March 20, 2024

Walking With Jesus

Spend time thinking, feeling, and contemplating Jesus’ last week of ministry.

Merle Poirier
Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash

Michael Wilkins, a retired professor from Biola University, a nondenominational evangelical college, describes a practice he calls “walking with Jesus through the Holy Week.” “Holy Week,” or “Passion Week,” refers to the last week of Jesus’ life on earth before the cross and the resurrection. During the week leading up to the day of the resurrection, Wilkins would attempt to place himself in Jesus’ footsteps to understand what He was experiencing. It was so effective in helping him in his relationship with Jesus that as a youth pastor and later professor, he encouraged and sometimes assigned his youth or students to do it with him. Wilkins continues this practice each year. “This week has become the most powerful week of my year,” Wilkins writes.1

This, however, is not a new idea. Ellen White wrote: “It would be well for us to spend a thoughtful hour each day in contemplation of the life of Christ. We should take it point by point, and let the imagination grasp each scene, especially the closing ones. As we thus dwell upon His great sacrifice for us, our confidence in Him will be more constant, our love will be quickened, and we shall be more deeply imbued with His spirit. If we would be saved at last, we must learn the lesson of penitence and humiliation at the foot of the cross.”2

This article is not meant to be read at one sitting, but daily during a designated week. I have provided a summary of Jesus’ movements during His last week and reflective questions to stimulate thinking. There are Gospel and Spirit of Prophecy (SOP) readings provided as well. Feel free to select one Gospel or to read all that is provided. You may be surprised at some of the familiar Scripture passages that fall in this
last week.

I have selected March 23-31, 2024, for our walk together to provide time to prepare to read and reflect, but any week can work. I’m not suggesting that we cease our daily tasks, but that we take thoughts of Jesus’ activities throughout our day, allowing it to enrich our experience. Let’s immerse ourselves in Jesus and, by so doing, increase our understanding of what Jesus did for each of us.

Saturday Night, March 23, 2024

Bible: Matt. 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9; Luke 7:36-50; John 12:1-8.

SOP: The Desire of Ages, pp. 557-568.

Jesus is in Bethany at the home of Simon, a leper healed by Jesus. The celebration honors Jesus who raised Lazarus from the dead, but recognizes Lazarus as well.

The three siblings are in their usual roles. Martha is serving; Lazarus reclining; and Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet. The disciples are also there. Mary is troubled because she heard Jesus say He is going to die. She has prepared ahead by purchasing expensive perfume for His burial. But as she listens to the conversation around the room, there is the suggestion Jesus should be king. Excited, she takes the perfume and anoints Jesus. She pours it on His head and His feet, weeping tears probably of joy, using her hair to wipe away the overflow.

Mary’s actions appear to be spontaneous, for she doesn’t consider the fragrance that would fill the room. It immediately draws attention to her as well as to Jesus, causing those in the room, namely Judas and Simon, to be critical of her.

Jesus defends Mary and elevates the memory of her deed to the ages. He assists Simon in recognizing the power of forgiveness. But the experience causes Judas to leave Bethany to find the Jewish leaders to determine their interest in his placing Jesus into their hands.

 For Reflection

1. How do you think Jesus feels about being honored for raising Lazarus?

2. Is Jesus startled by Mary’s actions?

3. What effect, if any, would the pouring of perfume on Jesus have for Him the rest of the week?

4. Why does Jesus defend Mary?

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Bible: Matt. 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:29-44; John 12:12-18.

SOP: The Desire of Ages, pp. 569-579.

Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem from Bethany, a short distance away (John 11:18). We do not know when they started for the city, but we know it is late in the day once Jesus arrives, so this might imply leaving late morning.

They left on foot, but Jesus directs two of His disciples to find a donkey with her colt and bring them to Him. They follow His instructions and return with the donkeys. Placing their cloaks on the colt, Jesus sits on it. Soon a large crowd is laying their cloaks on the road before Him, cutting palm branches, and loudly proclaiming, “Hosanna!”

The Pharisees are dismayed by this parade of triumph. They push their way through and ask Jesus to quiet the people. He responds that even if He did, the very rocks would cry out (Luke 19:40).

As they crest the hill, Jerusalem comes into view. The sun’s position in the sky reflects off the white marble walls, captivating the crowd. But Jesus’ expression is one of mourning. Soon He is weeping, not silently, but in deep groans.

