Study Guide

Gospel of Matthew Summary

Gospel of Matthew Summary

The life of Jesus starts out pretty well, with awesome birthday presents from some wise men who track him down by following a star. But thanks to a jealous and murderous King Herod, Jesus and company have to flee from Judea to Egypt until God gives them the green light to return home.

Unfortunately, that never happens. And instead, Jesus and his parents make their home in the Northern district of Galilee.

Flash forward a few decades, and Jesus is preparing to teach his version of Jewish law and preach all about the kingdom of heaven. First things first, though: he gets baptized by John the Baptist (who, by the way, has to do a double-take because John somehow already knows who Jesus is and thinks that he himself should be the one getting baptized by Jesus). After spending forty days and nights in the desert and getting tempted by the devil, Jesus is finally ready to begin his ministry.

First, Jesus picks out a posse of twelve to join him on his Tour de Israel. They go with him everywhere, listening to him preach, watching him heal people, and even witnessing Jesus's battles of wits with the Pharisees and high priests. Jesus teaches in so many places and performs so many miracles that eventually he becomes the biggest celebrity around—groupies included. But Jesus's growing popularity causes the Pharisees and high priests to consider him a dangerous threat. And that's when they start plotting to have Jesus arrested and killed.

Like most evil plots go, the chief priests need an inside man. Enter Judas. It only takes thirty pieces of silver to buy a Kiss of Death, and Jesus begins the last days of his human life. After some intense interrogation by Pilate, the Roman governor, Jesus is handed over to be crucified; a slow, horrible death that's generally reserved for criminals.

For mere mortals, death is normally the end of the story. But, not for Jesus. Nope. Three days later, Jesus comes back for Round 2. Don't worry, he's not looking for revenge on the guys who put him to death. Instead, Jesus immediately sends word to his posse that he's back. The Gospel ends with a grand reunion among friends and the final marching orders given by Jesus to his disciples: to go and "make disciples of all nations."

Quite the request, if we do say so ourselves.

  • Chapter 1

    Birth of a King

    • Jesus is introduced as "the son of David, the son of Abraham" (1:1). Remember them? Our good friends from the Hebrew Bible.
    • Matthew rattles off a long genealogy of Jesus with three sets of fourteen generations. Yeah, that's a lot of names. 
    • After the genealogy breakdown, Matthew dives into the actual birth of Jesus. Don't worry, he leaves out the gory details.
    • Mary and Joseph are betrothed—that's just a fancy word for engaged. We happen to love that word.
    • But when Mary finds herself pregnant via the Holy Spirit (which would be understood at the time as God's spirit, not one-third of the Christian Godhead), Joseph decides he should quietly quit her before people find out.
    • An angel comes to Joseph in a dream and tells him to chill out. Why? Because Mary is pregnant with a son who will save people from their sins. Not only does this fulfill a prophecy (Matthew quotes Isaiah, for good measure) but it also sets the bar pretty high.
    • Joseph wakes from his dream a changed man. He takes Mary for his wife and doesn't have "marital relations" (adult speak for s-e-x) until after Jesus is born.
  • Chapter 2

    The Great Escape

    • Some wise men (sometimes called magi) from the east see the stars align, and you know what that means. Oh, you don't? Well, it means a special baby was born. They go to King Herod and ask where the child is. 
    • Not exactly the best move on their part. See, Herod gets crazy jealous and sends the wise men to find the baby and report back to him on the child's whereabouts. Spoiler alert: it's not so Herod can send a birthday present.
    • The wise men find baby Jesus and bring a treasure chest of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 
    • But before they head out, they're warned in a dream not to tell Herod where the child is.
    • Spooky.
    • Once the wise men leave, an angel comes to Joseph in—you guessed it—a dream. In this one, Joseph is told to pack up and head off to Egypt until further notice. Why the rush? Oh, only because Herod is out for blood and is looking to kill Jesus. Sound like a valid reason.
    • Herod soon realizes that he was stood up by the wise men, and he is not happy. 
    • Since he wasn't told where the child was, he resolves to kill all infant boys in Bethlehem who are two years old or younger. And yet another prophecy is fulfilled—this time, Matthew quotes Jeremiah.
    • Finally, Herod dies, and Jesus, Mary, and Joseph are in the clear. In yet another dream, God gives them the go-ahead to return home. 
    • But instead of going back to Judea, they settle in Galilee, which fulfills another prophecy (this is getting exhausting), although the source of this one is a bit fuzzy.
  • Chapter 3

    The Voice in the Desert

    • Enter the rugged and wild John the Baptist. He's described as wearing "clothing of camel's hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and honey" (3:4). This is one seriously intense dude. 
    • John is out in the desert preaching ("Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near," [3:2]) and baptizing people in the Jordan River. 
    • All of the sudden, Jesus comes looking to be baptized. Now, John knows what's up and can't believe Jesus is coming to him to be baptized. Jesus has to persuade him to actually do it. 
    • But unlike all the other baptisms that John performs, this one breaks the sky open. Literally. 
    • The moment Jesus rises from the water, the sky opens up and a voice says, "This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased" (3:17). 
    • Imagine putting that reference on your resume.
  • Chapter 4

