HOLY WEEK PLAN
SAVIOR & KING
Jesus came to be the outpouring of God's love and grace to humanity. As Savior, He walked among our mess and pain. He endured the highs and lows of life on earth so that, from the inside out, the fall of humanity might be broken. Yet, He is also King of all—holy, mighty, and just. His Kingdom is a kingdom of eternal life; He rules with kindness and truth. We are invited to belong in this everlasting reign, carrying the hope of God’s grace throughout all the earth.
For the next seven days, we will be reading through portions of the Gospels, reflecting on what we can learn about following Jesus. Let’s join together as a church to study and honor Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Day One: The Heart of Jesus
Scripture: Matthew 21:1-17
In this passage, we can see Jesus’ heart. It’s kind. It’s humble. He is gracious to people who make a big deal out of Him and sensitive to the needs of those around Him. Most of all, His heart is in tune with the Father.
Everything about Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem and His anger in the temple courts comes down to His love for the Father’s heart. His life is about God’s will, never gaining glory or recognition for Himself. He likely only accepted recognition when He entered Jerusalem because the time to carry the cross and fulfill God’s promise was near. As Jesus enters the city near the time of Passover, He knows it is time to reveal who He is so the people could understand the sacrifice He would become for them.
Sacrifice is meant to be personal and truly cost something. As Jesus enters the temple in Jerusalem, He sees that this holy place had become a market—reduced to an exchange and barter system, rather than a place of prayer as the Lord intended. No wonder Jesus’ heart burns with anger when He sees this! People had cheapened this intimate and costly ritual down to a quick fix, as if it were any other day at the market.
Though we don’t have to offer animal sacrifices in ritual anymore, we should never take for granted the high cost of our salvation. We are incredibly fortunate to be able to worship freely, but our church’s prayer is that we never use that freedom as an excuse for apathy in our approach to the Lord’s presence. Christ laid everything on the line to give us the opportunity for redemption, so we should come with our hearts open, offering up all we have to His grace and for His glory. This isn’t a flash sale kind of faith we have. Our faith is a life-long and eternal covenant.
Find a quiet space where you won’t be interrupted for prayer so you can really soak in the moment with God. Open your time with Him in this way:
Father, thank You for faithfully being here anytime I pray. Forgive me when I’ve tried to rush my time with You or treated it as a task rather than a treasure. There’s no better place to be than in Your grace and presence, so I bring my heart back to You today. You have my full attention.
Day Two: Whole-Hearted Love
Scripture: Matthew 25:31-26:16
We can learn a lot about our hearts and deepest-held values by how we respond to confrontation. The message Jesus is teaching about who would be recognized by God and enter heaven packs a heavy punch. The religious leaders are offended by this message. They were working around the clock to follow the law, trying to maintain righteousness through their own efforts. But Jesus makes it clear that there was more to knowing God than rule following—knowing God requires the full engagement of our hearts. The beauty of this message is that it offers clear direction in how to follow the Lord!
The religious leaders are threatened by Jesus’ teaching and afraid of losing their societal standing. It’s evident their hearts aren’t fully surrendered to God by how hard they strive to maintain security through keeping His law. But Christ makes it clear that they need more of God. When we really understand God’s heart, His love overflows to every facet of our lives. Yet, rather than leaning in closer to the Father to have their fears removed, the religious leaders lash out and begin devising plans to have Jesus taken out of their well-constructed picture.
In direct contrast to the religious leaders, we meet a woman who brings a precious gift to anoint Jesus. She recognizes the Son of God and her need for forgiveness. So she embraces the freedom that grace gives her to bring honor to Jesus. She brings a costly gift to carefully wash her Savior’s feet and head. Her humble yet extravagant gift shows us a lot about her heart.
At New Life, we were recently in a sermon series called Real Change. We studied the difference between the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Check out Genesis 1-5 for a refresher.) From where you choose to feed your thoughts and heart will determine how you respond to situations. The religious leaders stay focused on their own understanding and abilities. This dictates their response of hatefulness towards Jesus, and shows us they are living out of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. On the other hand, the woman who anoints Jesus realized the gift of forgiveness she had received from Christ. Rather than taking offense because He recognizes her sin, she accepts the grace they both know she needs. She chooses to live from the tree of life, taking hold of grace and the life of freedom it offers.