“All eyes turn upon the Saviour, expecting to see in His countenance the admiration they themselves feel. But instead of this they behold a cloud of sorrow. They are surprised and disappointed to see His eyes fill with tears, and His body rock to and fro like a tree before the tempest, while a wail of anguish bursts from His quivering lips, as if from the depths of a broken heart.”3

As Jesus arrives in Jerusalem the whole city is stirred. Jesus dismounts and goes to the temple. He looks around, but leaves to return to Bethany, where He spends the entire night in prayer.4

 For Reflection

1. What is Jesus feeling as He rides surrounded by praise?

2. What causes His grief, and why is it so deep?

3. Imagine the conversation as they return to Bethany. What is the mood?

Monday, March 25, 2024

Bible: Matt. 21:12-17; Mark 11:12-19; Luke 19:45-48.

SOP: The Desire of Ages, pp. 580-600.

Jesus and His disciples leave Bethany for Jerusalem. Feeling hungry, Jesus spots a fig tree, lush and full. As He walks closer, His desire for a ripe fig increases, but the tree has no fruit. Jesus curses the fig tree, surprising His disciples.

The group arrives in Jerusalem and goes directly to the temple. The cries of animals and haggling voices rise above the clank of money changing hands. Jesus’ piercing eyes penetrate those around Him. His gaze commands so much authority that the crowd becomes quiet. Those close to Him move away so that He stands alone except for a few disciples. In a loud, authoritative voice He commands them to remove the offensive items. Turning over tables, He declares, “My house shall be called a house of prayer” (Matt. 21:13).

The priests, leaders, and people scatter, taking their animals with them. As the quiet descends, the blind, lame, sick, and dying come for healing. Jesus begins teaching. Children play nearby, acting out yesterday’s scene, waving branches and singing, “Hosanna!” As the priests return, they demand Jesus stop the revelry.

At the end of the day, Jesus returns to Bethany.

 For Reflection

1. Why does Jesus curse the fig tree?

2. Imagine silencing a crowd with only a look. Have you ever experienced this with a person in authority, such as a parent, teacher, or principal?

3. Connect the triumphal entry on Sunday with what happened in the temple today. How is riding in like a king related to speaking with authority?

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Bible: Matt. 21:20–26:5; Mark 11:20–13:37; Luke 20:1–22:6; John 12:20-36.

SOP: The Desire of Ages, pp. 601-636.

Jesus and His disciples leave Bethany in the morning for Jerusalem. As they go, they pass the fig tree cursed by Jesus the day before. The disciples are astonished to find it withered.

Jesus reaches the temple courts and again begins to teach. While He is teaching, the chief priests and elders confront Him as to His authority, referencing not only Sunday’s processional but Monday’s clearing of the temple court.

Jesus continues to teach the crowds by telling a series of parables. The leaders, grasping better than others the meaning of His words, leave to lay a plan to trap Him. They send zealous young men to ensnare Jesus with questions about taxes. Sadducees later try to trap Him with a question about marriage. Not to be outdone, the Pharisees question Him about the greatest commandment and the identity of the Messiah.

Beginning first with the crowd, Jesus outlines why they need to guard themselves against the teaching of the religious leaders. He then addresses the leaders in strong language of woes describing them as whitewashed tombs, hypocrites, and blind guides. He finishes with a statement of final separation, no longer calling the temple “My house,” but “your house.” Jesus turns away from the temple and will never return.

Two notable events occur. Jesus comments on the widow’s meager offering, forever lifting her up as an example of a true giver. Second, He is asked to meet outside the temple court with Greeks who wish to speak with Him. His momentary sadness from the rejection by the Jews turns to encouragement as He recognizes Gentiles seeking truth. In response a voice from heaven is heard, and a light encircles Christ (John 12:28-31).5

Jesus withdraws to the Mount of Olives, where He teaches His disciples in parables and details the signs of His second coming (the Olivet Discourse, Matt. 24-25).

Judas leaves for a second meeting and finalizes the betrayal plot with Jewish leaders.6

 For Reflection

1. Why is Jesus speaking more boldly than in the past?

2. What is Jesus feeling as He walks away from the temple for the last time?

3. How are the Greeks, the voice, and the light an encouragement to Jesus?

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

The Bible and Spirit of Prophecy are silent as to where Jesus is on this day. Some speculate that He was teaching His disciples. Others speculate Jesus used the day to pray and prepare for His soon suffering.

