Sometimes curious people poke around online for a simple overview of what the Gospels tell us about Jesus’ life and ministry. If this is you, we’ve put together a simple retelling of Jesus’ story from birth through the resurrection, focusing on Luke’s Gospel.
If you want to understand the story of Jesus and what makes Him so special, this post will be a great place to start!
The story of Jesus: His birth
There are many Old Testament prophecies predicting Jesus’ coming. The Hebrew people anxiously awaited His arrival, but His arrival was more humble than they expected.
God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her (Luke 1:26b–38, New International Version).
Because of a census, Mary and Joseph, her betrothed, traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them (Luke 2:4–7, NIV).
An angel announced His birth to nearby shepherds who came to worship the newborn baby.
The story of Jesus: His ministry
After being baptized (Luke 3:21–22) and tempted in the wilderness (Luke 4:1–13), Jesus drew His closest disciples and began His ministry, announcing that the kingdom of God had come.
Some of Jesus’ messages were captured in longer homilies (like the Sermon on the Mount), but quite often, the gospel writers wrote down the teachings that came from specific interactions He had with various people and religious leaders.
Many of Jesus’ lessons were offered as parables. These are simple, relatable stories used to illustrate a point. One well-known example is the Parable of the Good Samaritan.
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers.”
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:25–37, NIV).
Jesus’ miracles, healings, and deliverance
Jesus wasn’t competing with the religious leaders of the day for who had the best or smartest teachings. His teachings were given authority by His actions which confirmed He was, in fact, the Messiah.
These actions included miracles, like the resurrection:
Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”
Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother (Luke 7:11–14, NIV).
Jesus also healed people:
As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.”
He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?”
“Lord, I want to see,” he replied.
Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God (Luke 18:35–43).
He even delivered people from demons:
When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!” For Jesus had commanded the impure spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places.
Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”
“Legion,” he replied, because many demons had gone into him. And they begged Jesus repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss.
A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into the pigs, and he gave them permission. When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned (Luke 8:27–33).
During many of these healings and miracles, Jesus forgave individuals of their sins. The Pharisees and other religious leaders in Israel “assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and they schemed to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him” (Matthew 26:3b–4).
The story of Jesus: His arrest and trial
Jesus communicated to His disciples that a time was coming when He would be killed—and that He would rise again.
From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life (Matthew 16:21, NIV).
When they came together in Galilee, he said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.” And the disciples were filled with grief (Matthew 17:22, NIV).
He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him (Mark 8:31–33, NIV).
When the time came, Jesus and the disciples traveled to Jerusalem. They shared a Passover meal together (Luke 22:7–38), and He took them to the Mount of Olives to pray in anticipation of His arrest. Judas, a disciple who had agreed to betray Jesus, led a crowd into the garden to arrest Jesus.
After Jesus’ arrest, most of the disciples fled, and Peter famously denied knowing Jesus three times.
The trial of Jesus
After being beaten and mocked by His captors, Jesus was brought before the council of elders. They questioned Jesus about being the Messiah, and He offered them a non-committal answer which they took as affirmation. He was then sent before Pilate, the Roman governor over Judea.
Jesus before Pilate
Because Pilate was the only person that could actually sentence Jesus to death, the elders made their case before the governor. They focused their accusations on things Pilate cared about, claiming that Jesus encouraged non-payment of taxes and that He believed Himself to be a king. Pilate asked Jesus if He was “king of the Jews.” Again, Jesus indirectly responded, “You say that I am.”
Pilate decided that this issue with Jesus wasn’t a Roman problem, and he sent Him to Herod, the local ruler over the Jews.
Jesus before Herod
The elders brought Jesus before Herod, who was very excited to have an audience with Him. Having heard about Jesus’ miracles, Herod hoped to see one. He asked Jesus many questions, but Jesus refused to answer. Herod and his guards ridiculed and mocked Jesus, sending Him back to Pilate.
Pilate sentences Jesus
Pilate again announced that he didn’t see any fault in Jesus, and he intended to punish Jesus and then release Him. It was the custom for Rome to release a prisoner during the Passover festival.The crowds, incited by the chief priests and elders, screamed that Pilate should release a murderer named Barabbas and crucify Jesus. Pilate attempted to reason with the crowd multiple times, but they’d hear none of it. Eventually, Pilate relented and met their demands. Washing his hands of the affair, he sentenced Jesus to die.
The story of Jesus: the crucifixion
Jesus was flogged and then forced to carry His cross to His execution. When He could carry it no further, a man named Simon of Cyrene was conscripted by guards to carry the cross. When they came to Calvary, Jesus was crucified between two thieves.
While Jesus hung there, the crowds, guards, and even the criminals sneered at Him. Eventually, one of the thieves chastised the other for mocking Jesus. Turning to Jesus, he requested that Jesus remember him when He came into His kingdom. Jesus responded, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43b).
Jesus died that afternoon, and darkness covered the land. His body was laid in the tomb of a man named Joseph.
If you’re curious about Jesus’ death, check out the post “Why Did Jesus Have to Die?”
The story of Jesus: the resurrection
On the first day of the week, women went to Jesus’ tomb to anoint His body. When they arrived, the stone blocking access to the tomb had been rolled away, and the body was missing. Suddenly two men in radiant clothing appeared with a message, frightening the women.
On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” Then they remembered his words.
When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened (Luke 24:1–12).
Jesus appears on the road to Emmaus
Two individuals were walking from Jerusalem to a village called Emmaus. They were talking about everything that had happened to Jesus. The Lord joined them during their journey, but they didn’t recognize Him. Jesus explained what the Old Testament Scriptures had to say about Him.
When they stopped for a meal, Jesus gave thanks and broke the bread to share. At that moment, they recognized Him—and He disappeared from sight. They hurried back to Jerusalem to report this to the disciples (Luke 24:31).
Jesus appears to the disciples
The Lord then appeared to the disciples while the travelers were still talking to them about their experience. He even eats with them to convince them that He isn’t a ghost.
While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence.
He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”
Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:36–49, NIV).
There is so much more to the story of Jesus
This brief overview of Jesus’ story is only the beginning. We didn’t have room to include so many critical parts of the story. And there are many important theological and spiritual consequences to ponder. Jesus has changed the lives of countless millions of people—and He can change your life, too.
If you’re interested in learning more, watch the entire JESUS film, and check out these blog posts: