Jesus taught the disciples for three years, but the last week of his life takes up about a third of the gospels. The writers slow the pace dramatically, so we have a lot to cover. I’ll try to be concise, but not neglect the special details and connections I’ve learned. We’re going to talk about Palm Sunday, what happened at the Lord’s Supper, why Judas betrayed Jesus, what cup Jesus asked God to remove. And I’ve got three printables for you!
- Part 1 | CHILDHOOD: Who is Jesus?
- Part 2 | MINISTRY: Who were Jesus’ disciples?
- Part 3 | MINISTRY: What did Jesus teach?
- Part 4 | MINISTRY: Why did Jesus perform miracles?
- Part 5 | ARREST: What happened in the last days of Jesus’ life?
- Part 6 | DEATH: Why did Jesus die on the cross?
- Part 7 | RETURN: What is Jesus doing now and when is he coming back?
- Part 8 | I saw Jesus in a dream
Listen to the podcast
I’m asking all these questions in earnest and scouring the Bible for answers and wisdom to know my Savior better. Obviously these are not definitive answers. These questions are simply to start a conversation that leads for more time in the Word and worship.
What happened in the last week of Jesus’ life?
Let’s go over a brief timeline to get perspective and then we’ll go in and ask more detailed questions.
Sunday: Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey as the crowd welcomed him with “Hosanna!” and laid down cloaks and palm branches. Matthew 21, Mark 11, Luke 19, John 12
Monday: Jesus drove out those who sold and bought at the temple, overturning tables. Matthew 21, Mark 11, Luke 19
Tuesday: Jesus went to the temple and told many parables. Matthew 21-24, Mark 11-13, Luke 20-21
Wednesday: The Bible does not mention what Jesus did on this day. Judas took 30 pieces of silver from the priests
to betray Jesus. Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22
Thursday: Jesus washed the disciple’s feet, excused Judas to betray him, celebrated Passover and gave it new meaning with first communion. He prayed in The Garden of Gethsemane and was taken by soldiers. Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22, John 13-18
Friday: Jesus was tried, carried his cross to Golgotha, was crucified and laid in Joseph’s tomb. Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 22-23, John 18-19
Saturday: Jesus was in the tomb on the Sabbath.
Sunday: The rock at the tombs entrance was rolled back. An angel told the women Jesus was alive! Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, John 20
What is Palm Sunday?
Palm Sunday was Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, five days before his death. Many Jewish people were traveling to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover, the annual celebration of the Israelites’ departure from Egypt.
Jesus tells his disciples to take a donkey and her colt they would find tied up in the village ahead.
6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. 8 Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” 10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”
Donkey: Most kings would ride into their kingdom on a horse or chariot, but Jesus chose a humble donkey, not a war horse. He fulfilled the prophesy by Zechariah 9:9 that said the messiah would come on a donkey’s colt. (But Revelation 19 tells us that when Jesus comes back he will be riding a white horse.)
Hosanna: Hosanna means “save us.”
Son of David: They acknowledge Jesus as the messiah God promised David would come from his lineage.
Palms: Palms were symbols of Jewish nationalism. Waving them was a celebration of victory! They were acknowledging him as the messiah who had come to be king.
Did Jesus predict his own death?
Dying a brutal death on the cross was not a surprise to Jesus. He plainly told the disciples on at least three separate occasions in the synoptic gospels he would be killed. And there are many more subtle predictions in our poet John’s book.
Let’s read the first time he predicts his death and resurrection in Matthew 16:21-23. (This was probably in his third year of ministry.):
21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
Jesus told the disciples multiple times that he would be crucified and rise from the dead, but they didn’t understand. Peter even wrongly rebuked him! So in present moment of these events they were devastated by his arrest and death — even surprised by his resurrection.
The Pharisees, however, remembered what he said and told Pilate “’Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’” And for this very reason they wanted the tomb sealed and guarded.
What is Passover?
We read in scriptures that Jesus has gone to Jerusalem every year to celebrate Passover since childhood.
Passover is the annual celebration of God liberating the Hebrew people from their 400-year enslavement in Egypt. The Passover seder (or ceremonial dinner) uses symbolic elements to remind God’s people of his rescue and his faithfulness.