 For Reflection

1. What is Jesus contemplating more—His upcoming death or the end of His mission? Are they different or one and the same?

2. What would you choose to do on this day, knowing what is ahead?

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Bible: Matt. 26:17-55; Mark 14:12-51; Luke 22:7-53; John 13:1–17:26.

SOP: The Desire of Ages, pp. 637-697.

This morning Peter and John ask Jesus where He would like to eat the Passover meal. He gives them detailed instructions, which they follow. By evening Jesus and all 12 disciples have gathered in the upper room.

All recline at the table, with Judas on Jesus’ left and John on Jesus’ right. There is no servant available to do the traditional washing of feet. Jesus removes His outer robe and begins to wash the disciples’ feet, starting first with Judas, going clockwise around the table, ending with John.

As they eat the Passover meal, Jesus reveals He will be betrayed, and later, when asked, Judas as the betrayer. This is said to Judas directly (Matt. 26:25), but the others are given clues. Judas leaves the room for his third and final meeting with Jewish leadership.

Jesus offers words of comfort after the meal (John 13:31–14:31). They sing a hymn and leave for Gethsemane. On the way Jesus continues to teach His disciples. Included is another warning to Peter that he will deny Him. Prior to reaching the garden, Jesus prays for Himself, His disciples, and all believers (us). Nearing Gethsemane, Jesus grows strangely silent. Sin is beginning its press upon Him, and as He begins to feel distance from His Father, Jesus groans and staggers as He walks. His disciples support Him twice to keep Him from falling.

As they enter Gethsemane, Jesus bids His disciples to remain by the entrance and pray. Taking Peter, James, and John, He goes further into the garden. Jesus asks the three to pray while He separately begins to pray that the task before Him be removed.

He returns to His disciples and finds them asleep. Jesus reminds them to pray and returns to pray. A second time He finds the disciples asleep and leaves again. At this point He accepts the assignment and collapses. An angel appears to comfort and strengthen Him. Jesus returns a third time, finding the three disciples still sleeping. At that moment Judas and a large armed crowd arrive.

The same angel places himself momentarily between Jesus and the crowd, causing all of them, including Judas, to fall to the ground while a light encircles Him and a dovelike form hovers above Jesus’ head.7 When the light disappears, the crowd rises. Judas kisses Jesus. The soldiers seize Jesus, and in the chaos, Peter cuts off the ear of a servant, which Jesus heals. All the disciples flee, leaving Jesus alone.

 For Reflection

1. How does it feel to know that Jesus was praying for you that night?

2. What was it like for Jesus to begin to feel the separation from His Father?

3. Jesus is abandoned by His disciples. What would He be feeling?

Friday, March 29, 2024

Bible: Matt. 26:57–27:66; Mark 14:53–15:47; Luke 22:54–23:55; John 18:12–19:42.

SOP: The Desire of Ages, pp. 698-715; 723-764.

Today’s events start in the early hours of the morning, possibly as early as midnight. The crowd of rulers and Roman soldiers hurry Jesus out of the garden, taking Him to Annas’ house. Annas conducts the first mock trial, also allowing the first abuse of Jesus from others.

From Annas’ house Jesus is taken to Caiaphas, the current high priest, who has assembled some leaders, but not all. Another trial of sorts brings in a multitude of witnesses, but none can agree. Jesus is silent until Caiaphas decides to use Jesus to condemn Himself. He asks if Jesus believes Himself to be the Son of God. When Christ affirms this, Caiaphas declares Jesus guilty. Since it is still night and the full Sanhedrin is not assembled, none of this is legal.

Out in the courtyard, Peter denies knowing Jesus three times. At daybreak, as the rooster crows, Jesus looks sorrowfully at Peter, who meets His gaze. The full Sanhedrin, now assembled, condemn Jesus to death.

Jesus goes through a series of trials, first with Pilate, then Herod, and back to Pilate. Pilate releases Barabbas to the crowd, and Jesus to the soldiers, who mock Him and lead Him to Golgotha.

Jesus has had no food or drink since Thursday evening. He’s been beaten, abused, and spat on. Given a cross to carry, He collapses under its weight. Simon of Cyrene, a visitor to Jerusalem, expresses sympathy and is coerced to carry the cross for Jesus. Jesus expresses sympathy to some women weeping on the sidelines.

