We have four gospels from which Jesus’ time on earth can be derived. However, the gospel writers’ intent was to record
Jesus’ ministry, not provide a biography. Also, each writer penned his gospel for different audiences and different purposes.
Consequently, we do not have perfect harmony between them, but by drawing from the three Synoptic Gospels we do have
a good understanding of the timeline and geographical areas in which Jesus carried His message.
What follows is the gospel story primarily through the eyes of Matthew, but for completeness includes events not recorded
by him, identified by the text references.
Jesus before his ministry
Jesus’ birth and early years
[Matt 1:18–2:23; Lk 1:5–2:40]
Mary’s cousin Elizabeth is advanced in years and childless. While her husband, Zacharias, is performing his priestly duties,
the angel Gabriel appears to him and tells him Elizabeth will bear a son whom he is to name John (this John will be John
the Baptist). Six months later, the angel Gabriel visits Mary, who is betrothed to Joseph and still a virgin, and tells her she
is to be the mother of Jesus, conceived of the Holy Spirit. (This was prophesied by Isaiah [Isa 7:14]). He tells her that
Elizabeth is also pregnant, and so she visits her cousin and praises the Lord with the words we know as the Magnificat [Lk
Mary’s pregnancy is a problem to Joseph, as his natural assumption is that she has been unfaithful. In the Jewish culture,
betrothal is a commitment to marry that can be broken only by a ‘divorce’ on the grounds of fornication. Joseph is
considering solving the matter privately when he is visited by the angel of the Lord who explains Mary’s circumstance and
that her son is to be named Jesus. And so Joseph marries Mary, but their marriage will not be consummated until after
Jesus is born.
In preparation for a tax to be levied a census is imposed on the population, requiring Joseph and Mary to travel to Joseph’s
hometown, Bethlehem. When they arrive, they can find no lodgings available at any inn and are eventually offered a
stable, where Mary later gives birth to Jesus. The birth is announced by angels to some local shepherds who visit the child,
then tell everyone they see what has happened.
Sometime later a group of Magi arrives in Jerusalem enquiring where the babe had been born who is to be king of the
Jews. They had been travelling from the east following a star they knew to be a sign of his birth. Their arrival worries King
Herod and all Jerusalem. Herod summons the chief priests and scribes demanding to know where Christ should be born.
When he is told his birthplace was prophesied as being Bethlehem [Micah 5:2], he arranges a private meeting with the
Magi, tells them the village where they should find him, and asks them to let him know precisely where he is so he too can
go and worship him. When they leave Herod, the star reappears and guides them to the house where Joseph, Mary and
Jesus are now staying. They worship the child and present him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Having been
warned in a dream by God not to return to Herod, the Magi head back east by a different route.
The angel of the Lord then appears to Joseph in a dream, telling him to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt to escape Herod as
he is intending to have the child killed. (This will bring about the fulfilment of Hosea’s prophecy and called my son out of
Egypt [Hos 11:1]). They set off that very night.
Once Herod realises the Magi have ignored his request to return to him, he has all the boys in Bethlehem of two years or
younger killed, their agebeing according to the time when the Magi first saw the star appear. (This had been prophesied by
Jeremiah [Jer 31:15].)
Soon after, Herod dies and Joseph is told by the angel of the Lord that it is safe to return to Bethlehem. But when Joseph
hears that Herod’s son Archelaus is now on the throne, he is afraid and, after being warned by God in a dream, heads for
the area of Galilee and settles in Nazareth. And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom. And the
grace of God was on Him [Luke 2:40].
Jesus at the Passover
Jesus, now being twelve years old, is taken by his parents to Jerusalem for Passover. When the feast days are over they
head back for Nazareth, assuming Jesus is with them amongst their kinsfolk and acquaintances. After a day’s journey they
realise he is missing and return to Jerusalem in search of the lad. It is three days before they find him in the temple with
the teachers, both listening to and questioning them, astonishing everyone with his understanding. Joseph and Mary
reprimand Jesus, but he questions why they should not have known he would be about his Father’s business. They don’t
understand what Jesus means by this. The family returns to Nazareth where Jesus grows to manhood, remaining all the
while subject to his parents whilst increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.
Jesus’ baptism and temptations
Some eighteen years later, John the Baptist, Elizabeth’s son, is baptising people in the Jordan River, preparing the way for
the Lord. Jesus approaches John to be baptised by him. John at first declines, but then baptises Jesus and the Spirit of God
descends upon Him and God declares, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
Jesus then goes into the desert and fasts for forty days and nights, after which he is tempted by the Devil. Three times the
Devil tempts Jesus. First, he suggests that as the Son of God he should be able to turn stones to bread to relieve his
hunger; then if he leaps from the highest point of the temple, angels will save him; and finally, if he should bow down to
the Devil and worship him, then he will give him all the world. Jesus responds to each temptation with a refusal and a
quote from Deuteronomy.