    Gathering the Group

    • It's straight to business for Jesus. First up, a short 40 days and nights spent in the wilderness fasting.
    • While he's there, Jesus gets tempted by the devil himself. Satan offers Jesus bread and power and tries to get him to test the power of God. But Jesus basically tells him that no means no.
    • Jesus learns that John has been arrested (wait, what?) and makes his way to Capernaum to start his ministry. This, of course, fulfills a prophecy, courtesy of Isaiah.
    • And the first thing that Jesus starts preaching about? "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near" (4:17). John and Jesus are quite the tag-team.
    • Knowing that he can't go at this alone (and hey, the more the merrier), Jesus begins to gather his disciples. The first recruits are Simon, Andrew, James, and John. Not the Baptist. 
    • From there, Jesus and friends go throughout Galilee teaching in synagogues, curing all sorts of illness, and becoming all sorts of famous.
  • Chapter 5

    Laying Down the Law

    • Now Jesus starts getting down to business and begins preaching to the masses. His opening number? The Sermon on the Mount (Chapters 5-7). In this super-famous sermon, he says who is blessed and why. Ready? Go.
    • Those who completely rely on God will basically own heaven.
    • Mourners will have their tears dried.
    • The meek will get a whole bunch of land.
    • Those who crave doing right by God will be satisfied in a righteous heaven.
    • Those who are kind to others will be given kindness back.
    • Those with pure hearts will get to chill with God.
    • Peacemakers will be called "children of God."
    • Those who get bullied because they want to do God's will also own heaven.
    • And those who get harassed and beaten and terrorized because of Jesus? Well, they'll make out like bandits with all the rewards they'll get in heaven.
    • List over. Now here come the parables. 
    • The first one is a quickie: salt of the earth and light of the world.
    • Then Jesus gets down to the real business and explains why he's here. It's not to abolish the law but to fulfill it. And to top it off, he says that righteousness has to surpass the Pharisees and scribes in order to enter heaven.
    • The next topics on Jesus's agenda are anger and adultery. He says that in olden times (and that's real olden times if Jesus says it's old), the law just taught about not killing anyone. But Jesus is saying that even having a bit of a temper is just as bad as murder. ("Check yourself before you wreck yourself" – Jesus.)
    • And it only gets more serious from there. When it comes to adultery, Jesus teaches that even looking at someone with lust is already committing adultery. And his solution? Get rid of what causes you to sin. In this example, that would mean getting rid of your eyes. (His justification? Avoiding hell. Sounds legit.) 
    • Jesus continues on the adultery brain-train by adding that divorce means adultery—not only for the woman but for whoever marries a divorced woman.
    • Next on the lesson plan is oaths and retaliation. This time, Jesus corrects the old law of not swearing vows to God. Instead, Jesus says to not swear at all and to let one's word stand for itself. Simply put, yes means yes and no means no. 
    • When it comes to retaliation, Jesus brings up the infamous "eye for an eye" way of doing things (5:38). To correct this, Jesus teaches his followers to "turn the other" cheek, "give your cloak" in addition to your coat, and to go "the second mile" when forced to only go one. Translation? Nonviolent resistance. 
    • The final teaching in Chapter 5 is a big one. It's the well-known "love your enemies" sermon.
    • But Jesus doesn't end there. He actually preaches for his followers to pray for those who persecute them and to be as perfect as God. Quite the tall order.
  • Chapter 6

    Sermon on the Mount Part Deux

    • No rest for the weary!
    • Jesus's preaching marathon continues with almsgivings, prayer, and fasting. The next target is the hypocrite. Jesus is not a fan. 
    • Jesus says, when giving alms, "do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing" (6:3). That means being super discreet so no one can tell what you're doing. Like a magician.
    • About prayer, he says a similar thing. Jesus preaches against making a show of prayer for everyone to see and then teaches the Prayer of all Prayers; we know it now as The Lord's Prayer (You know the one: "Our Father…").
    • Things are no different for fasting. Basically, Jesus is not a fan of making a big spectacle about religious practice.
    • He goes on to speak against hoarding and says that the only treasures worth storing are the ones in heaven.
    • Then Jesus starts getting riddle-y by talking about eyes and lamps and light and darkness.
    • Basically, he's telling people to stay surrounded by good stuff because it'll influence you. But watch out, because bad stuff will do the same. Just in the wrong direction.
    • Jesus also preaches that a man cannot serve two masters. So make your choice: God or wealth?
    • Finally Jesus teaches his followers to just take a chill pill when it comes to worrying about the trivial things of life. 
    • And the chapter concludes with one of the soundest pieces of advice: "Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today's trouble is enough for today" (6:34). That Jesus was ahead of his time.
  • Chapter 7

