The Gospel Accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John span the 33 years of Jesus’ life. Yet more than one quarter of all they wrote describes but one week – Holy Week. This is not surprising. Christ came to earth to be the Good Shepherd, to lay down his life for the sheep （John 10:11; Zech 13:7-9）。 In this chapter we begin our study of Holy Week. However, on the day before Palm Sunday, a special event took place which we must not quickly pass over. Jesus’ body was prepared for the grave.
Jesus had spent Thursday night at the home of Zacchaeus in Jericho. The next day he and the disciples made the 14 mile walk to Bethany, arriving sometime before sunset. That evening and the next day they relaxed at the home of Simon whom Jesus had cured of leprosy. Simon was either a relative or friend of Lazarus, Mary and Martha who all lived in that same town.
That evening, April 1, A.D. 30, a feast was held in Jesus’ honor. Not surprisingly, Martha served. Mary, however, did something very unusual. She produced a bottle of very expensive perfume, and poured it on Jesus’ head and feet. Jewish women did not let their hair down in public. Nevertheless, Mary wiped the perfume from Jesus’ feet with her long hair.
How is it that Mary happened to have perfume worth one year’s wages? Perhaps she had bought it to pour over Lazarus’ body when he had died. But she never got the chance to use. Now she used the perfume to anoint the One who raised Lazarus from the dead.
Why did Mary anoint Jesus? Because she loved him and wanted to show her thanks. Yet, to Jesus this was more than a show of love, it was also a prophecy. Mary had done her part to prepare Jesus’ body for burial.
In the middle of this story of love we also see the beginning of evil. Judas put his love in money, not Jesus. In Jerusalem the Jewish leaders were waiting for Jesus, waiting to kill him.
Jesus’ Triumphal Entry （Matt. 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:29-44; John 12:12-19）
Ride on, ride on, in majesty!
In lowly pomp ride on to die.
O Christ, thy triumphs now begin
O’er captive death and conquered sin.
Ride on, ride on, in majesty!
Thy last and fiercest strife is nigh;
The Father on his sapphire throne
Expects his own anointed Son.
This hymn was written by Henry Milman. His words describe how the time had come for Jesus to complete his saving work. Several times he had told the disciples of his death. Now it was time for him to finish his self-sacrifice （Heb. 7:27）。
On Sunday, April 2, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey. A crowd greeted him by waving palm branches and singing “Hosanna.” It was a proper way for the Lamb of God to enter the city. It was the day when the Jews selected a lamb to be killed for the Passover meal （Exod. 12:3）。
In ancient times, kings entered into cities by riding their horses or chariots surrounded by their soldiers. On Palm Sunday Jesus rode on a donkey surrounded by his disciples. The great Prince of Peace made his way not in glory but in humility. The people waved their palm branches before the Lord. Palm branches were symbols of military victory, but Jesus came to fight sin, death, and the power of the devil. The crowd shouted the well-known words of Psalm 118:25-26, “Hosanna” （meaning ‘Oh, save us now‘） and expected to be freed from Roman rule. While Jesus accepted their “Hosannas” he knew he had come to free their souls. This was Jesus’ day to be honored, yet he wept tears of sorrow when viewing Jerusalem. The city was beautiful, its inhabitants were not.
As evening came, Jesus entered the temple, noticed the money changers and the animals waiting to be sold for sacrifice, then left. He returned to Bethany for the night.
0n the morning of Monday, April 3, Jesus walked toward Jerusalem. He was very hungry when he came to a fig tree that should have had winter figs. However there were none, so he cursed the tree.
This was not an act of anger, but was a symbol and prophecy. Earlier Jesus had spoken a parable about a barren fig tree （Luke 13:6-9）。 Now he taught the same spiritual truth. Israel looked like a godly nation, but inside they had no fruits of repentance and faith. Thus, God would be forced to judge them.
From the fig tree Jesus went to the temple. At the start of his ministry he had cleaned the temple （see Chapter 2）。 Now, at the end, he was forced to do it again. Greed rather than worship and praise were to be seen everywhere. While the church leaders plotted Jesus’ death, it was the little children who sang his praise.
Monday of Holy Week came and went. Jesus returned to Bethany to sleep.
Early the next morning Jesus and his disciples walked along the road to Jerusalem. The disciples saw the fig tree now completely withered away. They must have questioned how they might perform such miracles. Jesus quieted them by speaking of faith without doubt.
From there it was on to Jerusalem and Jesus’ last full working day in the public ministry. It was his last day to visit the temple, teach, and give warning to the Pharisees and Sadducees. It was the last day for him to call the nation to repentance.
Jesus had just entered the temple when he was surrounded by religious leaders. By what right did he ride into Jerusalem as the Messiah, clean the temple, and then preach there? These were their questions, but their idea was to condemn him to death. In answer, Jesus asked them who had sent John the Baptist on his mission. John, a prophet of God, had declared Jesus to be the Messiah. The subject soon was dropped.
The religious leaders of the Jews clearly had not believed the words of John. They did not accept Jesus as the promised Savior. As a final judgment on their unbelief, Jesus spoke three parables.
