Holy Week Reflections to Rekindle Our Passion for Christ
By Annette Griffin, Crosswalk.com
Holy Week is a seven-day commemoration of our Savior’s life, death, and resurrection. When we purposefully remember those days leading to the empty tomb, we relive the journey that led to our freedom. More importantly, Holy Week reflections allow us to marvel afresh at the person of Christ—the fullness of His deity and the depth of His humanity.
Every step Jesus took toward the cross was taken out of love for the Father and love for us. As we walk that path with Him, our love for Him can’t help but reignite from the spark of His passion.
“Oh, gaze upon that scene! Look into that lovely face; look at that blood trickling down from his side. And will you turn away and say: ‘I do not care for him; I see no beauty in him; he is a root out of the dry ground?’ Is your heart so hard that you see no beauty in him? I beg you tonight to gaze upon him and look into his face. Hark! He speaks. While the crowds are mocking, He speaks. What does He say? Like the prophets of the old days, he could have called down fire from Heaven and consumed them. Does he call down legions of angels to beat back that crowd? No. He says, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!” Hear his piercing cry of love: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!” Then he said, “I thirst.” And they refused him a draught of water; but they gave him gall, mixed with vinegar. When he found men athirst down here, he gave them living water. At last, he cries again, “It is finished!” —D.L. Moody, The Gospel Awakening
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Reflections for Palm Sunday
Scripture Reading: Matthew 21:8-11; Mark 11:8-10; Luke 19:36-38; John 12:12-13
Holy week begins with a day of foreboding celebration. As thousands swarm to Jerusalem for the Passover, the stories of Jesus’s miracles, especially Lazarus’s resurrection, are on every lip. The masses yearn to see Jesus in person, hoping He might be their long-awaited Messiah. But the chief priests and Pharisees give strict orders that anyone who finds Jesus should report His whereabouts immediately so they can arrest him (John 11:56-57).
When Jesus finally enters the busy city, riding on a young donkey, the crowd erupts in praise. They spread their cloaks and palm branches on the road and shout, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the king of Israel! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
The shouts of praise infuriate the Pharisees, who are determined to catch and kill Jesus. They command that His boisterous admirers be reprimanded for their “blasphemy.” But Jesus informs the wicked religious leaders that the “stones would cry out” in praise if He silenced the crowd (Luke 19:39-40). In frustrated disdain, the Pharisees say to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!” (John 12:19)
While the “whole world” does go after Christ that fateful Palm Sunday, our servant King knows the truth about His fans. Jesus humbly rides into the crowd’s rapturous presence and accepts their accolades, knowing that their cheers of “Hosanna” will soon turn into spiteful cries of “Crucify Him!”
Ride on, ride on in majesty!
Hark, all the tribes hosanna cry,
thy humble beast pursues his road
with palms and scattered garments strowed.
Ride on, ride on in majesty!
In lowly pomp ride on to die,
O Christ thy triumph now begin
o’er captive death and conquered sin.
Henry Hart Milman, 1827.
“When a king comes, something great and magnificent is expected, especially when he comes to take possession of his kingdom. The King, the Lord of hosts, was seen upon a throne, high and lifted up (Isa 6:1); but there is nothing of that here; Behold, he cometh to thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass. When Christ would appear in his glory, it is in his meekness, not in his majesty. His temper is very mild. He comes not in wrath to take vengeance, but in mercy to work salvation. He is meek to suffer the greatest injuries and indignities for Sion’s cause, meek to bear with the follies and unkindness of Sion’s own children. He is easy of access, easy to be entreated. He is meek not only as a Teacher, but as a Ruler; he rules by love. His government is mild and gentle, and his laws not written in the blood of his subjects, but in his own. His yoke is easy.” — Matthew Henry
“When Christ entered into Jerusalem the people spread garments in the way: when He enters into our hearts, we pull off our own righteousness, and not only lay it under Christ’s feet but even trample upon it ourselves.”—Augustus Toplady
Palm Sunday Prayer: “Lord, I would remember that he who was the brightness of his Father’s glory abased himself, and led a life of trial and reproach, and suffered a death of cruelty and shame. O God, make me a follower of him who was thus meek and lowly. Lo, the angels of heaven veil their faces before thee, in expressive token of inferiority and unworthiness. How much more should 1 humble myself in thy holy presence.” Albert Barnes, A Manual of Prayer
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Reflections for Holy Monday
Scripture Reading: Mark 11:15-19; Luke 19:45-48; John 2:12-25
When Monday comes, all the palm fronds have been trampled by Jerusalem’s visitors. Jesus and His disciples return to the city from their overnight stay in Bethany. On their way, Jesus notices a peculiar fig tree, full of leaves out of season. Upon further inspection, He finds that the leaf-covered tree is masquerading as healthy yet has yielded no figs. Jesus curses the tree—and it withers from the roots, never to bear fruit again.