Jesus is nailed to the cross at 9:00 a.m. Those surrounding Him verbally abuse Him. Jesus speaks seven different times from the cross.

The repentant thief brings the only joy within the crucifixion experience as Jesus assures the thief that he will see Him again. Seeing His mother, Jesus commends her care to John.

At noon darkness descends, so thick and black that people grope to find their way. Jesus is completely enveloped in darkness. As 3:00 p.m. nears, the darkness begins to lift, but not around the cross.8 Shielded within the cloud, Christ cries out His last words. He dies at the time of the evening sacrifice. There is an earthquake, tombs open, and, most significant, the curtain in the temple tears, and the sacrificial lamb escapes.

Joseph, along with Nicodemus, takes Jesus’ body down from the cross, placing it in a new tomb. Just before the Sabbath begins, Pilate orders guards to stand watch at the tomb.

 For Reflection

1. Why does Jesus keep silent during the various trials? What prompts Him to speak?

2. The darkness was initiated by God the Father. Why? What message is delivered through the earthquake, open tombs, and torn curtain?

3. How is the conversation between Jesus and the thief significant to Him?

Sabbath, March 30, 2024

Bible: Luke 23:56.

SOP: The Desire of Ages, pp. 769-778.

The Savior rests in the tomb from Friday evening until
Sunday at dawn.

 For Reflection

What would the world be like without Jesus?

Sunday, March 31, 2024

Bible: Matt. 28:1-15; Mark 16:1-14; Luke 24:1-49; John 20:1-23.

SOP: The Desire of Ages, pp. 779-808.

Sunday morning begins when it is still dark. The last hour of the night before daybreak, Jesus is still in the tomb. About this time, Mary Magdalene and a group of other women start on their way separately to the tomb.

While the women are on their way, there is an earthquake as an angel arrives from heaven. He rolls back the stone and calls Jesus to come out. Thrown to the ground, the soldiers see the angel, and Jesus emerges from the tomb.

Jesus and the angels leave, as do the Roman soldiers, who go into the city. At this point Mary Magdalene arrives at the tomb, sees the stone rolled away, and leaves to tell the disciples.

The other women arrive at the tomb. They see an angel seated on the stone. Entering the tomb, they see a second angel sitting where Jesus had been laid. He tells them a message to give to the disciples. As they leave, the Roman guards arrive at the chief priest’s residence to tell him what they have seen.

Mary Magdalene finds Peter and John and tells them the tomb is empty. The two set off at a run. John arrives first, but Peter enters the tomb first. They see no angels, and leave wondering what has happened. Mary Magdalene arrives again after them and lingers at the tomb. Stooping to see inside, she sees two angels seated where Jesus had once lain. They ask her why she is crying. She responds, but turns and sees Jesus standing there, thinking He is the gardener. Jesus asks the same question. She responds, but when Jesus says her name, she recognizes Him.

Mary leaves to tell the disciples she has seen Jesus. Jesus ascends to heaven to receive personal assurance that His sacrifice is acceptable to the Father. He then returns, where He appears to the other women as they are on their way to report to the disciples the message given by the angel. At this point the morning is complete, but the day is not yet finished for Jesus and His followers.

Jesus appears to Peter at some point. It may have been immediately after the women or early afternoon. He then appears on the road to Emmaus as a stranger walking with two of His disciples. He accepts a dinner invitation, but disappears once He is recognized. The two quickly head back to tell the disciples they have seen Jesus. As they walk into the room, an unseen Person enters with them. Jesus reveals Himself to the 10 disciples (Judas is dead and Thomas is missing).9

Jesus would continue to appear to others before ascending 40 days later.

 For Reflection

1. What do you think Jesus is feeling as His followers discover His resurrection?

2. Why is there a sense of urgency when Christ tells Mary not to delay Him?

3. As you complete this week with Jesus, how has your life been changed?

1 Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary, Matthew (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004), p. 708.

2 Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1898, 1940), p. 83.

3 The Desire of Ages, p. 575.

4 Ibid., p. 581.

5 Ibid., p. 625.

6 Ibid., pp. 645, 720.

7 Ibid., p. 694.

8 Ibid., p. 754.

9 The many comings and goings at the tomb are as listed in The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 5, pp. 558, 559.