The most important week of the year is upon us. We welcomed it this morning with palm branches and praises, and the days ahead will hold every emotion known to mankind. I sat down with my Bible this afternoon to sketch out a family reading plan to help us focus on the main thing this week.
This week in Jerusalem, as recorded in Scripture, is packed solid with the unfolding of the greatest story ever told on planet earth. To have experienced it first-hand, like Mary Magdalene or Peter or John, would have been unfathomable. But we have this precious treasure of God's Word that has recorded the events of that week in stunning detail, through the span of four Gospel accounts. What a privilege to get to dive into that week of history through the pages of Scripture. Rather than rushing from the "Hosanna!" of today to the "He is Risen!" of next Sunday, let us pause and deeply consider the painful prayers of Thursday, the "Crucify Him!" of Friday, and the silence of Saturday.
I'd love to share this reading plan with you (although, we haven't actually tried it yet. Try it with us!). First though, I need to give some disclaimers. This plan is focused for families with young children, focusing on the major events of the week but in segments fit for short attention spans. Because the events of Thursday night (the night prior to Jesus' crucifixion) are so detailed and so rich, I started with Thursday events on Tuesday. Also, this plan takes you to all four gospels accounts. A person could pick one account (Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John), and read the entire story of Palm Sunday through Easter Sunday. But since each Gospel includes slightly different details, I love the richness of seeing the different perspectives. So this plan includes all of the major events of the story, pulled from various Gospel accounts.
So here's what our family is reading this week:
Sunday: Luke 19:28-40 and 45-48 (The events of Palm Sunday; Jesus cleanses the temple)
Monday: Matthew 26:1-16 (The plot to kill Jesus; Jesus gets anointed)
Tuesday: Luke 22:1-23 and 31-34 (The last supper; Jesus tells Peter about his denial. These events actually happen Thursday evening)
Wednesday: John 13:1-17, John 14:1-6 (At the last supper when Jesus washes disciples feet; Jesus teaches about preparing a place for us. These events also actually happen Thursday evening, after they share the meal at the last supper)
Thursday: Luke 22:39-62 (Praying at the Mount of Olives in the Garden of Gethsemane; Jesus gets arrested; Peter denies Jesus three times)
Friday: Mark 15:1-41 (The crucifixion account as told by Mark. For those families who do devos at the kitchen table, I suggest moving to the living room for this one...it's longer and deserves the time it takes).
Saturday: Matthew 27:62-66 (The chief priests concerns on Saturday) and Isaiah 53:1-12 (one of the most detailed prophecies of our Savior being crucified)
Sunday: Mathew 28:1-15, John 20:1-18 (Two of the four resurrection accounts. I'd read them in all four Gospels if my kids would sit for it all!)
Easter Monday: John 20:19-31 (A few more appearances of Christ. Don't you just love John 20:31??)
If your family hasn't developed a habit of family devos, this would be the perfect week to start. I'd encourage you to take 5-7 minutes either at breakfast, supper, or bedtime to read together and maybe just ask your kids a couple of discussion questions afterward. Keep it simple! And don't wait for a time when it could go perfectly without interruption - that will never happen. Devotions at our house are never perfect. (Oh, we try to lay the smack down, but at least one child falls out of his chair during devotions every night and someone always has to use the bathroom desperately.)
Remember that Jesus loves little children, wants us to bring our children to Him, and can handle the chaos of family life. Also, these texts are heavy...fight the temptation to water it down for your kids. This is the most important stuff in the world, and our kids need to hear it time and again. Remember that God's word is living and active, and He will speak to your kids through it.
And cling to John 20:31: "These are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name."
He is risen indeed. Amen and Amen.