While in Jerusalem, Jesus takes the opportunity to stop another masquerade. Like the fig tree, the bustling temple courts were full of religious shows and no fruit. “Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’” (Matthew 21:12)
The parallel between “fruit” and prayer becomes more evident when Jesus addresses the disciple’s bewilderment over the dried-up fig tree. “Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” (Matthew 21:21-22)
On this Holy Monday, let us draw near to God in prayer—in remembrance of His great sacrifice, in awe of His loving kindness, and reclaim the power, fruit, and faith of a little child again.
“The power of the promise, ‘Ask, and it shall be given you,’ lies in the loving relationship between us as children and the Father in heaven; when we live and walk in that relationship, the prayer of faith and its answer will be the natural result. And so the lesson we have today in the school of prayer is this: Live as a child of God, then you will be able to pray as a child, and as a child you will most assuredly be heard.” —Andrew Murray, With Christ in the School of Prayer
Upon the Barren Fig Tree in God’s Vineyard
What, barren here! In this so good a soil?
The sight of this doth make God’s heart recoil
From giving thee his blessing; barren tree,
Bear fruit, or else thine end will cursed be!
Art thou not planted by the water-side?
Know’st not thy Lord by fruit is glorified?
The sentence is, Cut down the barren tree:
Bear fruit, or else thine end will cursed be.
Hast thou been digg’d about and dunged too,
Will neither patience nor yet dressing do?
The executioner is come, O tree,
Bear fruit, or else thine end will cursed be!
Holy Monday Prayer: “Today, as I think about your frustration over the fig tree that didn’t bear fruit, I ask you to forgive me for the times I’ve failed to live up to my potential. As I ponder your righteous anger at the money changers you cast out of the temple, I ask your forgiveness for when I’ve sinned against you. Please empower me to overcome temptations to sin. Thank you for serving as my advocate. Teach me to care about what matters to you. Give me the courage I need to boldly stand up for what’s right and work for justice to be done in the world. Amen.” (Excerpted from "8 Holy Week Prayers to Lead Us into Easter" by Whitney Hopler)
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Reflections for Holy Tuesday
Scripture Readings: Matthew 23; Luke 11:37-54; Luke 13:31-35
The Pharisees’ wrath against Jesus had reached a volatile peak by Tuesday. Determined to enact their vengeance upon our Lord, they set out to entrap Him no matter the means. Even though these religious leaders typically opposed the Roman government and the Sadducees, their hatred for Jesus compelled them to join forces with their enemies to rid themselves of the man who had exposed their folly to the world.
“The priests set four traps for Jesus, the first questioning His authority, to which He answered with a question and then taught three parables: The Parable of the Two Sons, The Parable of the Tenants, and The Parable of the Wedding Banquet. The second trap challenged Jesus’ allegiance, the third trap attempted to ridicule Jesus’ belief in resurrection, and the fourth Jesus answered by claiming God’s greatest command to be ‘Love.’… Jesus answers all their subversive questions with such candid truth that the Pharisees’ attempt to ensnare Him backfires. Instead of condemning Christ with their schemes, they suffer the full weight of condemnation as Jesus pronounces a list of woes upon the hypocritical “brood of vipers.” —Andreas Kostenberger and Justin Taylor, The Escalating Conflict
After this explosive encounter with the religious leaders, Jesus weeps over Israel’s fate. How painful it must have been for our Lord that Holy Tuesday, knowing that His people were unprepared for the trouble they were accruing for themselves through unbelief (Zechariah 12:10-11). On their way back to Bethany, Jesus stops at the Mount of Olives and talks with His disciples about the upcoming trials they’ll face.