God remembered his covenant with Abraham, and in Exodus directed Moses to tell pharaoh to let the Israelites out of his country. Pharaoh, of course, said no. Ten times. And each denial was followed by a plague: water turning to blood, frogs, lice, flies, livestock pestilence, boils, hail, locusts, darkness … and finally the tenth.
“At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock (Ex 12:29).”
But something saved the Israelites — the blood of the lamb sacrifice God told them to paint with a hyssop branch over their doors. The blood was a symbol of covenant. The blood of the innocent lamb spared them from the angel of death.
God told them to eat the roasted lamb that night and keep this tradition throughout the generations.
As in most ancient covenant traditions, you exchange blood, you eat a meal together, two are becoming one. By the lamb entering their bodies they were entering communion with God. They were making it a part of themselves.
God commanded the Israelites to eat bread without yeast or leaven (Deut. 16) on Passover. It reminds us that the Israelites had to leave Egypt in a hurry, but it also has other symbolism. Yeast and fermentation is associated with corruption. Christ said the bread was his body broken for us. His body was without corruption or sin.
Jesus, our Savior, bread of life and perfect lamb died on Passover, fulfilling completely the old covenant.
Host your own Passover meal
Passover is not a commandment to Christians as it was for Old Testament Jews. It is a free choice to celebrate. As a family we’ve been doing this for a couple years with the Chosen People Ministries resources, which emphasizes Christ’s fulfillment of prophesy during each step. It’s been a remarkable learning experience that brings new richness and life to scripture.
- How to host a Passover Seder dinner
- Download your own Haggadah (script)
- See all the things on the Sedar table (interactive)
Why did Jesus wash the disciples’ feet?
The first communion took place with Jesus and the disciples in a large upper room in Jerusalem — possibly the same room where Jesus appeared to the disciples after his death and where the Holy Spirit came to the disciples on Pentecost. We don’t know who the owner was, but when Jesus sent Peter and John to prepare the room he was expecting them.
John is the only one who tells us about Jesus washing the disciples’ feet before the meal in chapter 13:
12 When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.
In these days people wore sandals and the roads were very dirty and dusty. Feet would have been filthy and needed to be washed, especially as tables were very low. This would be a job only a servant would do. Jesus is the servant king and he is asking that we serve one another as well.
Did Jesus know Judas would betray him?
Undoubtably, yes, Jesus knew Judas would hand him over to the religious leaders. Probably about a year before it took place Jesus said, “Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil?” in John 6:70.
At the Last Supper table, Jesus excuses Judas and tell him to do what he has to do quickly. He knows he has conspired with the chief priests to arrange a quiet arrest.
21 After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” 22 The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke. 23 One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was reclining at table at Jesus’ side,24 so Simon Peter motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. 25 So that disciple, leaning back against Jesus, said to him, “Lord, who is it?” 26 Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it.” So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. 27 Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” 28 Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. 29 Some thought that, because Judas had the moneybag, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor. 30 So, after receiving the morsel of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.
Why did Judas betray Jesus?
Judas is an extreme example to us of those who hear the Word, but do not understand it and do not receive it. His greed and idealism blinded him and opened him to temptation by Satan. Judas didn’t understand the forgiving love of Jesus Christ even after three years of up close and personal teachings.
We see Judas’ greed in John 12 when Lazarus’ sister, Mary, poured perfume on Jesus’ feet and wiped it with her hair:
4 But Judas Iscariot didn’t like what Mary did. He was one of Jesus’ disciples. Later he was going to hand Jesus over to his enemies. Judas said, 5 “Why wasn’t this perfume sold? Why wasn’t the money given to poor people? It was worth a year’s pay.” 6 He didn’t say this because he cared about the poor. He said it because he was a thief. Judas was in charge of the money bag. He used to help himself to what was in it.
(If the stories of women anointing Jesus with perfume and oil are getting confusing — it’s because the gospels give us three different occurrences with three different women.)
So we see he was stealing money. And he was also willing to betray Jesus to the chief priests so they could arrest him quietly for little money — 30 pieces of silver. In fact, 30 pieces of silver was the wage to be paid for an accidental slave’s death in Exodus 21:32.