    The Final Lessons of the Sermon

    • Here's a big hitter to start off Chapter 7: don't judge others. Unless of course you want to be judged yourself. Jesus describes it symbolically: don't try to remove a speck from someone else's eye when you've got an entire log in yours.
    • It's kind of a hilarious image if you think about it.
    • Another big no-no is giving what is holy to the dogs. Not actual dogs—he means those who are not worthy of what's holy. Jesus compares it to throwing pearls at swine. Again, not actual pearls or actual swine. Jesus just likes metaphors.
    • But he reminds us that if we ever need anything, all we have to do is ask, seek, or knock. "Father in heaven give[s] good things to those who ask him!" (7:11).
    • And of course, we can't forget the beloved golden rule: "Do to others as you would have them do to you" (7:12). 
    • Next up, Jesus talks about the wide and easy road to destruction. To avoid it, we must take the narrow and hard road. You know, the one less traveled by.
    • Jesus warns about false prophets who are like wolves in sheep's clothing. How can we tell who they are? By their fruit, of course: "In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit" (7:17).
    • And let's not fool ourselves about who gets into heaven. Jesus makes it very clear that those who don't do the will of God pretty much don't stand a chance.
    • How does Jesus explain this? Through the parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders.
    • Jesus finally concludes his sermon, and everyone thinks he's all sorts of amazing.
  • Chapter 8

    Magic for Amateurs, Miracles for the Messiah

    • For his first performance of grandeur, Jesus cures a leper. But he immediately instructs the ex-leper to not tell anyone. Hmmm. 
    • Instead, Jesus instructs him to show the temple priest that he's now cleaned.
    • The second miracle is pretty spectacular, mostly because Jesus isn't even in the same location as the miracle. Now that takes skill. 
    • A Roman soldier asks Jesus to cure his paralyzed servant but says he's not worthy to have Jesus in his home.
    • For the first time in the Gospel, we see Jesus amazed. He says he hasn't seen faith like this in all of Israel. And thanks to the soldier's faith, his servant gets the Dr. Jesus Special (i.e., he's healed).
    • While visiting Peter's home, a whole hoard of sick people is brought to Jesus to be cured. (One of them is Peter's own mother-in-law—it's nice to have friends in high places.) Obviously Jesus cures them all.
    • Jesus takes a quick break from all his miraculous activities and responds to a scribe and a disciple who want to follow him by saying, "the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head" and "Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead" (8:20-22). He's indicating how hard it is to actually be a true disciple. 
    • Now back to our regularly scheduled miracles.
    • Jesus displays his powers over nature as he calms a storm. This actually causes Jesus to question his disciples' little faith because they were scared of sinking despite having Jesus in the boat with them. Now it's their turn to be amazed at his awesome power.
    • Enter the demons. Well actually, demoniacs—people who are possessed by demons. (We like to think they're demonic maniacs. Or really scary Animaniacs.)
    • So these two demoniacs come up to Jesus and start shouting at him asking him—whatcha gonna do about it, Jesus? Then they actually beg Jesus to cast them out into a herd of swine...which he promptly does. Poor pigs end up throwing themselves into the sea and die.
    • When the townspeople get wind of what went down, they aren't too pleased with Jesus being there and request that he leave.
  • Chapter 9

    More Miracles (and a Few Parables for Good Measure)

    • Some people bring a paralytic to Jesus so that he can be cured. But instead of healing him, Jesus forgives his sins.
    • Blasphemy! At least that's what the scribes think to themselves. But Jesus is on top of things because (1) he does have the authority to forgive sins, and (2) he also has the power to heal the paralytic. Which is exactly what he does. 
    • Then Jesus stumbles upon a tax collector named Matthew (yep, that's our Matthew!), and requests that he become a follower. The Pharisees have a field day with this one. Tax collectors weren't the most popular people around town (some things never change), and the Pharisees call Jesus out for hanging out with Matthew and other sinners. 
    • Jesus will have none of that. He lets them know that he didn't come for the goody two-shoes. No, he came for the sinners.
    • Now some of John's disciples ask Jesus why his disciples don't fast. Jesus tells them that no one mourns while the bridegroom is with them and that they will fast in mourning when the bridegroom is taken away. Confused? Don't worry, he explains with the parables of unshrunken cloth and old wineskins. Still confused? Yeah, so is almost everyone.
    • Jesus wastes no time in getting back to healing people. While he's on his way to bring a girl back to life, a woman suffering from a twelve-year-long hemorrhage touches Jesus's cloak to be made well again. Despite having a slew of people around him, Jesus feels her and says her faith has cured her. Oh yeah, and then he brings the little girl back to life.
    • News spreads fast.
    • Next up to join the I've Been Healed by Jesus club are the two blind men who call out to "the Son of David." Okay, that gets Jesus's attention. He asks if they believe and says it's by their faith that they're healed. But then he tells them not to tell anyone. This again? 
    • Guess what? They tell people anyone.
    • You would think that since Jesus wants everyone to keep their mouths shut, he wouldn't drive the demon out of a mute demoniac. But Jesus is a good guy, and what do good guys do? They drive demons out of mute demoniacs.
    • Once again, the crowds are amazed. But the Pharisees accuse Jesus of driving out demons by the power of the prince of demons (a.k.a. Satan). That's not good.
    • Jesus continues touring around, preaching at synagogues, talking about the kingdom of heaven, curing people…you know, the norm. 
    • He feels compassion toward those who follow him and says that the harvest is plenty but the laborers are few. 
    • Time to get more laborers.
  • Chapter 10

