Between Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem where people were crying “Hosanna, Hosanna” to the glorious Resurrection in which Christ was triumphant over sin and Death lies the week of suffering, betrayal and the death of Jesus. These moments are significant and ask of us necessary remembrance of what Christ did for us. Below is a daily reading plan and reflection questions to consider as we walk to the week from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday.
This week is a time to slow down, to leave the busyness of your life to focus on Jesus.
Take your time as you go through each area of Jesus’ week leading up to the Cross. You don’t need to rush. Read slowly. Let the words of reflection sink in.
During this week of devotions, you may want to keep a prayer journal. You may respond to God by writing your own thoughts there if you would like. You can write a word, write a prayer, a thought, or even an image God gives you.
As you go through this week, remember that Christ can relate to our sufferings, understands betrayal, and was compassionate even in the midst of tribulation.
This journey to the Cross is not about an agenda or meeting anyone’s expectations. It’s simply a time and a place for you to draw close to Jesus.
MARY ANNOINTS JESUS
Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.
“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.” —John 12:1-8
Mary’s act of worship was pure…passionate…real…expensive…extravagant. And it touched the heart of Jesus.
In a world where we are distracted by busyness and hurry, slow down to worship. Slow down to reflect. Slow down to rest.
Jesus knew he was headed to the cross, and Mary’s act of worship was a blessing to him.
How can you pour out your love to Jesus, extravagantly, in a way that will spread the beautiful fragrance of Jesus where you are?
Take a moment to worship. Listen to a song that helps you reflect on this week that Jesus takes leading to the cross. Take a moment to pray. Reflect on journey that Christ will take this week and what it means for us.
THE LAST SUPPER AND JUDAS’S BETRAYAL
Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty silver coins. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over. —Matthew 26:14-16
“What you are about to do, do quickly,” Jesus told him, but no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the Feast, or to give something to the poor. As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night. —John 13:21-30
Judas was one of Jesus’ closest friends, one of the twelve disciples who had been with him for three years. He agreed to betray Jesus for just thirty silver coins.
After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me.”
His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.”
Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?”
Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, son of Simon. As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.
Jesus was celebrating the Passover feast with his disciples.
Grab some coins; hold them in your hand. How could Judas betray Jesus, his friend, for money? How do you think Judas felt when he looked at the coins in his hand and realized what he had traded for them?
Where do the material things of life get in the way of following Jesus? Take this time to talk with him about it.
Jesus knew his disciples would soon face confusion and fear. Contemplate his sorrow and compassion for them.
Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled.
Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”
He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”
When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.
Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!” —Matthew 26:36-46
When Jesus said, “May this cup be taken from me,” he was referring to the difficult thing his Father was asking him to bear. Yet he chose to drink the cup, even though it was painful.
This scene reveals the sorrow in Jesus’ heart that night. He prayed to his Father that he would not have to go to the cross if there were any other way. Yet he prayed the hardest prayer any of us can pray: “Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
Take Communion by yourself or with your family. As you do, remember that Jesus chose to bear the agony of the cross—to drink the cup—to save you.
What is the Father saying to you in this moment?—something about which you need to pray the prayer of Gethsemane: “Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
JESUS’ ARREST AND BETRAYAL
When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was an olive grove, and he and his disciples went into it.
Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. So Judas came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons.
Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?”
“Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.
“I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.
Again he asked them, “Who is it you want?”
And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.”
“I told you that I am he,” Jesus answered. “If you are looking for me, then let these men go.” This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: “I have not lost one of those you gave me.”
Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)
Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” —John 18:1-11
Even though Jesus could have given the word and overpowered all the guards, he let himself be bound and led away. Instead, he chose to submit to the difficult way of the cross with every step that he took.
Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled. But Peter followed him at a distance, right up to the courtyard of the high priest. He entered and sat down with the guards to see the outcome.
The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death. But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward.
Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him. —Matthew 26:57-60, 27:27-31
What goes through your mind when you realize Jesus willingly submitted to being handed over?
Imagine yourself in Peter’s shoes. You are looking out over the courtyard where Jesus is being tried and mocked. You know that he is being unjustly accused. As you stand here, you see men telling lies about him. You watch him being beaten and mocked.
Here is the man you have followed for three years, the man you had put all your hope in, being sentenced to death. In your heart you have believed he is God, the promised Messiah of the Jewish people.
Look at the purple robe and the crown of thorns used by angry soldiers to wound and humiliate Jesus. What do you want to tell Jesus right now? Consider the cost that Christ paid for our sins.
THE CRUCIFIXION OF JESUS
As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross. They came to a place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull).
There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it. When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. And sitting down, they kept watch over him there. Above his head they placed the written charge against him: THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS. Two robbers were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his leftThose who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!”
In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’ “ In the same way the robbers who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him. —Matthew 27:32-44
Here is Jesus, dying a brutal death on a Roman cross, an instrument of torture. Imagine yourself there at the scene, standing or kneeling before the Cross. What is going through your mind?
Don’t rush this part.
The sin of all human beings made Jesus go to the cross, not the Roman soldiers who arrested and beat him. His love for sinful human beings held him there. He could have answered the taunts by calling the angels of heaven to bring him down, but he didn’t. He chose to stay.
Think of a sin in your life, possibly something terrible you have done in the past or something you should have done but did not, something you have held on to, or possibly an attitude your heart tells you is disappointing to God. If you want, write it down somewhere.
Nail your sin to the cross of Jesus. As you nail it, think about how your sins were nailed to the cross that day in history. With each stroke, remember Jesus’ words: “It is finished.” He bore the pain of the cross so you could be forgiven and set free from slavery to your sin. Remember He bore the sin you wrote down so that we could be free from it.
JESUS’ DEATH AND BURIAL
From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”
Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”
And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.
At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.
When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Sonof God!” —Matthew 27:45-54
38 Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. 39 He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. 40 Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. 41 At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. 42 Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there. – John 19:38-42
When Jesus died that day, so many people watching must have thought that their hopes had died as well. As they buried his body, hope seemingly was buried with it. Darkness came over all the land that day.
Find a place to be alone. Sit quietly. No noise, no distraction. Remember the darkness that the whole world—and heaven itself—must have felt that day.
Imagine them burying Jesus in the tomb. Consider the day of silence between the Cross and the Resurrection.
Write for a time- what is the Holy Spirit speaking to you?