When we live from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, we live from a place of reliance on our own understanding and ability. But when we live from the tree of life, we’re able to live wholeheartedly from the love of God.
Take a few minutes to ask God to search your heart (Psalm 139:23-24). Is there any part of you that believes you have to secure your salvation apart from Jesus, or is closed off to God in some way? Bring your heart to the Lord and ask Him to show you truth in this. If you can, find time to talk through this with a leader or wise friend.
Day Three: Servant & King
As His trial and crucifixion drew closer, Jesus spends one last evening with His disciples. He kneels down to wash their feet and sits with them at one last meal, giving them final encouragements and teaching. (John 13-15 has the most detailed account of what Jesus says to His disciples that night.) We can learn so much from these last hours of Jesus’ life, yet we can easily skim past and dismiss it as common knowledge.
When Jesus washes His disciples’ feet, He tells them, “No servant can be greater than their master.” (verse 16) How often do we forget that? It can be so easy to think that, as Christ followers, we’ve “outgrown” certain tasks or acts of service. Yet if Jesus Himself can spend His last moments washing His disciples’ feet, maybe we aren’t as limited in our time to serve others—opening a door, taking out trash, or stopping to really ask how someone is doing.
Our Creative team has a little saying they frequently remind each other: the glory is in the details. The simple things matter and the minor things can have major impact. Jesus probably doesn’t feel like eating the night of the Last Supper, but He does anyway. He must have felt the inner turmoil of knowing two of His closest friends would betray or deny Him, but He still brings them to the table. This simple meal of bread and wine would not only help the disciples understand why Christ would be crucified, but also become a legacy of remembrance for all believers. The elements consumed during communion are symbols of Jesus’ willingness to lay everything on the line so we could know the magnitude of God’s love.
What are some simple things you can do today to serve others? Choose two things and do them before the day is over.
Day Four: Through Trials & Suffering
Scripture: Matthew 27:11-31
Jesus stands silently throughout His betrayal and trial. The joy of His entry to Jerusalem, still echoing in memory, turns to mockery and false accusations. During His punishment, an entire regiment of Roman soldiers take turns beating Him. Alone, He endures, abandoned by those who said they loved Him the most. Adoring crowds turn to enemies as religious leaders incite the crowds to call for His death sentence. There is no reason for such harsh punishments or cruelty towards a rather peaceful Man—a Man known for teaching and miraculous healings. But it’s important for us to remember that we’ve all been on different sides of this story.
How many times have you, in anger or offense, lashed out at someone for fear that their honor disgraces or disqualifies you? The religious leaders definitely do this.
Can you recall moments in your life when you chose to follow the crowd rather than investigate the details or truth for yourself? It can be easier to join the waves of “Crucify!” than to try standing still in a storm, searching for answers.
What about the Roman soldiers? To a certain degree, they are simply following orders, just doing as they are told. We’re all guilty of placing blame on someone else. Maybe we tell ourselves that our temper is how it is because that’s the kind of home we grew up in; things were set in motion beyond our authority and we’re just falling in line.
Maybe you’ve stood in a lonely place much like Jesus does, where authority and power were wielded against you, with no one caring that you were actually innocent.
The comfort we can find in Christ’s suffering is that He was willing to go through it for us. When all of the accusations against Him could have been turned back on us, He took them on anyway. And when we were victimized, He stood in our place, taking the abuse so we might be restored to freedom when trials come our way. He remained faithful to the Father’s will for us to be brought back into the Kingdom of Heaven. And because of this, the fall of humanity would be eternally upended.
Prayer for today: Jesus, thank You for taking my place. Thank You for giving up the identity of heaven to identify with my sin and pain so You could break its hold from the inside of me out. You have overcome the grave! Show me today how to walk in the freedom You’ve won for me.
Day Five: The Promise Fulfilled
No prophecy about Jesus is quite as stark as the words recorded in Isaiah; and no person in His life while He is here seems prepared for the brutality He would suffer. In our reading from Matthew, we see the fulfillment of Isaiah’s description of the sacrifice the Savior would become. The fall of humanity indebted us—it became a barrier between the Creator and His creation. Not only did we stumble and fall short of the law; but the effects of sin, like sickness and pain, suddenly riddled the earth. Atonement would have to be made. Jesus would be crushed so we might be relieved of sin’s unrelenting pressure, wounded so we might be restored to health.