Having failed in his attempts, the Devil leaves and angels come to minister to Jesus.
Jesus’ ministry in Galilee
[Matt 4:13-13:58; Jn 1:35-4:54]
The beginnings of Jesus’ ministry
When Jesus returns from being tempted in the desert, John points him out to two of his disciples, Andrew and John, who
are later to become Jesus’ first disciples. Andrew tells his brother Simon Peter, who will also later become a disciple of
Jesus. The next day, Jesus decides to leave for Galilee and two more disciples are selected, Philip and Nathanael
Jesus’ mother is at a wedding in Cana to which Jesus and his disciples have been invited. When there is no more wine for
the guests, Jesus’ mother mentions this to him and he reluctantly performs his first miracle by turning water into wine.
After this, Jesus goes to Capernaum with his mother, brothers and disciples and stays there for a few days. When it’s
almost time for Passover, Jesus goes to Jerusalem and finds men in the temple courts selling cattle, sheep and doves for
sacrifices, and others serving as money changers. He makes a whip out of cords, drives out the animals from the temple
area and overturns the money changers’ tables. Jesus is asked with what authority he id this and to give a sign of that
authority, to which he replies, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. But they do not understand he is
referring to his body.
While Jesus is in Jerusalem, he performs miracles and many people begin to believe in him. A Pharisee named Nicodemus
approaches Jesus, acknowledging that he must be sent from God because of the miracles he performs. Jesus teaches him
that people must be born again to enter the kingdom of God, and speaks those familiar words: For God so loved the world,
that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life [Jn 3:16].
Jesus now begins his journey back to Galilee and passes through Samaria. Here he meets a woman at Jacob’s well and
asks her for a drink. This surprises the woman because of the known animosity between Jews and Samaritans, but Jesus
uses the opportunity to teach that people will never thirst from the water he gives, declaring himself as the ‘living water’.
He also teaches that God is spirit and his worshippers must worship Him in spirit and in truth. It is during this encounter
that he declares for the first time that he is the Messiah [Jn 4:26]. The woman tells of her meeting with Jesus and the
Samaritans urge him to stay with them. Jesus remains there for two days, during which time many become believers.
Having already gained respect by his miracles and teachings, Jesus goes to his hometown of Nazareth. As is his custom, he
goes to the synagogue where he is invited to read from Isaiah. The congregation is impressed by his reading, recalling that
he is Joseph’s son. However, when his teaching reflects on scripture that favours the Gentiles, implying they are being
compared with the Jews of their time, they are offended. They become so angry that they take him out of the city to the
brow of a hill with intent to kill him, but he is able to slip away from them [Lk 4:14–30].
Jesus leaves Nazareth and again goes to Cana where he previously turned water into wine. Here he is approached by a
nobleman whose son is dying. Jesus tells him to return home as his son will live. He believes Jesus, and onthe way home is
met by his servants and told his son is well. Enquiring when his son became well, he realises it was the exact time that
Jesus had said to him, Thy son liveth, and he and his whole household become believers.
Jesus now goes to Capernaum, which is to become his base whilst ministering in Galilee. On the shore he meets Simon
Peter and Andrew, who now become his full-time disciples. A little farther on he calls two more fishermen to join him,
James and John, sons of Zebedee.
At the first opportunity, they all go to the synagogue where Jesus is able to read from the scriptures and teach. In the
synagogue there is a demon- possessed man from whom the demon cries out to Jesus, calling him by name and
recognising him as being the Holy one of God. Jesus rebukes the demon, telling him to keep quiet and to leave the man.
The incident becomes known and Jesus’ fame spreads throughout Galilee.
The next morning, Jesus rises early to pray before taking his disciples with him to preach in the synagogues throughout
Galilee. It is around this time that Jesus selects other disciples who are to be amongst his twelve.
Jesus’ fame spreads throughout Syria with multitudes coming to seek and follow him. They come from Galilee, Decapolis,
Jerusalem, Judea and beyond the Jordan.
The Sermon on the Mount
Jesus goes up a mountain with the crowds following him. His disciples gather around and Jesus, specifically addressing his
disciples, teaches them what it means to be a true follower of Christ.
