Once every year the church calendar calls us to walk through the events of the final week of Jesus’ life. We celebrate Palm Sunday with exuberance. We weep through Good Friday. We eagerly await Easter day.
Many of the events of this final week will be familiar to you. But you may find it helpful to study them in order, gaining a bit of perspective from each of the four Gospel writers. You’ll end up with a more well-rounded perspective of what God was doing in that week that changed our world.
These studies will be of great benefit to you any time. But you may want to give special consideration to using them during your preparation for Easter. In some church traditions we prepare for Easter all in the space of one packed week. In other traditions a Lenten period of quiet reflection begins forty days earlier with Ash Wednesday observations. Whichever your tradition, this guide can be a resource for you. You can go through one study a week on your own or in a small group during the weeks of Lent. Or you can go through a study each day the week before Easter to prepare for the glorious day of resurrection.
As you look at the contents page, you’ll note that there are no studies for Wednesday or Saturday. Wednesday appears to be a day of rest for Jesus—no biblical events are recorded. Likewise, there are no texts describing what Saturday, the day between crucifixion and resurrection, was like. Thursday is split into two studies as there’s much ground to cover. And the final study begins a new week—celebrating the resurrection.
May you gain insight and wisdom from following the path to the cross—the path that Jesus, King of all kings and Suffering Servant, walked for us.
Suggestions for Individual Study:
- As you begin each study, pray that God will speak to you through his Word.
- Read the introduction to the study and respond to the personal reflection question or exercise. This is designed to help you focus on God and on the theme of the study.
- Each study deals with a particular passage—so that you can delve into the author’s meaning in that context. Read and reread the passage to be studied. The questions are written using the language of the New International Version, so you may wish to use that version of the Bible. The New Revised Standard Version is also recommended.
- This is an inductive Bible study, designed to help you discover for yourself what Scripture is saying. The study includes three types of questions. Observation questions ask about the basic facts: who, what, when, where and how. Interpretation questions delve into the meaning of the passage. Application questions help you discover the implications of the text for growing in Christ. These three keys unlock the treasures of Scripture. Write your answers to the questions in the spaces provided or in a personal journal. Writing can bring clarity and deeper understanding of yourself and of God’s Word.
- It might be good to have a Bible dictionary handy. Use it to look up any unfamiliar words, names or places.
- Use the prayer suggestion to guide you in thanking God for what you have learned and to pray about the applications that have come to mind.
- You may want to go on to the suggestion under “Now or Later,” or you may want to use that idea for your next study. Suggestions for Members of a Group Study
Suggestions for Members of a Group Study:
- Come to the study prepared. Follow the suggestions for individual study mentioned above. You will find that careful preparation will greatly enrich your time spent in group discussion.
- Be willing to participate in the discussion. The leader of your group will not be lecturing. Instead, he or she will be encouraging the members of the group to discuss what they have learned. The leader will be asking the questions that are found in this guide.
- Stick to the topic being discussed. Your answers should be based on the verses which are the focus of the discussion and not on outside authorities such as commentaries or speakers. These studies focus on a particular passage of Scripture. Only rarely should you refer to other portions of the Bible. This allows for everyone to participate in in depth study on equal ground.
- Be sensitive to the other members of the group. Listen attentively when they describe what they have learned. You may be surprised by their insights! Each question assumes a variety of answers. Many questions do not have “right” answers, particularly questions that aim at meaning or application. Instead the questions push us to explore the passage more thoroughly. When possible, link what you say to the comments of others. Also, be affirming whenever you can. This will encourage some of the more hesitant members of the group to participate.
- Be careful not to dominate the discussion. We are sometimes so eager to express our thoughts that we leave too little opportunity for others to respond. By all means participate! But allow others to also.
- Expect God to teach you through the passage being discussed and through the other members of the group. Pray that you will have an enjoyable and profitable time together, but also that as a result of the study you will find ways that you can take action individually and/or as a group.
- Remember that anything said in the group is considered confidential and should not be discussed outside the group unless specific permission is given to do so.
- If you are the group leader, you will find additional suggestions at the back of the guide.