Three basic considerations that I have used in creating this working chronology are the following:
- To what extent can the historical timing, or at least order, of events be recreated?
- When there are historical uncertainties or conflicts, it there a theological or symbolic reason for an event's timing, addition, or omission?
- What is the utility in accepting, or observing, the traditional timing or liturgical observance of events commemorated by Christian communities?
- Sunday: “And when they came nigh unto Jerusalem” (11:1)
- Monday: “And on the morrow, when they were come back from Bethany” (11:12)
- Tuesday: “And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree” (11:20)
- Wednesday: “After two days was the feast of the Passover” (14:1)
- Thursday: “And the first day of unleavened bread, when they killed the Passover” (14:12)
- Friday: “And straightway in the morning” (15:1)
- Saturday the “Sabbath’” (15:42; 16:1; more below)
- Sunday: “and very early in the morning the first day of the week” (16:2)
Also, while it is true that Luke 23:53 says that “the Sabbath drew on” at sunset after Jesus was buried, John and Mark present potentially conflicting data. John 19:31 refers to the Sabbath as a high day, connecting it with the “preparation day” of the Passover (see also 19:42), suggesting that perhaps it was a festal sabbath and not necessarily the weekly Sabbath (contra the explanatory LDS KJV note for 19:31c, it is just as likely that the “high day” was the Passover and not the day after the Passover meal). Mark 15:42 also speaks of a preparation day in connection with Jesus’ death, which was “the day before the Sabbath.” The Greek here is unclear on whether the day before the Sabbath was the day on which Jesus had just died or whether it was the day which, in accordance with Jewish tradition, had just begun with sunset. Finally, and perhaps significantly, Matthew 28:1, which reads "In the end of the sabbath" in the KJV, actually has "sabbaths" (sabbatōn, genitive plural form) in Greek. While some argue that the weekly Sabbath could be referred to in the plural, the form leaves open the possibility that there had been both a festal and a weekly Sabbath that week.
This ambiguity has led some to propose that Jesus actually died on a Thursday, sundown Thursday to sundown Friday being a festal Sabbath, the first day of Passover, and sundown Friday to sundown Saturday being the weekly Sabbath. This proposal is attractive to some, particularly to a few in evangelical circles, because it preserves more completely Jesus' prophecy of being in the tomb for three days and three nights (Matt 12:40) better than the standard explanation that Jesus’ body was in the tomb for only parts of three different days. While this chronology may also be attractive to some Latter-day Saints because of its apparent correlation with the Book of Mormon’s account of three days of darkness (Helaman 14:20, 27 and 3 Nephi 8:19–23), early Christian tradition nevertheless placed Jesus’ death on Friday from a very early time.
These rather complex chronological discussions are matters of detailed study or a scholarly investigation, not of a devotional (and hopefully inspirational), approach to the Easter season. I mention them only because the symbolic potential of the events of the last week is sometimes greater if one is not too rigidly attached to a specific chronology. However, in order to foster greater solidarity with other Christians who are observing Holy Week, and for purely practical reasons of convenience, my approach to the week before Easter this year follows a more-or-less traditional sequence of events. Links are provided below for each of this year’s Easter posts:
- Some point before the Passion Week: The Raising of Lazarus
- Friday or Saturday: The Anointing in Bethany according to John
- Palm Sunday: The Triumphal Entry; the Cleansing of the Temple
- Monday: The Marcan Cleansing of the Temple; Teachings in the Temple
- Tuesday: More Teachings in the Temple; the Olivet Discourse
- "Spy" Wednesday: The Anointing in Mark and Matthew; Judas agrees to betray Jesus
- Holy or "Maundy" Thursday: The Last Supper; Farewell Discourses; Gethsemane; Before the Jewish Authorities
- Good Friday: Jesus in the Hands of the Romans; the Crucifixion; the Burial
- Saturday: Jesus in the Spirit World
- Easter Sunday: The Resurrection
Two final notes. First, most treatments of the anointing of Jesus assume that the versions portrayed in John 12:1–8 on the one hand and in Mark 14:2–9 (par Matt 26:6–13) on the other represent the same event. I feel, however, that the details are different enough that they warrant separate treatment. Even if historically there was only one anointing, the fact that John places it before the Triumphal Entry, and Mark and Matthew place it after the Olivet Discourse, suggests that the evangelists were using its symbolism to stress different theological and symbolic points (see The Symbolism of Jesus as Anointed King and Priest in God So Loved the World, 133-135).
Second, many Latter-day Saint harmonies of the final week list “No Events Recorded” for Wednesday, but the sequence in Mark strongly suggests that the plot to kill Jesus, the unnamed woman’s anointing of Jesus, and Judas’ decision to betray Jesus happened on this day. This is also in accordance with Christian tradition, which has since the Medieval period referred to Wednesday as “Spy Wednesday” because of Judas’ actions.