There is no oppression, pain, abuse, or injustice we experience that He didn’t take on Himself. He went to the cross, taking our worst to the grave, and rising victorious over it so we no longer have to be bound to the things that have crippled us before. Jesus lived and died to serve us, to become the sacrifice that paid sin’s debt once and for all.
We call this day Good Friday because there is no greater example of the upside down Kingdom than the cross. What was once an instrument of death is now recognized as a sign of hope and a symbol of immeasurable love.
Maybe you’re facing days that you would call anything but good. We as a church fully believe that, just as the day that the Savior was crushed would eventually be called good, your darkest days can become bright in the grace Christ poured out to us through the cross.
Our prayer for you this Good Friday is that whether you’ve been walking with Jesus for years or you don’t even know Him yet, you would see the passion of Christ’s love and you could walk freely forward in grace all your days. If you would like to know more about Jesus or to fill out a Connect Card so we can pray with you, please visit newlifechurch.tv/Jesus.
Wherever you are today, take time to stop and simply think about the magnitude of Christ’s love that He displayed on the cross.
Day Six: Quiet Before the Triumph
Have you experienced the chilling silence following shocking news or a painful experience? It can feel as if someone pulled the oxygen out of the atmosphere and the slightest hint of sound will shatter everything. You want to shout, you want to deny what’s happening, you want to wake up and shake the experience from a sleep-fogged mind. But it’s all too real. You play everything back in your mind, wondering if you could have prevented it somehow.
The disciples must have felt this. The One they hoped in, abandoned and silenced in the grave.
But that wasn’t the end of this story. Life would overcome. He would return with glory and power over death!
The silence of Jesus’ death is what gives such power to the shout of triumph that is the resurrection. There is no need for resurrection without first a death, just as there is no need for triumph if there is not first a battle. Sin had to be put to death, and in order for that to happen, our Savior had to be silenced. We could have attained only a temporary resolve to our sin, but Christ died to pay the full amount of our debt so we could walk freely. As the apostle Paul would later articulate, “God is so rich in mercy, and He loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, He gave us life when He raised Christ from the dead.” (Ephesians 2:4-5) Take heart in the times of silence or struggle: there is a shout of triumph for you in Jesus!
Set a timer for two minutes and sit in the quiet. Once the time is up, turn on worship music and thank the Lord that you have eternal life through the Savior’s death and resurrection!
Day Seven: The Resurrected King
It is difficult for many of Jesus’ disciples to believe what they are seeing and what Jesus is telling them. They’d just seen Him crucified and buried, and had begun to grieve their loss. How often are we the same way? We can believe and hope for something year after year, we can even grieve over not having it, but then when it finally comes to fruition we’re stunned into disbelief.
“Why are you looking for the living among the dead?” the angels asked. This is a question we should ask ourselves today. Are we looking at our lives expecting our hope to be lying in the grave? Are we searching among the dead because we don’t realize that our Savior has overcome and we can now walk in life’s fullness? “Remember what He told you … that He would rise again!” (verses 6-7) When trials come your way remember that your debt is paid, your grave was conquered, your Savior has won your redemption. In Christ you are living in victory!
Before Jesus ascended to heaven, He met with His disciples to declare peace over them and to show them proof that He had indeed died and risen from the grave. Now, as we walk with the Lord, He is faithful and willing to guide us in our belief. His Spirit abides with us and guides us in the sweet message of the forgiveness that is ours because of Jesus. This Easter, as we honor the Lord for all that He is and has done, remember that you are walking in triumph because of His resurrection. Sing loud your song and shout your victory as you worship today. He is risen, yes: He is risen indeed!
Prayer for today: Jesus, the sum of all my words and service could never fully express the gratitude and wonder I have for what You accomplished for me with Your resurrection. But with an open heart and open hands, I come to You to say thank You, I love You, and I bring back what You first gave to me as an offering of worship. You are my Savior and King! To You be glory and honor forever, amen!