“We, in our day, are ready to excuse ourselves for our slowness to believe in the Lord Jesus by saying, “How much easier it would have been, had we seen Him in the flesh, and been with Him when He wrought His gracious works, and when He spoke His gracious words that were such as never man spake!” Now, in reality, they who then lived had by far the greater difficulties in the way of their faith. One whom no man honoured claims this service,—” Follow me.” One whom man despiseth says, “I and the Father are one.” That rejected one, the bye-word among the people, the song of the drunkard, stands in the temple and cries, “If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink!” and promises, “He that believeth in Me, out of him shall flow rivers of living water!” —Andrew Alexander Bonar, Gospel Truths
Holy Tuesday Prayer: “Keep me, O God, from hypocrisy towards my fellow creatures. Restrain me from desiring or attempting to make any deceptive impression on them. Let no guile be found in my tongue, nor affectation of righteousness in my walk. Let me not outwardly appear righteous to men, while within I am full of hypocrisy and iniquity. Keep me from a double mind and flattering lips, and from all disposition to make or love a lie. Let not thy heart be set on the applause or patronage of men; but on the favour of God, and on that final plaudit: “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” Albert Barnes, A Manual of Prayer
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Reflections for Holy Wednesday
Scripture Readings: Mark 14:3-11; Luke 7:36-50; John 12:1-8
The Wednesday before Jesus’s crucifixion, Jesus spends time in Bethany. As He eats supper with his faithful followers, a woman named Mary approaches Jesus and anoints his head and feet with spikenard, a costly oil.
The disciples are shocked and indignant about Mary’s extravagant gesture and ask why the expensive perfume was not sold to help the poor. As the group’s treasurer, Judas Iscariot was livid over the act because of his own greed. From that moment on, Judas purposes in his heart to betray Jesus; later, he goes to the chief priests to secure Jesus’s arrest.
But Jesus rebukes those who are grumbling and complaining about her costly gift: “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful deed to Me. The poor you will always have with you but you will not always have Me. By pouring this perfume on Me, she has prepared My body for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached in all the world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.” (Matthew 26:10-13)
“It’s hard to imagine a greater contrast between these two sinners: Judas Iscariot and Mary Magdalene. While Mary wept for her sins, and then lavished Jesus with her love, Judas complained of her extravagance, and then went to betray his Lord. Ere, for the first time we are given a glimpse into the dark abyss of Judas’s heart. The Lord’s repeated references to his suffering had gradually made it clear to Judas that this Jesus would not establish the dreamed-of messianic kingdom in worldly glory, that following him would not lead to the expected riches and honors. He walked beside his Master, brooding in silence, while within him the love of money grew to thieving avarice, and under the reproachful looks and words of the Lord, his selfishness hardened into hatred of Christ. It is true, he still wore the mask of discipleship, but he was incapable of understanding the love that urged Mary. Yet he felt judged in his heart for his stone-hard egotism by her act of dedication, and the poison of his malice burst forth.” —Johann Ernst von Holst, The Crucified Is My Love
Holy Wednesday Prayer:
We tremble to think
That it was one of Jesus’ own friends who betrayed him.
One who sat by him, who broke bread with him.
Give us strength, we pray,
To walk faithfully with Jesus,
Even when the road we walk is rocky
Even when the message of the cross seems like foolishness
And even when we feel betrayed.
You, Lord, are always faithful.
We stumble, we become lost,
But you are steady and sure.
Give us the grace to endure our troubles,
And reveal to us the glory of your kingdom,
Through your son, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
(Excerpted from "8 Prayers to Pray Each Day of Holy Week" by Maria Miriam)
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Reflections for Maundy Thursday
Scripture Readings: Matthew 26:20-30; Mark 14:17-26; Luke 22:14-23; 1 Corinthians 11:17-34
On Thursday evening, Jesus and His disciples recline at a table together to celebrate the Passover meal. As Jesus pours the wine and breaks the bread, He knows this will be the last supper He will share with His friends before the crucifixion. The meal becomes a sacred display of Christ’s atoning death—and an example to Believers, in every age, of how to commemorate His matchless sacrifice.
“While they were eating, Jesus took bread, spoke a blessing and broke it, and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take it; this is My body. Then He took the cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, “This is My blood of the covenant which is poured out for many. Truly I tell you, I will no longer drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God.” (Mark 14:23-25)
Jesus washes His disciples’ feet during their meal and gives them a new mandate to “love one another.” The word “maundy” comes from the Latin word mandatum, which means command, which is why Christians today call it Maundy Thursday.
Immediately following The Last Supper, Jesus takes His disciples into a grove of ancient olive trees called the Garden of Gethsemane. He separates Himself, Peter, James, and John from the group and asks the three disciples to watch and pray with Him. (Matthew 26:41)
Twice, Jesus awakens His inner circle and reminds them to pray. Not able to keep their eyes open, the three men fail our Lord when He needs them most. Filled with anguish and sorrow, Jesus moves away from the men and cries out to God. “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:36) Knowing the depth of our sin and our complete unworthiness, Jesus chooses to give Himself to the Father’s will out of selfless love for us.
