The best way to understand what went on in Jerusalem during Holy Week is just to tell the story.
Jesus arrived in Bethany on the east slope of the Mount of Olives, which rises east of Jerusalem across the Kidron Valley from Jerusalem. As you look at Jerusalem from there, you are just even with the temple mound. There were four gates before you, in almost a direct line to the Holy of Holies. First, there was the Eastern Gate of the city, which led into the temple and the court of the Gentiles. Then there was the Kosher Gate, which lead into the court of the Jews. Then there was the door of the Holy Place in the temple where prayers for the nation were offered. Finally, there was the inner curtain entrance to the Holy of Holies itself.
It was the belief of the Jews that when the Messiah came, he would enter through these four gates into the Holy of Holies and declare Himself king. When He did, the revolution against the Romans would start. If Jesus dared to enter those four gates with the people at his back, it is doubtful that Rome itself could have prevented His ascension to David’s throne.
The Eastern Gate is in the outer wall of the city, at the end of the Palm Sunday road. It is the nearest gate to the temple, opening directly into the outer courts. As Jesus rode a donkey along that road, he passed the tombs of Haggai and Zachariah. Zechariah 9: 9 predicted. “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
All along that road are graves where the Jews have been buried to welcome the Messiah. It was believed that when the Messiah came that the graves would open up and the dead would live again. Jesus descended through this field of graves, but the time was not yet for them to open.
A little way down the slope, he stopped a moment to rest on a rock, looked at the city, and began to cry, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem! How often would I have gathered you into my bosom, and you would not!" (Matt 23:37) This was the weeping of a lover, who loved His people more than life itself.
By passing through the Eastern Gate He fulfilled the ancient prophecy. The Lord had come into his temple. The people shouted and cheered. They laid down their coats and palm branches and cried out "Hosanna" which means "Save us!" They wanted him to go on through the Kosher Gate, but instead, Jesus just disappeared.
The Beautiful Gate was the really important one for the Jews. Only Jews were permitted on the other side. If Jesus were the Messiah of the Jews, he would go through that gate. Jesus didn’t do this. But the next morning Jesus arrived again at the outer courts of the temple through the southern gate, where most of the Jews and the Gentiles entered. There He was in a huge marketplace. He ran furiously among the tables, overturning the merchants and whipping them with a makeshift flail. He was angry at what they had done to His father’s house “My Father’s house is a house of prayer” He shouted, “You have made it a den of thieves!” Then disappeared again.
The next day he returned to discuss the law with the rabbis and priests. They tried to make him say something that would get him in trouble. They questioned him about the law, claiming that He offended it. He replied that the law was to love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself. They accused him of offending against Abraham and Jesus replied, "Before Abraham was "I Am" In that statement Jesus claimed to be God. They took up rocks to stone Him, but before they did he He left again.
In the inner courtyard of the temple was the gate to the actual the Nicanor Gate. The actual gate was a building where only priests were allowed, containing the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. The priests went in to offer incense, which were the prayers of Israel before God. All he had to do was to declare himself Messiah to enter that Holy Place. It would cause a riot to be sure, but it would start the revolution. If He emerged from those hidden rooms unscathed, the whole nation would acknowledge him as king. But Jesus never crossed those two gates the way they thought he would.
But before the week was out, not only would He open those gates, but, He would tear them off their hinges!
Before a priest entered the holy place, two things had to be done. First he must wash-- no one came before God's presence dirty. Next, he offered up sacrifices. A blood sacrifice was required.
Thursday night, Jesus led His disciples to an upper room in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. There Jesus washed them, at least their feet. Jesus had been washed two days before by a woman at Bethany, who washed His feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. Next they offered up the lamb sacrifice that was part of the Passover "This is my Body--this is my Blood".
Then He led them to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. He offered up a prayer for his people, just as the priests in the temple were offering up their prayers for Israel.
Then after He finished praying, pandemonium broke loose! His enemies poured out of their secret hiding places, led by one of His own disciples—Judas! He was taken to the high priest's house and tried for blasphemy and treason.
Meanwhile the fourth gate, the Holy of Holies, remained closed. It wasn't really a gate per se, but an enormous curtain. Behind that curtain only the High Priest could enter once a year to offer up the annual sacrifice before God as atonement for the sin of all the people.
Jesus performed this act on the cross. This was His Holy of Holies. He went where only the Son of God could go and offered up the one perfect sacrifice—one that no longer needed to be done annually but covered all sin for all time. He gave the only atonement you and I will ever need--the sacrifice of His body on the Cross.
On the modern map of Jerusalem, you may notice what lies directly west of the Temple mound, on a direct line from where Jesus began his Palm Sunday trek. It is the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which contains both the probable location of Calvary and the empty tomb. The Rock of Calvary is enclosed within its walls, and you can touch it with your own hands. Jesus made a way for us to touch God with our own hearts, which was denied to the people of His day. By claiming God’s sacrifice, we touch His love, His blessing, and His power.
It is recorded that when Jesus died on the cross, inside the temple the huge curtain was torn from its rings and ripped down the middle. And for the first time since the foundation of the temple, the Holy of Holies was exposed to the world and anyone can go in.
God has opened the Holy of Holies to you. He has bought out access into the presence of God with his blood. Now, everyone who can see it can cry, "Praise God, the Messiah has come".