Chapter By Chapter: Matthew

This study breaks down the book of Matthew using my Chapter By Chapter Bible study template. The short version: for each chapter, I write down a summary, the meaning in the larger context of the book, and a representative verse. Get the full rundown, or use it for your own study by filling out the form below.

The genealogy of Jesus from Abraham through Joseph. Joseph finds his fiancée Mary pregnant and plans to divorce her, but God tells him in a dream the child is from the Holy Spirit, so Joseph marries Mary and calls the child Jesus.

Jesus is the son of the promise (Abraham), son of the king (David), son of the return (Jeconiah), on his father’s side. As the literal son of God, He fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14. His name, given to Joseph by the angel of God, means “God saves.”

21: “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”


Wise men come to Herod seeking a king. They follow a star to Jesus, whom they worship. An angel warns Joseph in a dream to flee to Egypt while Herod targets Jesus by killing every boy near Bethlehem under two years old; they return when Herod dies.

The wise men show that Jesus was foretold. He fulfills six prophecies in this chapter: being born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2 and 2 Samuel 5:2); being called out of Egypt (Hosea 11:1); Herod’s murder of children (Jeremiah 31:15); and being despised (Psalms 22:6 and Isaiah 53:3).

10: When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.


John the Baptist preaches repentance and the coming of the kingdom of heaven, baptizing people in the Jordan. John baptizes Jesus. The Holy Spirit descends on Jesus as a dove, and God proclaims that Jesus is His beloved Son.

John preaches personal confession and repentance rather than reliance on Abraham’s righteousness. John identifies Jesus as the prophesied Messiah, specifically fulfilling Isaiah 40:3, and God confirms it at Jesus’s baptism.

17: And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him


After His baptism, Jesus is led by the Spirit into the wilderness where the devil tempts him three times. Jesus begins his ministry in Capernaum, calling four disciples, preaching the gospel, and healing the sick.

Jesus corrects Adam and Eve’s error by responding to the devil’s mischaracterizations of Scripture with proper understanding. He fulfills another prophecy from [[Isaiah 04]], and he invites fishermen to become fishers of men.

17: From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”


The beginning of the Sermon on the Mount: the Beatitudes; the salt of the earth and the light of the world; the fulfillment of the law (jots and tiddles); the sins of anger, lust, and divorce; oaths; turning the other cheek and loving your enemies.

Jesus primarily preaches about things that are true, but have been forgotten. The Beatitudes are hope for the hopeless. God doesn’t want to curtail your behavior, He wants to perfect your heart and mind.

48: You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.


Sermon on the Mount, continued: humility in generosity, prayer, and fasting; the Lord’s Prayer; treasures in heaven; serving two masters; anxiety.

Every subject in this chapter reflects the command to seek first God, and all other things will be added to you. Seek the kingdom above pride, adulation, popularity, money, clothes, and even food, and God will provide.

33: But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.


The end of the Sermon on the Mount: judging others; pearls before swine; giving good gifts; the golden rule; knowing trees by their fruit; the houses on rock and sand. The crowds are amazed.

Every subject in this chapter is about interacting with and judging others: we should not judge, but we should recognize swine and false prophets. We should treat others as we want to be treated and as God wills.

29: He was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.


Jesus heals many people: a leper, a centurion’s servant, Peter’s mother-in-law, and two demon-possessed Gadarenes (sending the demons into pigs). He describes the cost of following him. He calms a storm, and his disciples marvel.

The episodes of this chapter distinguish true faith from apparent faith. The leper, the Roman centurion, and the Gadarenes are outcasts from Jewish society, yet Jesus heals them. He finds faith in the centurion, but not in his own disciples in the storm.

10: When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith.”


Jesus forgives and heals a paralytic. He calls Matthew. He explains why He eats with tax collectors and why his disciples do not fast. He heals a rich man’s daughter, a long-suffering woman, and more.

Jesus takes the messianic title “Son of Man” and speaks about why He has come: not just to heal, but to forgive sins, to call sinners to repentance, and to call others to join Him.

37: Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.”


