In 1896, a German Biblical scholar named Martin Kahler suggested “one could call the Gospels passion narratives with extended introductions.” This week the church remembers and celebrates those passion narratives. During Holy Week (the week that stretches from Palm Sunday through Easter) Christians give their attention to the events of Jesus’ final days on earth, his entry into Jerusalem, his trial, his crucifixion, his burial, and his resurrection after three days. The events of Jesus’ passion are familiar. But there is a danger in assuming that because we know the story in broad brushstrokes, we can’t benefit from closer attention to its details. This week, why not reserve a few minutes to read again the passion narrative, as a way to better understand Jesus’ life and death?
We’ve curated several resources to help you see Jesus’ passion as a coherent whole, rather than as discrete and unrelated events. One resource is the Holy Week Timeline put together by BibleGateway.com (PDF) that uses different colored lines to show the activity of various central characters during Holy Week events.
Another resource presents Passion Week in a chart form that facilitates reading the various Biblical accounts together as a coherent whole.
A final useful resource is the Jesus Story Book Bible which summarizes the key events of Jesus’ final week in lilting prose accompanied by vivid pictures. We’ve recommended the Jesus Story Book Bible before, but it remains a great resource for helping younger children get the meaning of Easter.
Whatever resource you use to engage the passion narrative of Jesus this week, please devote some time to reflecting on Jesus’ final week of ministry. We shouldn’t let other events on the calendar (be they springtime festivals, basketball tournaments, or family gatherings) crowd out our practice of Easter week.
Taking time to trace Jesus’ final days will lead to greater wonder at his resurrection on Easter morning. You will have cause for great joy. As the contemporary British theologian N.T. Wright says, “We shouldn’t allow the secular world with its schedules and habits and parareligious events, its cute Easter bunnies, to blow us off course. This is our greatest day. We should put the flags out.” (Surprised by Hope, p. 257)