    Instructions for the Twelve

    • Jesus sends out the street team and gives The Twelve (i.e., the disciples) the authority to cure illnesses and drive out demons. Pretty sweet gig.
    • We finally get to meet the whole gang: Simon (a.k.a. Peter), Andrew, James, John, Phillip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, James, Thaddaeus, Simon, and Judas. Keep an eye on that last guy.
    • Jesus tells them to stick to Israel and not venture into any pagan territory or Samaritan town.
    • Also, they shouldn't take any payment and they should wish peace on worthy houses that receive them.
    • How hard can it be? Well, Jesus equates it to sending sheep out to wolves. Hmmm. That's not very comforting. Jesus actually paints quite the grim picture of how The Twelve will get persecuted on their mission.
    • But no worries. Jesus tells them to remain calm, form a single line, and only fear what can destroy the soul and body. He reminds them that they've got God on their side.
    • More warnings come from Jesus as he says, "I have not come to bring peace, but a sword" (10:34). Looks like Mr. Nice Guy has a dangerous streak.
    • Jesus also predicts that families will turn on each other and that enemies will be found in one's own house because of him. 
    • But just as it looks like there won't be any silver lining, Jesus brings up rewards. Whew. 
    • Turns out those who receive The Twelve receive Jesus. And whoever receives Jesus receives God. And that's the kind of reward that can't be lost.
  • Chapter 11

    Jesus, John, and Some Sinful Cities

    • Word travels fast and news of all of Jesus's activities makes its way to John the Baptist—who, by the way, is still in prison. 
    • John sends his own disciples to ask Jesus if he is The One. Jesus's answer: "Uh, DUH!" (Not a direct quote.)
    • Then Jesus starts preaching about John the Baptist. Well, more like singing his praises. Jesus calls John "more than a prophet" (11:9) and compares their generation to children who don't dance when music is playing or don't mourn when there is wailing. 
    • Jesus also has no sympathy for the towns that don't repent. He cites ruined cities of the Hebrew Bible and how they could have been saved. But wait! Jesus then goes on to say that those same cities will fare better than those who denounce him now. Yowza.
    • And Jesus is pretty selective with this message. Apparently, these things are only revealed to infants and not wise men. Hmmm.
  • Chapter 12

    Questions from the Pharisees and Parables from Jesus

    • Pharisees see some of Jesus's disciples picking and eating grain on the Sabbath and call them out on it. But Jesus throws it right back at them and says something greater than the law is here and that "the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath" (12:8). Take that, Pharisees.
    • In the synagogue, they quiz Jesus on whether it's lawful to heal on the Sabbath. Short answer: yes. Long answer: absolutely yes! Jesus says it's totally okay to do good things on the Sabbath.
    • And this is when the Pharisees begin to plot their evil plan against him.
    • Since there's no foolin' Jesus, he already knows about the Pharisees' plan. He leaves, but everyone follows him, wanting to be healed.
    • Jesus cures them all but tells them to keep quiet. Another prophecy of Isaiah fulfilled.
    • People bring another blind and mute demoniac to Jesus. After Jesus heals the demoniac, the crowd begins to question if he is the Son of David. The Pharisees squash this by saying that Jesus's power comes from Beelzebub. 
    • Jesus says this is ridiculous. Here's his logic: if his power came from Satan and he (Jesus) drove out demons, Satan would be destroying his own kingdom. Way to think that one through, Pharisees.
    • He drives the point home with the parable of The Strong Man.
    • Using the images of a tree and its fruit, Jesus poses the question of how a person could say good things if they're evil. If good tree equals good fruit, good person equals good things, right?
    • The scribes and Pharisees want a sign from Jesus. And guess what? He's not going to give it to them. Instead, he references Jonah (you know, the guy with the big fish) and says, "for three days and three nights the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth" (12:40). 
    • Sounds cryptic. (Well, not to the people who've read the Bible, but hey, it wasn't around back then.)
    • To add insult to injury, Jesus remarks how an evil spirit will always return to a person. And if the evil spirit comes home to find his dwelling (the person) clean, he'll bring back friends to mess it all up again. That just puts the person in even worse shape than before.
    • But it's not all doom and gloom. When someone points out that Jesus's mother and brothers are waiting to speak with him, Jesus replies, "Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother" (12:50).
    • There he goes, redefining family.
  • Chapter 13

