The biblical account of Matthew sets this scene on the outskirts of Jerusalem:
"The (disciples) led the donkey and colt out, laid some of their clothes on them, and Jesus mounted. Nearly all the people in the crowd threw their garments down on the road, giving him a royal welcome. Others cut branches from the trees and threw them down as a welcome mat. Crowds went ahead and crowds followed, all of them calling out, "Hosanna to David's son!" "Blessed is he who comes in God's name!" "Hosanna in the highest heaven!" (The Message translation)
But within a week, according to Scripture, the man named Jesus who received this traditional welcome reserved for kings would be arrested by the religious authorities, handed over to Roman officials, crucified on a cross, sealed in a tomb and then was resurrected.
Today, following traditions set over centuries and across the world, the Christian world celebrates Palm Sunday, followed by the most holy week in their faith, concluding with Easter Sunday often called Resurrection Sunday next weekend.
Special services include Maundy Thursday, also called Holy Thursday, which recalls the Last Supper (or Passover meal) eaten by Jesus with his disciples. The biblical story includes Jesus washing the feet of his disciples as a sign of humility and service. Today, the Maundy Thursday services may include a simple meal or an explanation of the Passover meal symbolism, as well as a time of foot or hand washing of one another.
Good Friday services reflect the death of Jesus. The traditional Tenebrae (Latin for "darkness") service often is a somber reflection of his death and ends in total darkness, symbolizing that the "light of the world," as Jesus called himself, was extinguished.
Holy Saturday is recognized in Catholic and liturgical Protestant churches, but often is a day when other churches hold Easter egg hunts or other activities for children. For a roundup of those egg hunts, see www.modbee.com/life and click on the link with the story that ran Saturday.
Easter Sunday, of course, is the opposite of the Good Friday services, with plenty of joyous music (think Handel's Hallelujah chorus), trumpets, bell choirs and upbeat sermons to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. The day is for Christians a sign that heaven's doors have been opened, or, in the words of Paul in his letter to the Corinthians, a fulfillment of a prophecy in Hosea: "Death has been swallowed up in victory. 'Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?' "
Here are some of the services at churches on tap for this week:
HOLY WEEK EVENTS
JOURNEY TO THE CROSS 5 p.m. today, Modesto Church of the Brethren, 2301 Woodland Ave. Lenten concert features choir, handbells, organ-piano duet, solos, with refreshments following. Child care provided. (209) 523-1438
MAUNDY THURSDAY 7 p.m. Thursday, Centenary United Methodist Church, 1911 Toyon Ave., Modesto. Offering. (209) 527-5441
MAUNDY THURSDAY 6 p.m. Thursday, Trinity United Presbyterian Church, 1600 Carver Ave., Modesto. Speaker from Jews for Jesus will explain the Passovermeal, which Christians celebrate as the Last Supper. Offering benefits Jews for Jesus. Must reserve space at (209) 529-3228
MAUNDY THURSDAY SUPPER 6:30 p.m. Thursday, First United Methodist Church, 850 16th St., Modesto. Maundy Thursday supper held in the fellowship hall. Free. (209) 522-9046
MAUNDY THURSDAY 7:30 p.m. Thursday, College Avenue Congregational United Church of Christ, 1341 College Ave., Modesto. Ritual of foot washing, celebration of Last Supper. (209) 522-7244
JOURNEY TO CROSS 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, Modesto Covenant Church, 913 Floyd Ave. Self-guided "Journey to the Cross" art exhibit takes you on a pre-Easter meditation. Free. (209) 527-4110
GOOD FRIDAY 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, Petersen Center, 720 12th St., Modesto. Self-guided walk through events of Easter week by Redeemer Church. Free. (209) 523-8990
GOOD FRIDAY Noon and 7 p.m. Friday, Big Valley Grace Community Church, 4040 Tully Road, Modesto. Good Friday service. Free. (209) 577-1604, ext. 378
GOOD FRIDAY Noon to 1 p.m. Friday, First Baptist Church, 290 W. Olive St., Turlock. (209) 668-7221
GOOD FRIDAY LABYRINTH Noon to 3 p.m. Friday, College Avenue Congregational United Church of Christ,1341 College Ave., Modesto. Outdoor walking meditation to remember Jesus' crucifixion and death. (209) 522-7244
GOOD FRIDAY 1215 p.m. Friday, First United Methodist Church, 850 16th St., Modesto. Ecumenical Good Friday worship service. Free.(209) 522-9046
GOOD FRIDAY 7 p.m. Friday, Centenary United Methodist Church, 1911 Toyon Ave., Modesto. "Why Is It Good?" Offering. (209) 527-5441
GOOD FRIDAY 7 p.m. Friday, Trinity United Presbyterian Church, 1600 Carver Ave., Modesto. Meditative service titled "Father, Forgive Them," with focus on the sufferings of Jesus. Offering. (209) 529-3228
TENEBRAE SERVICE 7 p.m. Friday, Escalon Presbyterian Church, 1612 First St. Traditional Good Friday Tenebrae service, a program of choral and congregational singing accompanied by piano and cello. No offering. (209) 838-2798
TENEBRAE SERVICE 7:30 p.m. Friday, College Avenue Congregational United Church of Christ, 1341 College Ave., Modesto. Service reflects on story of Jesus' arrest, suffering and death in candlelit service that ends in darkness. (209) 522-7244
RESURRECTION CELEBRATION 4 and 6 p.m. Saturday, 6:30, 9 and 11 a.m. March 31, Big Valley Grace Community Church, 4040 Tully Road, Modesto. Celebration of Scriptures that Jesus died for our sins, was buried and raised on third day. Sunrise service outside sanctuary at cross. Offering. (209) 577-1604
SUNRISE SERVICE 6 a.m. March 31, Livingston United Methodist Church, 11695 Olive Ave. Service followed by pancake and ham breakfast. 10:30 a.m., traditional Easter service, followed by Easter egg hunt for children through age 12. Donation for breakfast. (209) 394-2264
EASTER SERVICES 6:30 a.m. sunrise service at Standiford Park on Tokay Ave., 10 a.m., Centenary United Methodist Church, 1911 Toyon Ave., Modesto. "In Defense of the Resurrection."(209) 527-5441
SUNRISE SERVICE 6:30 a.m. March 31, Burwood Cemetery, 28320 E. River Road, Escalon. Sponsored by the Escalon Ministerial Association.
SUNRISE, TRADITIONAL 6:30 a.m., College Avenue Congregational United Church of Christ, 1341 College Ave., Modesto. Held on church's front lawn. 10 a.m., celebration of resurrection with joyful music and praise. (209) 522-7244
SUNRISE SERVICE 6:30 a.m. March 31, First United Methodist Church, 850 16th St., Modesto. Easter sunrise service on front lawn of church. Offering. (209) 522-9046
'CROWN HIM' 8, 9:30 and 11 a.m. March 31, Modesto Covenant Church, 913 Floyd Ave. "Crown Him the Lord of Life Who Triumphed Over the Grave." Service includes special music. Free family photos between services. (209) 527-4110
'THE RESURRECTION' 8:30 and 11 a.m. March 31, Trinity United Presbyterian Church, 1600 Carver Ave., Modesto. Traditional service at 8:30, contemporary at 11. Both focus on "new life experienced through the resurrection of Jesus." Choir and handbells perform. Offering. (209) 529-3228
EASTER SERVICE 10 a.m. March 31, Petersen Center, 720 12th St., Modesto. Put on by Redeemer Church. Theme: "I am more sinful than I ever dared believe, yet I am more loved and accepted in Jesus than I ever dared hope." (209) 523-8990
EASTER SERVICE 10:30 a.m. March 31, Escalon Presbyterian Church, 1612 First St. Service celebrates glorious hope of the resurrection. Special music. (209) 838-2798
EASTER SERVICE 10:45 a.m. March 31, First Baptist Church, 290 W. Olive St., Turlock. "Resurrection Victory." Easter brunch served at 10:15 a.m. Free. (209) 668-7221