Jesus commissions the twelve to go into the villages of Israel and preach the kingdom and heal the people. He cautions them that He brings not peace but a sword, and that their way will be hard.

Jesus has been preaching and healing, and now He sends his disciples to do the same. He warns them that because He is persecuted, they will be, too, but that God will be with them.

7: “And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’”


John’s disciples ask if Jesus is Messiah. Jesus praises John to the crowds and mocks them for their hypocrisy. He denounces many cities as unrepentant and praises God for hiding true wisdom from the worldly wise. He offers us rest.

Jesus repeatedly proclaims that He is the prophesied Messiah in terms that only some can understand. Everyone sees His works and hears His words, but few repent and believe.

15: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”


Jesus defends eating and healing on the Sabbath. The Pharisees accuse him of channeling Beelzebub, and He rebukes them. He prophesies his death and resurrection.

JesJesus upsets the order of everything the Pharisees know: Sabbath rules, miraculous healing, even family. So they accuse of him of working for Beelzebub, and condemn themselves by their words.

12: “Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”


Jesus speaks many parables: the sower, the wheat and weeds, the mustard seed, the leaven, the hidden treasure, the pearl of great price, the fisherman’s net. He is rejected at Nazareth.

Jesus begins to speak in parables so that those who are truly listening may understand the kingdom of heaven, but those who merely want to trap him have no ground. It also fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy.

34: All these things Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without a parable.


Backstory on Herod beheading John the Baptist at the request of Herod’s wife. Jesus feeds the five thousand with five loaves and two fish and has twelve baskets left over. Jesus walks on water to catch up to the disciples’ boat and calls Peter out to meet him.

John must have been one of Jesus’s best friends growing up, one of the few who could understand Him. When Jesus hears of John’s death, He tries to go away to grieve, but He ends up performing maybe His most famous miracle. God is never off-duty.

20: And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over.


Jesus accuses the Pharisees of following tradition at the expense of God’s law. He says it is the heart and the tongue that defile a person, not what they eat. A Canaanite woman asks Jesus to heal her daughter, and after objecting, He does. Jesus feeds the four thousand.

Jesus continues a consistent refrain: the Pharisees follow the letter of the laws, but have forgotten the heart of God. The Canaanite woman understands the universality of salvation better than most throughout history.

18: “But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.”


The Pharisees and Sadducees ask Jesus for a sign, but he refuses and points them to Jonah. He warns his disciples against their teachings, but they misunderstand. Peter identifies Jesus as the Christ and prophesies His death and resurrection.

This chapter plays out in detail the first episode with the Pharisees and Sadducees: Peter’s faith versus their skepticism; explicit prophesies of His death and resurrection versus the analogous story of Jonah. Have faith, and take up your cross.

16: Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”


Peter, James, and John see Jesus transfigured with Moses and Elijah. Jesus identifies John the Baptist as Elijah. The disciples cannot cast out a demon because of their little faith. Jesus pays the temple tax in Capernaum.

Micah predicted that Elijah would return before the Messiah, so it’s crucial that Jesus identified John the Baptist as fulfilling that prophecy. The disciples, who have literally walked with Jesus, are still learning what faith means and who they are as sons of God.

2: And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.


Jesus says the greatest in the kingdom of heaven are like children. He tells the parables of the lost sheep and the unforgiving servant. He discusses how to restore relationships in the church by working as privately as possible at first and only later bringing in other parties.

Jesus again turns the world upside-down, saying that humility and trust, like an infant, are the qualities that matter in the kingdom of heaven. Peter immediately brags about his ability to forgive, and as usual Jesus tells him the work is harder than he can imagine.

3: and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.


Jesus answers questions about divorce and celibacy. He welcomes children, not just adults. He tells the rich young ruler to sell all he has to have treasure in heaven. He tells Peter that all who forsake treasure in this life will receive a hundredfold in the life to come.

The dispute about divorce was an active topic of the day between the schools of rabbis Shammai and Hillel; Jesus links His own teaching to the order of creation, not to the law as they did. Jesus omits “thou shalt not covet” from his list of commandments for the ruler to obey, and that’s the one he needs.