There, in the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus recommits to His loving mission—Judas completes His traitorous mission. For the price of a slave, 30 pieces of silver, the wicked disciple leads the authorities to Jesus’s place of prayer and betrays Him with a kiss.
Here is the source of every sacrament,
The all-transforming presence of the Lord,
Replenishing our every element
Remaking us in his creative Word.
For here the earth herself gives bread and wine,
The air delights to bear his Spirit’s speech,
The fire dances where the candles shine,
The waters cleanse us with His gentle touch.
And here He shows the full extent of love
To us whose love is always incomplete,
In vain, we search the heavens high above,
The God of love is kneeling at our feet.
Though we betray Him, though it is the night.
He meets us here and loves us into light.
Malcolm Guite, Maundy Thursday
Maundy Thursday Prayer: “O Thou who art the Father of that Son which hast awakened us, and yet urgest us out of the sleep of our sins, and exhortest us that we become Thine, to Thee, Lord, we pray, who art the supreme truth, for all truth that is, is from Thee.” —Alfred the Great
Photo Credit: Leonardo Da Vinci
Reflections for Good Friday
Matthew 26:14-27:66; Mark 14:12-15:47; Luke 22-23; John 18-19
After Judas betrays our Savior in the garden, Jesus begins a pre-ordained journey of sorrow that leads Him to Calvary. Terrified, His disciples scatter. Jesus faces a brutal and unfair trial alone. The mocking crowds condemn Him to death and let a convicted murderer go free in His place. Jesus is beaten, tortured, stripped naked, and given a crown of thorns. All for us.
Jesus’s blood drains slowly from His body all the way to Calvary (Luke 22:44, Matthew 27:26-29). There, He is nailed to a cross and pours Himself out completely, as a love offering for humanity.
“Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds, we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:4-5)
By all worldly standards, the Friday before Jesus’s resurrection should be called anything but Good Friday. However, as D. A. Carson observes, “It was not nails that held Jesus to that wretched cross; it was his unqualified resolution, out of love for his Father, to do his Father’s will—and it was his love for sinners like me. It is a good day because he traded places for you and for me. It is a good day because it was the day he conquered sin and death so that we will never be apart from God on this side of heaven or the other.”
Immediately following Jesus’s death, darkness overtakes the land, the earth shakes, and the temple curtain is torn from top to bottom. When they remove Jesus’s mutilated body from the cross, they place it in a borrowed tomb, seal it with a large stone, and station guards at the entrance.
“The body in Joseph’s new tomb appears to signify the end of everything for Christ and His disciples. The limp form of a newly dead believer suggests everlasting defeat. Yet how wrong are all these appearances. The tree will bloom again.” —A.W. Tozer, This World: Battlefield or Playground?
With Christ’s final words, “it is finished,” and His final breath, Jesus completed the last sacrifice ever required for sin. He fulfilled all the Old Testament prophecies, symbols, and shadows about Himself. No longer would sin create a wall between God and us (Hebrews 10:19-22). The finished work of Jesus removed every barrier between God and us. We can now come boldly to the throne of grace to receive God’s mercy through Him.
Good Friday Prayer: “Thank you, God, for sending the gift of your Son to earth to bear the weight of my sin and shame. I thank you for setting me free from my sin and for inviting me to be a part of your heavenly family. I am humbled by your amazing grace, by the blood you shed, and by your love that is so much greater than I would be able to fully comprehend.” (Excerpted by "A Beautiful Good Friday Prayer to Celebrate God’s Goodness and Grace" by Amanda Idleman)
Reflections for Holy Saturday
Scripture Readings: Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, and John 19, Romans 14:5, Colossians 2:16-17
As Jesus’s lifeless, linen-wrapped body lay in the dark tomb on Holy Saturday, it (along with Jesus’s disciples and all of Israel) observed a day of Sabbath rest (Luke 23:55-56).
“When Jesus died, the hope of his followers was also on the verge of death. From their perspective, the one who they followed and believed in had died like a common thief. Yet when it seemed nothing was happening, things were happening, things had happened.”— (Excerpted from "The Crucifixion, the Creation, and the Meaning of Sabbath Rest" by Jason Soroski)
Little did Israel know during this seemingly silent Saturday rest—the laws and regulations they had laboriously observed for thousands of years had finally been fulfilled. Jesus’s death on the cross had completed, once and for all, the “work” required to obtain a right standing between Holy God and sinful man. Jesus is our Sabbath rest (Hebrews 10:12).