He begins by telling them the attitude they should have in their hearts, their inner selves (these verses are known as the
Beatitudes) and how they are to be an example to all men. Jesus then tells how the law should be understood,not as the
Pharisees teach it, but how God intended it to be, not simply as a law concerning outward behaviour, but concerning the
inner thoughts of the heart. Examples are given concerning murder, adultery, divorce, oaths, the true meaning of ‘an eye
for an eye’ and of love.
Jesus then tells how important it is that their motivation should be such that they are seeking respect from God, and not
from men. In this he gives examples of the Pharisees who seek the admiration of men by their public displays in their
giving, praying and fasting. These things are best done privately, otherwise the only reward might be that received at the
time: the admiration of others. They are to seek rewards in heaven, to trust in God rather than worry about the cares of
this world, and to first seek the kingdom of heaven and righteousness; then all else will follow.
Jesus then warns them not to judge others hypocritically, as they will also be judged by the same measure. Also, to be
cautious about whom they judge and minister to, as there are those who are unapproachable and would simply turn on
They are to look to God in prayer for their needs as disciples, to treat others as they would want to be treated themselves,
and ensure they keep to the teachings He has given them, being aware there will be false teachers and prophets
attempting to influence them.
Jesus finishes this teaching with a short story that emphasises the importance of knowing him, and hence the importance
of acting on his words, not simply remembering them.
A collection of miracles
As they are coming down from the mountainside, a man with leprosy kneels before Jesus and asks to be healed. Jesus
obliges, but instructs him not to tell anyone.
When Jesus enters Capernaum, a Roman centurion comes to him and asks for his servant to be healed. When Jesus offers
to go to his house, the centurion declines, knowing Jesus only has to speak and his servant will be healed. Jesus points out
to those following him that this centurion’s faith is greater than any he has found in Israel. The centurion’s servant is
healed that very hour.
Jesus and his disciples then go to Peter and Andrew’s house where Jesus cures their mother-in-law of a fever. That
evening, crowds gather outside and Jesus heals many, casting out demons, and so suffered not the devils to speak,
because they knew him [Mk 1:34].
At some point, Jesus gets into a boat with his disciples and begins to cross the lake. As they are crossing, a storm comes
that is so furious it frightens the disciples. To their amazement, Jesus is able to calm the storm by rebuking the winds and
waves. When they arrive at the other side, they are met by two demon-possessed men who are known to be very violent.
Following an exchange with Jesus, the demons are permitted to enter some pigs that then rush into the water and drown.
The whole town becomes aware of this and comes out to meet Jesus, pleading with him to leave their region, for the pigs
were their livelihood.
They then return across the sea and go to Capernaum where a paralytic man is brought to Jesus. He is first told by Jesus
his sins are forgiven. Some scribes nearby consider Jesus to be blaspheming by forgiving sins, but Jesus knows their
thoughts and asks them which iseasier to do, to say ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or ‘Get up and walk’. He then demonstrates his
authority by healing the paralytic, and the crowd gives praise to God.
It is after this that Matthew leaves his job as a tax collector to become one of Jesus’ disciples. They are all eating at
Matthew’s house where other tax collectors and sinners join them. This is seen by the Pharisees who question Jesus’
disciples, asking why their teacher mixes with these people who are not normally acceptable to Jews. On hearing this,
Jesus admonishes them saying that he desires mercy, not sacrifice, and tells them to go and learn from scripture what he
means by this. He also tells them that he has come to call sinners, not the righteous.
Later, John the Baptist’s disciples come to ask Jesus why his disciples do not fast like them and the Pharisees. Jesus
responds using a parable concerning old and new garments and wineskins, a covert criticism of the self-righteousness of
the Pharisees. (His ways do not fit their ways.)
At that time, a ruler comes and kneels before Jesus, asking him to come and lay hands on his daughter who had just died.
Jesus agrees, and as he and his disciples are on their way to the ruler’s house, a woman, who has been suffering from
bleeding for twelve years, touches Jesus’ cloak and is immediately healed. They then go on to the ruler’s house where
Jesus raises his daughter back to life. After this, two blind men’s sight is restored by Jesus, and later, a demon possessed
mute is healed and is able to speak again. It is at this point the Pharisees claim that Jesus is driving out demons with the
authority of the Devil.
30-Day Reading Plan
This is a 30-day reading plan based on an average of 15 minutes per session - a total read time of 7½ hours.
The actual read times vary from 12 to 20 minutes to accommodate for practical read session end points. If the reading
times don’t suit you, then simply go at your own pace and note where you finished.
Please select your reading day below
New Testament History Books -
Old Testament History Books -
New Testament Epistles -
The Prophets -
The Poetry Books -