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Holy Week is the name given to the last week of Jesus' life, when Jesus was arrested, crucified and rose again from the dead.


Jesus and his disciples had come to Jerusalem for the Passover. This was the most important of the three annual Jewish pilgrimage festivals. By the time of Jesus, the exodus of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt had been celebrated for over a thousand years.

Jerusalem normally had around 40,000 inhabitants, but at Passover, as many as 300,000 pilgrims filled the city.

Find out more about Passover by clicking here.


Jesus rode down from the Mount of Olives into the city on a donkey. This was a deliberate choice; donkeys were ridden by royalty in times of peace, whereas horses were associated with war, and thus it could be seen as a protest against the Roman rule of violence. It was also a symbolic act to fulfil an Old Testament prophesy by the prophet Zechariah.

Palm branches were a traditional way of welcoming heroes and returning armies, rather like a red carpet is used today for important people.

Read a story from another point of view on our Palm Sunday page.


Jesus and his disciples were staying with their friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus, who had a house in Bethany – a village about 2 miles outside Jerusalem.

Jesus went to visit the temple in Jerusalem. The temple courtyards had been turned into a marketplace, with people buying and selling, changing money, and haggling over the price of cattle. In a fury, Jesus threw over the tables of the money-changers and drove out the traders with their oxen and sheep. "The house of God is a house of prayer," he thundered, "but you have turned it into a den of thieves!"


Jesus returned to Jerusalem with his disciples and to begin to teaching in the temple. The chief priests and teachers of the law were waiting for him. They asked Jesus who had given him permission to teach there, but he replied with a question that they could not answer. They began looking for an excuse to arrest him, but did not dare move against him in front of the crowd for fear of a riot.


At the house in Bethany, Mary came to Jesus with a jar of precious ointment. Breaking the jar, she gently rubbed his feet with it, wiping them clean with her hair, so that the house was filled with its sweet perfume. Judas Iscariot was shocked that Mary had used something so expensive - equivalent to about a year's wage to a labourer - but Jesus said, "Leave her alone. She has done a beautiful thing for me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. By anointing me with this perfume, she is preparing me for the day of my burial. What she has done will always be remembered."

Meanwhile the priests, scribes and elders, who were members of the Jewish council, met at the house of Caiaphas, the high priest to discuss what they could do about Jesus. Their problem was solved when Judas went to them in secret and offered to betray him for thirty pieces of silver. From then on, Judas never left Jesus' side, looking for an opportunity to hand him over to the Jewish council. For this reason the day is sometimes known as Spy Wednesday.


Jesus made plans for the Passover meal, now known as the Last Supper. He told Peter and John to go into Jerusalem, where they would see a man carrying a jar of water. They were to follow the man and ask the owner of the house to show them the room where the Teacher could celebrate Passover with his disciples. Peter and John did as Jesus asked, and when everything was ready, Jesus arrived and went into the room upstairs. Putting a towel around his waist, he began to wash the feet of the disciples, as an example that all of them were equal.

Jesus knew that it would be his last meal, and that he would soon be betrayed, arrested, condemned and executed. He blessed the bread and broke it, saying to them, "Take this and eat it, for it is my body." Then he blessed the wine and passed round his cup, saying, "Drink this, for this is my blood." In doing this he gave the bread and wine a new symbolic meaning. The Jesus looked at each man in turn, his eyes full of sorrow. "One of you sitting here will betray me." They were all horrified, wondering which of them it could be. Jesus answered, "The one to whom I give this bread." Then he took a piece of bread, dipped it into the dish in front of him, and gave it to Judas. "Do whatever you have to do," he told him, "but do it quickly." Judas got up from the table and hurried out into the night.

You can find out people do today on our Maundy Thursday page.

After supper, Jesus and his disciples walked to a garden called Gethsamane. His heart was full of sadness. He asked his disciples to keep watch while he prayed, but when he returned, they were asleep. "Could you not keep awake for just one hour?" he asked them, "Please keep watch while I pray". Again he went away to pray and again the disciples fell asleep, for their eyes were heavy. A third time this happened, then Jesus said, "No matter: the hour is come. The traitor is here."

As he spoke, Judas arrived, followed by a large number of men sent by the high priest, all armed with clubs and swords, and carrying burning torches. Judas went up to Jesus and kissed him on the cheek: this was the pre-arranged signal. Immediately two men seized Jesus and held him tightly. Peter drew his sword and cut off the ear of one of the guards. Jesus rebuked Peter, telling him to put away his sword. He touched the ear of the soldier and at once it was whole again. Then Jesus was led away to the house of Caiaphas. The time was around 11.30 pm.


Shortly after 3am Jesus was brought before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin. Determined to find him guilty, they had bribed witnesses to lie about Jesus, but nobody could produce convincing evidence against him. Eventually, two men came forward who had heard Jesus say he could destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days.

“What do you say to this?” demanded Caiaphas. Jesus remained silent. Caiaphas spoke again. “Are you the Son of God?”

“I am,” Jesus quietly replied.

“Then we need no more evidence!” Caiaphas shouted in triumph. “No man can be the Son of God, and the punishment for blasphemy is death!” At this, the members of the council crowded round Jesus, jeering and spitting in his face. Bound and blindfolded, he was taken to Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor of Judea.

Earlier Jesus had told Peter that he would disown him three times before the night was over, but Peter denied that this could ever happen. Jesus was now under arrest and being interrogated by Caiaphas. Peter followed at a safe distance, but was recognised by a servant. "Were you not with Jesus of Galilee?" she asked. "No, I don't know him," Peter quickly replied.

A second girl approached him, saying to her companion, "This is one of the men who was with Jesus of Nazareth." "I know no-one of that name," answered Peter, backing away. By now several people had gathered round and were looking at him curiously. "Surely you are one of the disciples?" asked one, "You speak with a Galilean accent." Peter turned on them angrily. "Have I not told you? I do not even know the man you are talking about!"

At these words, a cock crowed and Peter, suddenly remembering Jesus' words, walked out of the courtroom and wept.

At around 6 am, Jesus was brought before Pilate. “Are you the king of the Jews?” he asked.

“It is as you say,” replied Jesus.

Then Jesus was silent, much to Pilate’s amazement, as this was an act of defiance in the presence of a Roman authority. However, he could find no fault with Jesus, and thought the council had brought Jesus to him, as they were either jealous or scared.

It was the custom to release a prisoner at Passover. Pilate went out and asked the crowd who had gathered, “Who shall I free, Barabbas the murderer, or Jesus?” He thought, given this choice, that the people would free Jesus. But the chief priests and councillors, determined that Jesus would die, persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas. “Then what shall I do with Jesus?” he asked the crowd.

“Crucify him!” came the cry.

“Why? What crime has he committed?”

But the crowd shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”

Pilate could not believe what he was hearing. He asked for a bowl of water and publicly washed his hands, indicating that he wanted no part in Jesus’ death. He gave the order for Barabbas to be released, and had Jesus flogged before handing him over to the guard.

As Jesus was led away to be crucified, he was met by Simon of Cyrene. At once the guards seized Simon and forced him to help carry the cross. When they reached Calvary, one of the soldiers offered Jesus a drink of wine mixed with myrrh, but he turned away his head. Then they raised him on the cross, placing above him the mocking inscription, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” The time was about 9.00 am.

The guards drew lots for his clothing before sitting down to keep watch. As people passed by the cross, they taunted Jesus. “If you are the son of God, why don’t you save yourself?” they jeered. Then Jesus said, “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

Two were robbers were also crucified, one on either side of Jesus. One of the criminals insulted Jesus, but the other defended him. Jesus said to this man, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” At noon, everything became dark, a darkness which lasted until 3 o’clock in the afternoon. Then Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Hearing the cry, one of the men ran to fetch a sponge soaked in vinegar, which he put on a pole and held up to Jesus’ lips. Jesus cried, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit,” and his head fell lifeless onto his chest. At that moment, the curtain in the Temple was ripped from top to bottom, and a tremor was felt in the depths of the earth. One of the centurions who had been keeping watch said, “Truly, this man was the son of God.” Many people began to feel afraid.

That evening, a rich man from Arimathea arrived. He was a member of the Jewish council, but also one of Jesus’ followers. He had come to ask Pilate if he could take down Jesus’ body from the cross. Pilate gave his permission, so Joseph, helped by a man called Nicodemus, anointed Jesus’ body with myrrh and aloes, wrapped him in a clean linen cloth, and laid him in a tomb cut into the rock.

You can find out what people do today on our Good Friday page.


Saturday was the Sabbath, a day set aside for rest and made holy by God. Observation and remembrance of the Sabbath was one of the Ten Commandments given to Moses. Jesus’ followers probably spent the day in quiet mourning. Holy Saturday marks the end of Lent.


Very early in the morning, when it was still dark, Mary Magdalene arrived at the tomb. To her astonishment, the great stone covering the entrance had been rolled away. Jesus’ body had gone. She ran to find Peter and John. “They have taken the Lord from the tomb,” she told them.

The two men hurried to the tomb. When they looked inside, they saw the burial cloth lying on the ground. Wondering what had happened, they returned home. Mary stayed by the tomb, weeping. She looked up to see two angels sitting where the body of Jesus had been. “Why are you weeping?” they asked.

“Because they have taken away my Lord,” she answered. As she spoke, she turned around and saw a man standing beside her. It was Jesus, although Mary did not recognise him. “Why are you weeping?” he asked. Thinking he was the gardener, she asked him if he knew where the body had been taken. “Mary, it is I!”

“My Lord!” she cried, her face full of joy.

“Go now,” he told her. “Tell my friends that you have seen me and that soon I will be with my Father in heaven.” Mary ran back to tell the disciples the good news that Jesus was alive.

Click here to go back to our Easter pages.

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