    The Inside Scoop

    • We start off another parable marathon with the one about the sower.
    • This time, Jesus lets the disciples know what's up with the all the parables. See, the disciples are in the inner circle—that means they get to know the secret of the kingdom of heaven. Others won't be as lucky. Sure, they'll look and hear, but they won't understand. Another one of Isaiah's prophecies fulfilled.
    • After getting the inside scoop on why Jesus is talking in parables, he gives his disciples an explanation of the sower.
    • Jesus continues traveling down the parable route with the ones about the weeds among the wheat, the mustard seed, and the yeast.
    • And now for something completely different: another prophecy is fulfilled by Jesus speaking in parables to the crowds. And of course, only the disciples get to hear a play-by-play explanation from Jesus. 
    • Sticking with a good thing, Jesus continues with more parables about the kingdom of heaven. He compares it to treasure buried in a field, a pearl found by a merchant, and a net thrown into the sea.
    • Jesus questions if any of the disciples is picking up what he's putting down. The disciples say they do, so Jesus decides that it's time to bounce that popsicle palace.
    • Back in his hometown of Nazareth, Jesus begins teaching in the synagogue. This doesn't go over too well since everyone knows who he is, and frankly, they just don't believe him.
  • Chapter 14

    Goodbye, John

    • King Herod Antipas (not the guy who tried to kill baby Jesus) hears about Jesus through the grapevine and thinks that John the Baptist has come back from the dead.
    • Wait, what? When did John the Baptist die?
    • This is how it goes down: John says that Herod shouldn't marry his (Herod's) brother's wife, Herodias, and that just does not go over well with Herod. 
    • When his niece (Herodias's daughter) performs a dance for his birthday, Herod promises her anything she wants. Bad move. Herodias tells her daughter to ask for John's head on a platter. Literally. Herod doesn't want to do it, but he made a promise. And that's how John the Baptist's head ended up on a platter.
    • When Jesus hears about John's death, he goes off alone to process the news. But crowds of people follow. Moved with pity, Jesus begins to cure the sick.
    • It gets late, and the disciples start dismissing the crowd so everyone can go eat. But Jesus is on top of it—no need to scatter. 
    • All Jesus needs is five loaves and two fish and BAM! Five thousand men (plus women and children) are fed. Oh, and they end up with twelve baskets of leftovers.
    • Next up, the disciples take a boat ride without Jesus. But not wanting to miss out on the fun, Jesus walks over to them...on the water. The disciples are bewildered and Peter totally wants in on the miracle.
    • Happy to oblige, Jesus tells Peter to join him on the water. And sure enough, Peter actually starts walking on water out to where Jesus is. That is, until his doubt kicks in and he begins to sink. 
    • Obviously Jesus saves him, but he doesn't neglect to point out his little faith. 
    • By now, the entire boat is pretty convinced that they're chilling with the Son of God.
    • So the gang makes their way to Gennesaret. Jesus has a fan club here, too, and people start to bring their sick to him.
    • They're so into him that they'd be happy to touch even just a tassel of his cloak.
  • Chapter 15

    We Wanna Start a Fight

    • The Pharisees and scribes want to know why Jesus is breaking tradition. Jesus's answer: "Uh, you guys are breaking commandments to uphold tradition. Hypocrites much?"
    • Jesus goes on quoting some Isaiah, and now it's the Pharisees' turn to fulfill a prophecy.
    • To make his point and verbally slap the Pharisees in the face, Jesus tells the crowd that it's not what goes in the mouth which defiles a person—it's what exits the mouth. 
    • Peter doesn't get it. 
    • Jesus breaks it down by saying that everything we eat goes through the digestive system. (Okay, so far so good.) But what comes out of our mouths (i.e., words), comes from our hearts. Forget about breaking food laws; evil thoughts are what we should be worried about.
    • Later Jesus goes to Tyre and Sidon, and a Canaanite woman comes over to him and begs him to take pity on her possessed daughter. Yeah, except Jesus only came for Israel…so too bad, lady.
    • But this woman won't take no for an answer. She says even dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the Master's table. (Kind of reminds us of that whole not giving holy stuff to dogs thing in Chapter 7.) Deep. Jesus is impressed. And thanks to the woman's faith, her daughter is healed.
    • Then Jesus moves on to the Sea of Galilee where he goes on a massive healing binge. Lame? Blind? Deformed? Mute? No problem.
    • Three days later and the huge crowd is still hanging with Jesus. Stomachs are starting to rumble, and he doesn't want to send them away hungry. With only seven loaves and a few fish, Jesus feeds four thousand men (plus women and children) and still has seven baskets of leftovers. Someone needs to get this guy on Top Chef.
    • Time for Jesus to hit the road (er, boat) again—this time, he's off to Magadan.
  • Chapter 16