No longer are we required to toil and strive with the law and offer bloody sacrifices for forgiveness when we fall short of the law. All who believe in Jesus can rest in His provision for salvation because He became a perfect sin offering for our redemption.
“By his death, he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” (Hebrews 2:14-15)
“Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. For we also have had the good news proclaimed to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because they did not share the faith of those who obeyed. Now we who have believed enter that rest…” (Hebrews 4:1-7)
Holy Saturday is a day we can lean into the rest Jesus provided through His death on the cross.
From Thy perfect work didst rest,
By the souls that own Thy sway,
Hallow’d be its hours, and blest;
Cares of earth aside be thrown,
This day given to heaven alone!
Saviour! who this day didst break
The dark prison of the tomb;
Bid my slumbering soul awake,
Shine through all its sin and gloom:
Let me, from my bonds set free,
Rise from sin, and live to Thee!
(Excerpt from Hymns from the Sabbath)
Holy Saturday Prayer: “Father, we recognize the significance of Holy Saturday for the Easter season. It is not merely a day between Good Friday and Easter, but it is a day to observe in consecration of what You did for us. We leave our own agendas, our own desires, and our own pleas at the door and crave today to be still and rest in Your presence. We are so grateful for the ability to quiet our hearts and stand in Your presence, we want to come to know Your heart more this day. Thank You for sending Your Son, Jesus to die for us, and thank You that You kept Your promise that Easter Sunday. Let us not be so hurried in our own lives that we forget the glory that You brought forth that day. In Jesus’s name, Amen.” (Excerpted from "What is Holy Saturday and Why is it Significant?" by Cally Logan)
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Reflections for Easter Sunday
Scripture Readings: Matthew 28:2-7; Mark 16:4-7; Luke 24:2-7
The Sunday morning after His death, the women who dearly loved Jesus take burial spices to the empty tomb. Heavy laden with grief, the women are terrified and astonished to discover the tomb open, the guards gone, and Jesus’s body missing. Suddenly, two angels appear and ask, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!” (Luke 24:5)
Per the angels’ instructions, the women hurry away to inform the others. Imagine their delight when the resurrected Lord appears in their midst. “‘Greetings,’ he said. They came to him, clasped his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there, they will see me.” (Matthew 28:7)
The women immediately obey Jesus, but when they attempt to tell the disciples the good news, their flustered words seem nonsense to the men, so Peter and John run for the tomb to see for themselves.
“Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. Finally, the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed.” (John 4:3-8)
Their beloved Jesus—our beloved Jesus—had risen, just as He’d said! And because He is alive forevermore, we who Believe in Him will live forevermore. Is there any greater cause for celebration in all history?
“Let every man and woman count himself immortal. Let him catch the revelation of Jesus in his resurrection. Let him say not merely, ‘Christ has risen,’ but ‘I shall rise.’” —Philip Brooks, Intimations of Immortality
“The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the undeniable centering point of Christianity, the defining doctrine of our faith, and the most audacious claim in the world’s history of the world: a God-Man, sent from heaven, crucified in the most public way, dead and buried in a rich man’s tomb, which sepulcher was sealed with inscrutable security by the mighty military powers of the Roman Empire, and then—a dead man who called Himself Almighty God—lives. The corporal person of Jesus of Nazareth exists today. He is not buried. He lives in a resurrected physique. And even more astounding: because He lives, all who die with faith in Him will also rise body joined to the soul.” (Excerpted from "The Resurrection of Jesus" by Dr. Michael A. Milton)
This Resurrection Sunday, let’s celebrate Christ’s work on the cross not just with the fruit of our lips but with the fruit of our Spirit-filled lives.
Resurrection Sunday Prayer: “Lord God, You loved this world so much, that you gave your one and only Son, that we might be called your children too. Lord, help us to live in the gladness and grace of Easter Sunday, every day. Let us have hearts of thankfulness for your sacrifice. Let us have eyes that look upon your grace and rejoice in our salvation. Help us to walk in that mighty grace and tell your good news to the world. All for your glory do we pray, Lord, Amen.” (Excerpted from "8 Prayers to Pray Each Day of Holy Week" by Maria Miriam)
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