But it wasn’t just his greed that blinded him, it was also his idealism. Jesus wasn’t the messiah Judas envisioned. He wasn’t stepping up to his throne of power. He wasn’t overturning the Roman occupation. And now he’s going to be killed — willingly. No, this was not Judas’ vision. Maybe he wasn’t the Messiah after all. So Satan tempted him and he accepted. He took the money. He betrayed Jesus in the most heartless way to his enemies.
Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself.
He still did not know the forgiveness and grace of Christ. Even this Jesus could have forgiven. And note here that Judas is saying he betrayed innocent blood — he does not believe Jesus committed a crime — but he does not acknowledge him as the Messiah.
Before we sit in judgement against Judas, we have all betrayed Jesus. We have all tried to put him in a box and rejected him when he didn’t fit inside of it.
Peter also betrayed Jesus. Jesus tells Peter as they leave the upper room the night of the Last Supper that he will deny him three times before the rooster crows. It was as Jesus said and Peter denied him, even saying to “A curse on me if I’m lying—I don’t know the man!” (Matthew 26:74)
The difference is who they thought Jesus was and what they did afterward. Thinking nothing could be done and doubtful Jesus was the Savior, Judas ended it all. Peter instead believed wholeheartedly Jesus is Lord and repented. After his resurrection, our loving Jesus offers the same question to Peter three times to restore him: “Do you love me?” To which Peter answered each time with a resounding yes, you know that I do, Lord! It’s also interesting that Judas consistently calls Jesus “Rabbi” or teacher. Peter, instead, refers to him as “Lord.”
Let’s look at the character of Jesus in all of this. He still loved Judas and kept him in his company even though he knew he would help plot to kill him. He washed his feet. (Would you wash the feet of your enemy?) It’s even possible that Judas sat at the place of honor, which would be on the left side of the host. (We do know John was on the right.) Jesus offered Judas an out — he didn’t have to take the bread — but he chose to carry out his plan and Satan took over from there. Jesus still even calls him “friend” when Judas kisses him (ironically, a greeting of honor) to identify him for the guards (Matthew 26:50).
Judas fulfilled prophey, God knows what we will do, but he gives us the choice. It is ours to make by the free will he gave us. Judas had access to the Messiah, access to the money, access to wisdom, forgiveness and never-ending love — and he chose to betray the Messiah, steal the money, reject the wisdom, reject the forgiveness that Jesus offered, reject the love of the Father. We have the same choices.
What is the Lord’s Supper or communion?
After Judas left the upper room, Jesus gave new meaning to the Passover with the first communion, also called the Lord’s Supper.
The Bible tells us that they were reclining at the table for their special Passover meal, so they were most likely seated on the floor. We know unleavened bread and wine were on the table, but the Bible does not mention what other food was present. We don’t know if lamb was on the table as Jesus was the perfect lamb on this special Passover!
Ancient Passover rituals include drinking four cups of wine. And before you start thinking the group is going to be tipsy by the end, the wine was weaker than it is today, and the cups smaller.
Each cup has meaning:
- Cup of sanctification
- Cup of plagues
- Cup of redemption
- Cup of praise or blessing
Jesus emphasized the third cup during his Passover meal with the disciples as he declared the New Covenant. This was the cup of redemption he was going to fulfill shortly.
22 And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” 23 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. 24 And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. 25 Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”
The cup of redemption is also the cup he was referring to in the garden when he “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matt 26:39).
He fulfilled the first three cups, but the fourth is yet to come. Notice he did not partake in the final cup of praise or blessing. He told the disciples he wouldn’t drink wine again until he is in the new kingdom of God. This is quite possibly during the Supper of Lamb after Christ returns.
When we take communion today, we are practicing ancient traditions of entering a covenant when we observe the Lord’s Supper! We are symbolically intermingling Christ’s blood with our own, sharing a meal together as friends, making him a part of us and us a part of him.
What is the connection between the New Covenant and a marriage proposal?
Let’s look at the Last Supper through the disciples’ eyes. To them it sounded like Jesus was offering a marriage proposal!
An ancient Jewish marriage proposal included:
▪️Groom makes a payment to his potential bride’s father to buy a chance to marry her.