    Pop Quizzes

    • Those unbelieving Pharisees and Sadducees want to test Jesus and ask for a sign. Seriously? This again? 
    • Jesus doesn't take the bait. He says that only the evil and unfaithful ask for a sign. Oh, and the only one there will be is the sign of Jonah. So there.
    • Jesus warns his disciples about the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees. The hungry bunch thinks that Jesus is talking about bread (he's not). Finally they understand that he's actually referring to the teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
    • Jesus & Friends make it to Caesarea Philippi and the head honcho asks his disciples who people think he is. We get a variety of answers: John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. 
    • Okay, not too bad of a start. In response, Jesus asks them who they think he is.
    • Peter steps up to the plate and says, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God" (16:16).
    • Home Run! Jesus is relieved that someone has finally picked up what he's been putting down. 
    • Jesus officially gives Peter his new name (remember, he was originally Simon) and as a little reward, he gives him the keys to heaven. Not a bad prize, if we do say so ourselves.
    • The glory doesn't last long, though, because Jesus predicts his own arrest, death, and resurrection and Peter will have none of it. Jesus rebukes him by saying, "Get behind me, Satan" and telling Peter that's he's a stumbling block for him (16:23). Burn.
    • Jesus's next set of instructions: if you want to follow him, take up your cross and do it.
    • Occupational hazard warning: you will lose your life. But don't worry. You'll eventually get it back.
  • Chapter 17

    A Costume Change That Would Make Even Cher Jealous

    • Six days later, Jesus, Peter, James, and John go up a mountain and Jesus's face suddenly shines like the sun and his clothing becomes brilliantly white.
    • Oh, and to top it off, Moses and Elijah appear next to Jesus and they start chatting it up. No big deal.
    • Actually, really big deal.
    • Peter is stoked and wants to set up tents so they can stay and have a chillfest. 
    • But then a voice comes from a cloud saying, "This is my Son, the Beloved [...] listen to him!" (17:5). This would terrify anyone, and sure enough, the disciples immediately fall to the ground. Jesus tells them to rise up and they see that he's alone now. Guess Moses and Elijah had another party to get to.
    • On the way back down the mountain, they ask Jesus about Elijah coming before the Son of Man. But Jesus says Elijah already came. For once, the disciples don't need any added explanations. They know that Jesus is referring to John the Baptist.
    • Once down from the mountain, Jesus learns that the other disciples were having difficulty curing a lunatic. Naturally, Jesus steps in a saves the day. Then he tells the disciples that they have little faith. Even faith the size of a mustard seed could move mountains.
    • Come on, people.
    • Again, Jesus predicts his arrest and death.
    • While at Capernaum, some tax collectors ask Peter if Jesus pays the tax. Of course he does! Peter brings this up with Jesus, who instructs him to go catch a fish. In the fish's mouth, Peter will find a coin for both Jesus and Peter's tax.
    • Like an obedient disciple, Peter does what he's told and finds everything exactly how Jesus describes it.
    • Ta-da!
  • Chapter 18

    What the Deal With Sin?

    • Jesus starts preaching to his disciples again. This time, he tackles a tough question: who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? Answer: those who are humble like children.
    • Turns out it's better to drown in the sea than to cause a child to sin. In fact, whatever causes you to sin should be cut off. Hey, it's better than burning in the eternal fires of hell.
    • This leads right into the parable of the lost sheep.
    • Jesus then tells his disciples that when someone sins against them, they should bring it to the attention of the offender. If he doesn't listen, then bring it to the church. And if the church doesn't listen, treat him like a Gentile or tax collector. Okay, then.
    • Peter asks how many times he should forgive another person. Jesus answers with 70 x 7.
    • Translation: always.
    • Now's a good time for a parable about forgiveness. How about the unforgiving servant? We just love that one.
  • Chapter 19

    Simple Rules for Attaining Eternal Life

    • Time to leave Galilee and enter Judea.
    • Here, the Pharisees question if it's lawful for a man to divorce his wife. 
    • Nope. 
    • Jesus says Moses only allowed it because they were hard-hearted. See, divorce leads to adultery—and if you can't stay married, don't get married. 
    • Later on, people bring children to Jesus so that he can bless and heal them. The disciples try to turn the kids away, but Jesus tells them to cool their jets because the kingdom of heaven belongs to the little children.
    • Then a rich young man comes asking Jesus how to attain eternal life. Easy! Follow commandments. 
    • The man says he already does this. So Jesus tells him to give all he has to the poor and become one of his followers. Needless to say, the young man is a bit disappointed to hear this. 
    • Ever wonder how hard it is for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven? Well, Jesus says it's easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. Translation: really hard.
  • Chapter 20

    Parables and Prophecies and Miracles, Oh My!

    • Jesus starts off telling the parable of the workers in the vineyard.
    • Third time's the charm! Jesus predicts his arrest, death, and resurrection...again.
    • Then the mother of James and John asks Jesus if her sons can sit next to him in the kingdom of heaven. Seriously? You can't just ask for a primo seat next to Jesus. Come on, woman.
    • Jesus has a similar reaction and say it's up to God, not Jesus, to decide. He also throws in that whoever wants to be the greatest must be a servant like him. After all, Jesus came to serve, not to be served.
    • While leaving Jericho, two blind men call out for the "Son of David" to have pity. Being the good guy he is, Jesus touches their eyes and they immediately regain sight.
  • Chapter 21

