two-day event. Matthew 21.18-19; Mark 11.12-14

Jesus clears the Temple court of its commercial atmosphere. Even though Matthew places this scene immediately upon His arrival in Jerusalem, Mark’s account indicates that it occurred Monday morning. Mark 11.15-18; Matthew 21.12-13; Luke 19.45-46

Monday Afternoon

Jesus departs Jerusalem to Bethany for the night. Mark 11.19

Tuesday Morning

The lesson of the fig tree, continued. Mark 11.20-25 (26); Matthew 21.20-22

Tuesday Afternoon

Jesus teaches at length in the Temple court, largely concerning His own authority and judgment upon the religious leaders for discouraging the people from worshipping Him. Matthew 21.23-22.45; Mark 11.27-12.44; Luke 20.1-21.4

The following seven woes pronouncements likely occurred interspersed in His Tuesday afternoon teaching (as you have already seen hints of in Mark and Luke above), but Matthew gathers all of them together with great force. Matthew 23.1-36

Jesus leaves the Temple area of the city. Matthew 24.1-2; Mark 13.1-2; Luke 21.5-6

Like Sunday evening, He again weeps for Jerusalem (there was at least one other time that He had done this: see Luke 13.34-35). Matthew 23.37-39

Tuesday Evening

Jesus teaches His disciples at the Mount of Olives, a small mountain just 3/5 mile east of Jerusalem. In the Kidron Valley between was a seasonal brook, likely full at the time. With a spectacular view of the Temple, Jesus’ delivers a prophetic overview to His disciples of the near and distant future. Due to the location, this challenging text is often called the Olivet Discourse. Luke 21.7-36; Matthew 24.3-25.46; Mark 13.3-37

Wednesday Morning and Afternoon

While we know that Jesus taught in the Temple every day, it is unclear from Scripture what body of teaching took place on Wednesday. Luke 21.37-38

Wednesday Evening

Clearly, however, Wednesday was a day of wicked plotting on the part of the religious leaders in Jerusalem. Mark 14.1-2; Matthew 26.3-5; Luke 22.1-2

The plotting was not simply earthly, however, for Satan seizes upon the unbelief of Judas. Luke 22.3-6; Matthew 26.14-16; Mark 14.10-11

Thursday Afternoon

The Passover meal required special preparation not just in terms of finding a location within the city  (Deuteronomy 16.5-6), but also the preparation of the lamb, all of which had to be done inconspicuously given the controversy surrounding Jesus. Matthew 26.17-19Mark 14.12-16Luke 22.7-13

Thursday Evening

This evening would have included a meal prior to the celebration of the Passover meal, that is, the ordinary evening meal. During this meal, Jesus’ washes the disciples’ feet and Judas is revealed. Matthew 26.20-25Mark 14.17-21John 13.2-30

During this long meal, John’s account provides a lengthy section of teaching, as well as what has become known as the High Priestly Prayer of John 17. The church marks this evening as Maundy Thursday due to John 13.34: “a new commandment I give” (mandatum is Latin for “commandment”). John 13.31-35,14.1-17.26

The Passover meal itself would have been a ceremonial meal after the ordinary evening meal. In Luke’s account, the ordinary meal and the ceremonial meal are condensed (note two cups, and the presence of Judas, whom many suspect did not attend the actual ceremonial meal). Matthew 26.26-30a; Mark 14.22-26a; Luke 22.14-30

Whether it was while they were still in the upper room, or while they were making their way towards the Mount of Olives, Jesus anticipates that Peter will deny Him. John 13.36-38; Matthew 26.30b-35; Mark 14.26b-31; Luke 22.31-38

He takes his disciples (minus Judas) to the walled garden of Gethsemane (meaning, olive press) on the western slope of the Mount of Olives, just across the Kidron Brook. Matthew 26.36-46; Mark 14.32-42; Luke 22.39-46

Thursday (After Midnight)

It is while they are in the garden that Jesus is betrayed by Judas and arrested by officers of the Temple (accompanied by a small band of Pilate’s soldiers, whose likely task is simply to prevent rioting during the festival). Matthew 26.47-56; Luke 22.47-53; Mark 14.43-52; John 18.1-11

Jesus is brought first to Annas. While his priestly term expired in AD 15, Annas was still held in high regard, sometimes even called, “High Priest.” John 18.13-14; 19-24

Jesus’ night-time trial took place before Annas’ son-in-law, Caiphas, the current High Priest and head of the Sanhedrin. Also in attendance at Caiphas’ home were various scribes and teachers. Matthew 26.57-68; Mark 14.53-65; Luke 22.5463-65

Meanwhile, in the courtyard below, Peter denies Jesus three times (don’t forget to read John 21.15-19 on Sunday). Matthew 26.69-75; Mark 14.66-72; Luke 22.55-62; John 18.15-1825-27

Friday (Good, or Holy, Friday)

The night-time “trial” of Jesus was highly irregular and, likely, lacked a quorum and had to be officially ratified before a larger body of the Sanhedrin (and the charge nuanced to include treason, in addition to blasphemy). Matthew 27.1-2; Mark 15.1; Luke 22.66-23.1

Judas dies. Matthew 27.3-10

Jesus first meets with Governor Pontius Pilate privately. Matthew 27.11-14; Mark 15.2-5; Luke 23.2-7; John 18.28-40

Pilate sends Jesus to Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee and Perea (region across the Jordan), and murderer of John the Baptist. Luke 23.8-12

Several years earlier, Pilate had instituted a custom of releasing an imprisoned Jew at Passover as a means of courting favor among the people. Matthew 27.15-26; Mark 15.6-15; Luke 23.13-25; John 19.1-16a

Jesus is crucified and, at 3:00pm, dies. Contemporary historian, Josephus, writes that this was the typical time for the evening sacrifice. Matthew 27.27-56; Mark 15.16-41; Luke 23.26-49; John 19.16b-37

The body of Jesus is buried before sunset by a wealthy member of the ruling council, Joseph of Arimathea (perhaps a city in Ephraim), along with Nicodemus, another member of the Sanhedrin. Notice Isaiah 53.9John 19.38-42; Matthew 27.57-61; Mark 15.42-47; Luke 23.50-56


On the Jewish Sabbath, work was done. Matthew 27.62-66

Sunday to the Ascension

Jesus remained in the tomb from the end of the Day of Preparation (Friday), through the entire Sabbath day, and into the morning of the following day (the first day of the week). Matthew 28.1-8; Mark 16.1-8; Luke 24.1-12; John 20.1-10

The religious leaders fabricate and distribute an alternative narrative. Matthew 28.11-15

Jesus appeared in His glorified body to well over 500 people during a 40-day (Acts 1.3) period. Matthew 28.9-10John 20.11-18; Luke 24.13-48; John 20.19-23; Matthew 28.16-20; Mark 16.9-18; John 20.24-29, 21.1-23; Acts 1.3-8; 1 Cor. 15.5-8