▪️Then the family and relatives would gather and witness the groom pass the bride a cup of wine. He would say, “This is my covenant with you. Will you take and drink it?”
▪️If she accepts, she drinks it and that is essentially saying “I do.”
▪️She was then called “one who was bought with a price.”
▪️The groom would go back to his town and the two didn’t talk during the engagement period except the best man who would relay messages.
▪️The groom spent this time building a mansion. It wasn’t our idea of a mansion though! It was a room built onto his father’s house.
▪️The father decided when the “mansion” was done.
▪️When it was finished the groom and groomsmen would march into the bride’s town. She doesn’t know the day nor the hour. The men blow their horns to announce they have arrived.
Jesus told the disciples:
▪️Drink of the wine, representing my blood shed for you. This is the New Covenant.
▪️We’re not going to see each other or awhile. But the Holy Spirit will relay messages.
▪️You don’t know when I’m coming back, but you are referred to as “one who was bought with a price.”
▪️I’m going to my Father, who has many mansions. I will prepare a place for you.
▪️When the Father says it is time, I will bring my angels and sound the trumpets.
▪️I will bring you home to Heaven for the Marriage Supper of the Lamb!
What happened in the Garden of Gethsemane?
Tradition holds that the Hallel was sang at the end of the Passover meal, which is comprised of Psalms 113 through 118. It is possible Jesus and his disciples sang these words of praise as they walked to the garden.
Jesus warns the disciples that they will be scattered. Peter says he will never fall away (Matthew 26) but Jesus says to him in Luke 22:
31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” 33 Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” 34 Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”
Satan is amping up his game, demanding a second disciple to join his team.
39 And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. 40 And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” 41 And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” 43 And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. 44 And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. 45 And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, 46 and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”
We see in Matthew 26 that Jesus prayed the same prayer three times, aligning his will with God’s.
Why was Jesus troubled in the Garden of Gethsemane?
He said he was troubled to the point of death. Drops of blood dripped from his brow.
His earthly life is coming to an end. He knew his closest friends would betray and desert him. (They couldn’t even stay away with him in his agony.) He knew every detail of pain and mockery he would suffer on that cross. And when you read John 17, his lengthy prayer is his heavy burden for all believers — for our sanctification in truth, that we would unite as one, that God’s glory would be given to us, that we may be with them!
But mostly, he would endure being separated from his beloved Father, absorbing his wrath and judgement meant for humanity. That must have been unimaginable. The whole world rests on his shoulders.
How beautifully Charles Spurgeon describes this moment:
“We believe that now the Father put him to grief for us. It was now that our Lord had to take a certain cup from the Father’s hand. Not from the Jews, not from the traitor Judas, not from the sleeping disciples, not from the devil came the trial now, but it was a cup filled by one whom he knew to be his Father, but who nevertheless he understood to have appointed him a very bitter potion, a cup not to be drunk by his body and to spend its gall upon his flesh, but a cup which specially amazed his soul and troubled his inmost heart.”1
How could Jesus sweat blood?
And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. Luke 22:44
According to the National Library of Medicine, “Hematidrosis is a condition in which capillary blood vessels that feed the sweat glands rupture, causing them to exude blood; it occurs under conditions of extreme physical or emotional stress.”2
I find it interesting that Luke, the doctor, is the only gospel who mentions this detail.
Why did the guards arrest Jesus at night?
Jesus had been teaching in the temple during the day, so why would they need Judas to help them find him? Because they wanted to do it quietly to avoid a riot from the crowds. Judas knew Jesus would be at the Garden of Gethsemane because he often went there with his disciples (John 18:2). Jesus didn’t shrink away or hide, he knew he would be found there.
47 While he was still speaking, there came a crowd, and the man called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He drew near to Jesus to kiss him, 48 but Jesus said to him, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” 49 And when those who were around him saw what would follow, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” 50 And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. 51 But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him. 52 Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders, who had come out against him, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? 53 When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.”
Jesus has been handed over to his enemy in the darkness of night. Next time we’ll learn about who killed Jesus and why. We’ll study his last words and the supernatural events that took place while he was on the cross.