    The Beginning of the End

    • While at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sends two disciples to find an ass (a donkey—come on, people) and a colt. Old Testament prophecy fulfilled? Check.
    • Jesus enters Jerusalem with tons of his groupies chanting "Hosanna to the Son of David" (21:9). The people of the city are all like, "Who's this guy?" The crowds spread the word that it's Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth.
    • Now for something kind of crazy: Jesus freaks out in the temple. 
    • He enters the temple and sees everyone buying and selling goods. Not cool, according to him.
    • His solution? He starts flipping tables and driving people out. 
    • Just picture it.
    • What sparks this small tantrum? Simply seeing people making the temple a "den of thieves" (21:13).
    • This must put Jesus in a rotten mood. Here's what happens next: in the morning, he goes to a fig tree to get a little snack, but he only sees leaves and no fruit. So Jesus does what anyone would do—he curses the tree so it never bears fruit again. The tree immediately withers and dies.
    • Back in the temple, the chief priests question who gave Jesus the authority.
    • Jesus turns the question on them and asks if the baptisms from John were heavenly or human.
    • Not wanting to get the crowd all in a tizzy, the chief priests say they didn't know. And since they don't (or can't) answer Jesus's question, he doesn't answer theirs. 
    • Oh snap.
    • Instead, Jesus offers them the parable of the two sons and the wicked tenants. Why not?
  • Chapter 22

    The Great Commandments

    • Jesus gives one more parable to the Pharisees. This time it's the one about the wedding banquet.
    • The Pharisees try to trap Jesus again. This time, they ask him if it's lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar. Jesus sees that's they're trying to trick him. He says pay to Caesar what is Caesar's and to pay to God what is God's (22:21). Jesused!
    • Later that day, some Sadducees question the resurrection and what would happen if a widow married seven brothers (one at a time, of course). Whose wife would she be in the resurrection?
    • Jesus says they've got it all wrong. See, in the resurrection, no one is married. The Pharisees and Sadducees keep getting shut down.
    • Then one of them tests Jesus and asks what is the greatest commandment.
    • First, Jesus quotes Deuteronomy and says the greatest commandment is loving God with all your heart, soul, and mind. The second greatest commandment, though, is love thy neighbor as yourself.
    • Now it's Jesus's turn to test the Pharisees. And trust, he isn't going to go easy on them.
    • He asks them whose son is the messiah. Their answer: David. But Jesus comes right back at them and quotes Psalms where David calls him "Lord".
    • How could this be if the messiah is David's son?
    • Well, it looks like Jesus stumped them. And from that moment on, they stop questioning him.
  • Chapter 23

    Jesus Attacks the Hypocrites

    • Now, Jesus gets down to the nitty-gritty. He tells the crowd to do what the scribes and Pharisees say but not to follow their example. Because they're doing it all wrong.
    • He goes on to say that there is only one teacher—they shouldn't call each other rabbis but brothers.
    • Then he really lets loose on the Pharisees. It's kind of a tirade, actually. He says that the Pharisees neglect virtue and are like beautiful tombs on the outside but full of dead bones and filth on the inside. Gross. He also says a lot of other unflattering stuff about them and their hypocrisy. We'll let you read it and see.
    • Jesus concludes by saying he wants to gather all of Jerusalem together.
  • Chapter 24

    The Coming of the End of Times

    • Jesus predicts that the temple will be destroyed and tells his disciples how to keep an eye out for signs of The End (also known as the second coming or the end of the age).
    • Be on the lookout for prosecution, famines, wars, earthquakes, false prophets, an increase of evil, and a decrease of love (24:4-7). Sounds not fun.
    • The disciples are given instruction to flee from any place that announces false prophets.
    • And when the time is right, a sign will appear the sky and the Son of Man will come, riding the clouds. Then—the big finish—angels will gather up the chosen people
    • The disciples aren't satisfied. They want more details on how they'll know it's time. Jesus responds with the parable of the fig tree.
    • No one knows the time or day when the Son of Man will come. You know what that means: they must always be prepared.
    • To emphasize the importance of watchfulness, Jesus tells the parable of the unfaithful servant.
  • Chapter 25

    Parables of the Rapture

    • Since the end of the world is such an uplifting topic, Jesus continues talking about it with 3 more parables: the ten bridesmaids, the talents, and the separation of the nation. 
    • Actually, it's more like 2.5 parables.
  • Chapter 26