26: But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”


Jesus tells the parable of the workers in the vineyard. He foretells his death. He tells James and John they don’t understand what it would mean to drink the same cup He would drink, and that the first shall be last and the last first. He heals two blind men who shout at him.

This is the third time Jesus predicts His own death. He focuses on how the kingdom of heaven is not like the kingdom of earth: reward is not according to work, and leaders must be servants.

28: even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”


Jesus enters Jerusalem riding on a donkey covered in His disciples’ cloaks amid cheering crowds waving palm branches. Jesus cleanses the temple of the moneychangers. He curses the fig tree. He confounds the chief priests asking about His authority. He tells the parable of the husbandmen.

Jesus seems to deliberately antagonize the chief priests and elders: He enters in a procession fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy of a Davidic king; He disrupts their profitable enterprise in the temple; He ignores the question and demotes them below tax collectors and whores; and finally He compares them to murderous thieves.

32: For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.The Parable of the Tenants


Jesus tells the parable of the marriage dinner. He says to pay taxes to Caesar, whose face is on the coin. He explains marriage and resurrection. He gives the greatest two commandments. He challenges the Pharisees on whether David is greater or less than the Messiah.

Jesus’s parable says that the invitation to the kingdom is available to all, but not all will accept it. In particular, He rebukes the Herodians (Roman loyalists), Pharisees (Jewish nationalists), and Sadducees (Jewish politicians with unorthodox theology).

46: And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.


Jesus pronounces woes against the Pharisees for their failure to live up to Moses, for their pretense, their arrogance, and their hypocrisy. He calls them serpents. He points to all the prophets who have come before to spread God’s message and been martyred instead of heard.

In each of these pronouncements, Jesus sees through the surface to the heart of the matter: the Pharisees maintain perfect appearances, but their hearts are as rotten as graves. Jesus points to the entire martyrdom of the Old Testament, and He will be the greatest of them.

26: You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.


The disciples admire the temple, but Jesus says it will be destroyed. Jesus gives signs of the end of the age: war, famine, false prophets, betrayal. The coming of the Son of Man will be unmistakeable. He tells them to be watchful, for no man knows the day or the hour.

The beginning of the sixth long sermon in Matthew’s gospel, sometimes called the Olivet Discourse. Jesus confirms and extends Daniel’s prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem, which occurred in 70 AD. He reminds us not to become complacent just because destruction is not imminent.

42: Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.


Jesus tells the parable of the ten virgins (five wise and five foolish) and of the talents (five, two, and one). He gives the image of the sheep, welcomed into the kingdom; and the goats, cast out.

All three images today point to a constant following of Christ—being prepared at all times, using what God has given you, and loving your neighbor, even when it seems nobody is watching and nobody is coming.

13: Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.


Jesus’s enemies plot to kill him with Judas’s help. The woman anoints Him. The Last Supper, where Jesus institutes the new covenant. Peter promises not to deny Him. Jesus prays in Gethsemane. He is betrayed, arrested, and sentenced. Peter denies Him.

The fulfillment of all the prophecies is at hand, and Peter cannot resist them. Jesus’s prayer sets an example for us: pray to be spared, but accept God’s will. He knows His death will not be quiet or merciful, but the full wrath of God will be turned on Him.

39: And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”


Judas gives back the silver and hangs himself; the elders buy a field with it. Pilate interviews Jesus, pardons Barabbas, tortures Jesus with the crown of thorns and scourging, and hands over Jesus to the Jews, who crucify him. Jesus dies, and Joseph and the women bury him.

Jesus has no need to answer to an earthly court, and He has no intention of trying to escape. Jesus’s death is so momentous it disrupts the boundaries of life and death.

50: And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.


An angel greets Mary and Mary Magdalene to inform them Jesus is risen. Jesus meets them on their way to tell the disciples. The chief priests bribe the elders to say Jesus’s disciples stole the body. Jesus gives the Great Commission.

The most important event in history is proclaimed to women by an angel, making them the first to preach, “He is risen!” Jesus inaugurates the church age by commissioning His eleven disciples to make more.

19: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”