The Parable of the Two Sons showed the leaders’ to be insincere. Many people who were known for leading sinful lives （tax collectors and prostitutes） came to believe in Jesus, repented and did the will of God the Father. But the Scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees who seemed so religious continued to reject the Savior
The Parable of the Wicked Tenants was spoken to show how rebellious the Jews were and how this would soon result in the death of God’s Son. Who do the people in the parable represent?:
the landowner = God the Father
the vineyard = God’s rule of Israel in Old Testament times
the tenants = Rulers, teachers, leaders
the servants = Old Testament prophets, John the Baptist
the son = Jesus Christ, Son of God
Furthermore, Jesus noted that since the Jews had rejected him, Christianity now would be offered to Gentiles. “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone” （Mark 12:10）。 And this is just what happened.
One final time, in The Parable of the Wedding Feast Jesus warned the Jewish leaders to turn from their evil ways so that judgment would not come upon them. The Lord also repeated that the Gospel, rejected by the Jews, would be offered to Gentiles.
The Jewish leaders did not arrest and kill Jesus immediately because they feared the people. Only two days earlier a crowd had greeted Jesus as their king. Thus the leaders decided to try to catch Jesus in a mistake. So they began to ask him tricky questions.
The first question had to do with taxes. They asked “Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” （Matt. 22:17）。 If Jesus answered “yes,” the Jewish people would have become angry, at least the ones who believed that God, not the emperor, was their real ruler. On the other hand, a “no” answer would have made him a traitor to Rome and guilty of treason.
Jesus’ response covers the whole subject in a single sentence. “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” （Matt. 22:21）。 There is an earthly kingdom and a spiritual kingdom. The duties which people have toward both must be kept separated and should not be in conflict.
The Pharisees and Herodians had failed. So the Sadducees took their turn at trying to trap Jesus. Although they did not believe in the resurrection of the body, they still asked the Lord about the afterlife. His answer was that the human and family relationships of this world will not be part of the next life.
The Sadducees seems to have accepted the first five books of the Bible. They had quoted words from Deuteronomy （25:5-6） to try to trap Jesus. Now he answered by quoting from Exodus （3:6）， “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham . . . Isaac . . . Jacob.” God did not say “I used to be the God” but “I am the God” of the Jews who had died centuries earlier. How could the relationship between God and believers continue if there was no life after death? The Sadducees were silenced.
With the Sadducees defeated, the Pharisees tried one last time to trap Jesus. For us to understand the question they asked, we must remember that the Pharisees put all their faith in obeying religious laws, some given by God, others invented by humans. They now asked Jesus, “which of these laws is the most important and which is the least important?”
Christ answered by explaining that all God’s Law was important and that the Commandments could be summarized in one word – love. The Pharisees who asked the question could only agree.
The Jewish leaders had tried to trap Jesus, but failed. Now for one last time, Jesus tried to reason with them. He asked a question of his own, not to trap them but rather to free them from their blindness. The question concerned David’s Son and David’s Lord. They were expecting a Messiah who would be like David （a man and a king）。 However, the Old Testament （Ps. 110） also referred to the Messiah as “Lord” （almighty God）。 Jesus was presenting himself to the Jews as the true Messiah – true Man and true God. Such a teaching got the attention of the people but was hated by the Jewish leaders.
The Pharisees and Scribes were to “sit in Moses’ seat” （Matt. 23:2）， in other words, to teach the people the Scriptures. The disciples and people were told to listen to the Bible teachings. But the religious leaders refused to practice what they preached.
They did all they could to bring themselves a good reputation, never stopping to give glory to God; they showed off before the people; they insisted on being called “rabbi” （my teacher）。 They had no humility in their lives.
In one of his longer speeches Jesus attacked their hypocrisy. Several times he repeated the word “woe,” meaning “damnation is coming to you.” In Matthew’s account Christ spoke against the Scribes and Pharisees:
Because the false doctrine they taught led people away from salvation.
Because they sought followers and made them hypocrites worse than they themselves.
Because they did not keep their oaths to God and made others keep their earthly oaths.
Because they did not understand the most important points of the Law.
Because they insisted on being clean on the outside but didn’t care about inner （moral, spiritual） purity.
Because they pretended to be pure but were evil inside.
Because they honored the dead prophets but at the same time were planning Jesus’ death.
Jesus had been in the temple for several hours that Tuesday morning. He had been opposed by the very people who should have fallen to their knees and worshiped him. Were there any faithful Israelites left in Jerusalem?
As Jesus looked around he saw a widow drop two small coins in the temple offering box. There were still some true Israelites. This woman trusted in God’s care and answered with her love. Here was a believer who owned nothing, yet, at the same time, had the greatest treasure – salvation.
While Jesus was looking at the widow the disciples reported that some Greeks wished to speak to him. The were starting to come to faith. These Gentiles had begun to realize Jesus was their Savior. 33 years earlier Simeon （see Chapter 1） had called Jesus “a light for revelation to the Gentiles” （Luke 2:32）， and now that prophecy was being fulfilled.
Jesus’ spent most of his earthly ministry preaching to the Jews. After his resurrection, the Gentiles would hear of him. By that time Jesus would be exalted in his full glory.
When Jesus entered the temple that Tuesday morning his authority immediately was challenged. As he left the temple that forenoon, he again told where he got his authority. He and the Father are One.