    The Last Supper and the Great Betrayal

    • It's two days before Passover, and Jesus announces that he will be handed over and crucified.
    • And he means soon.
    • At the same time, the chief priests and elders are conspiring about how they will arrest Jesus.
    • They know they can't do it in the light of day because people will riot. So they plan to arrest him at night instead.
    • While visiting Simon the leper, an unnamed woman anoints Jesus with perfumes and oils. The disciples aren't happy about it. After all, the oil could have been sold for money to help the poor.
    • Not this time. Jesus says, "you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. By pouring this ointment on my body she has prepared me for burial" (26:11). So there.
    • Meanwhile, the chief priests find their inside man in Judas, and he is paid 30 pieces of silver to betray Jesus.
    • Cheap date.
    • Jesus and his disciples gather to celebrate Passover, and he drops the bomb that someone at the table is going to betray him.
    • Of course, everyone starts denying it and asking everyone else what's going on—even Judas.
    • Eventually they start eating. Jesus gives bread and wine to his disciples saying it's his body and blood. (Not sure how appetizing that sounded at the time.)
    • After dinner, they all head up the Mount of Olives. Jesus quotes scripture and says that Peter will deny him three times before the cock crows. Peter's like, "yeah right, that'll never happen".
    • They go to the Garden of Gethsemane and Jesus takes Peter, James, and John with him to pray. But it's late and they're tired, so the three disciples decide to take a little nap. Jesus comes back and can't believe they're sleeping.
    • And as if doing it once weren't bad enough, they do the same thing two more times (some people never learn).
    • Finally Judas comes and kisses Jesus. And you know what that means. It's is the signal to the chief priests and elders—time to arrest Jesus.
    • Out of protection, one of the disciples draws a sword and cuts the ear of a servant. Jesus tells him to the put the sword away because "all who take the sword will perish by the sword" (26:52).
    • Jesus is taken to be seen before Caiaphas, the high priest. Like a good little stalker, Peter follows at a distance.
    • The chief priests try to find people to testify against Jesus, but they can't round anyone up.
    • But then two people come forward saying that Jesus claimed he could destroy the temple and rebuild it in the three days. 
    • Yeah, that's good enough testimony.
    • When asked (under oath) if he is the Son of God, Jesus replies that they have said so. Then, for good measure, he quotes scripture.
    • The high priests accuse him of blasphemy and they begin to strike and taunt him
    • Meanwhile, in the courtyard: Peter gets recognized as being friends with Jesus. He denies it not once, not twice, but three times. And what do you know—right after that third denial, the cock crows. 
    • Guess who just remembered Jesus's prediction? Peter.
  • Chapter 27

    Arrest and Death

    • In the morning, Jesus is handed over to the governor, Pilate.
    • Unable to forgive himself for betraying Jesus, Judas returns the 30 pieces of silver (too late) and hangs himself. 
    • Pilate asks Jesus if he is the king of the Jews and Jesus responds with his classic "if you say so" line. Despite the continuing questions, Jesus doesn't say anything else.
    • Because of a festival, Pilate offers to pardon one prisoner chosen by the people. The contestants for Who Wants to Be a Freed Man? are our main man Jesus and this other guy named, er, Jesus. Well, his full name is Jesus Barabbas and he is a notorious prisoner.
    • So, who does the crowd choose to release? [Drum roll please…] Barabbas! 
    • Wait…what?!
    • Yep, they want the guy with "notorious" right in his description over the guy who heals people. #whatisgoingon
    • Pilate gets that this is all sorts of wrong and asks the crowd what they want him to do with Jesus. The people cry out to have Jesus crucified. Riots begin, and eventually Pilate hands Jesus over to be crucified. 
    • Jesus is mocked, beaten, and spit upon. The soldiers even weave a crown made of thorns and force it on his head. And on the way to the crucifixion site, they make Simon of Cyrene help Jesus carry the cross. 
    • Eventually the whole crowd comes to Golgotha (which means Place of the Skull) where Jesus is being crucified.
    • Some soldiers divide Jesus's clothing, and people passing by taunt him—"if you're the Son of God, then save yourself!" style. 
    • Even the two criminals crucified beside Jesus verbally abuse him.
    • At noon, darkness comes over the entire land for three hours until Jesus cries out, "my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (27:46).
    • With that, Jesus dies.
    • Immediately, there are earthquakes and splitting of rocks and the veil in the sanctuary of the temple tears in two.
    • That night, Pilate gives the okay for a rich man from Arimathea named Joseph to take Jesus's body down from the cross and lay it in a new tomb.
    • The next day, the priests and Pharisees request that the tomb be sealed and guarded so no one can come and steal the body, making it look like Jesus was resurrected.
  • Chapter 28

    And He's Back

    • Mary Magdalene and "the other Mary" head over to the tomb. 
    • And as it turns out, sealing the tomb doesn't do much. An earthquake and angel can open that bad boy right back up again. 
    • The guard becomes paralyzed with fear so he's basically rendered useless.
    • The two Marys are greeted by an angel who says that Jesus has already been raised and that they should go tell the other disciples.
    • Guess who they meet on their way to do just that? Why, none other than Jesus Raised-From-the-Dead Christ. Naturally they're ecstatic, and Jesus sends them off to tell the others in Galilee.
    • The guards tell the chief priests about what went down. It goes without saying that they are less than pleased. 
    • The chief priests' new plan is to bribe the guards into claiming that Jesus's body was stolen in the night. And that's the story they start spreading around.
    • Resurrected Jesus gets to Galilee and meets up with the remaining eleven disciples. For his final instructions, Jesus tells his friends to "make disciples of all nations" (28:19-20). Oh, and he'll always be with them.