Faith & Wisdom

When Did Jesus Die and Why Did He Die For Us?

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Date Published:
April 8, 2022

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We know so much about the miraculous acts of the Lord, his importance in the trinity, and even his compassionate and forgiving nature. 

Less, however, is known about his personal biography. 

Little reliable evidence exists to offer an accurate timeline of the life of Jesus Christ up to his death. 

There are multiple theories and perspectives on when Jesus died that include analyzing the four gospels, the trial of the apostle Paul, and even astronomical dating methods.

But which is correct? When did the Messiah die, and what does this mean for his life’s work and mission?

Join us as we attempt to uncover the answers to all these questions.

History of Jesus Christ

While there is debate around the precise date of Jesus Christ’s birth, life, and death, we do have a good approximate knowledge of his biographical timeline. We can break it down into two key sections. 

Date of Jesus’ birth

The exact date of the Lord’s birthday is not stated in the gospels, but different Biblical accounts offer us a range of dates that are likely accurate, give or take a few years.

First, both the Gospel of Luke and the Gospel of Matthew associate Jesus’ birth under the reign of King Herod the Great, who died in 4 BC. Second, Luke 3:23 offers Jesus’s age of “about 30 years” when he began preaching. Earlier, Luke 3:1-2 references the “fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar.”

From those two references, we can guess that Jesus was likely born sometime between 4 and 2 BC. 

Date of the ministry of Jesus

The ministry of Jesus is a period that begins with his baptism and subsequent years of preaching. 

The prior mention of Tiberius Caesar from Luke 3:1-2 dates his reign beginning in September of 14 AD, which implies the ministry of John the Baptist began around AD 29. This is important, as, according to the New Testament, the ministry of Jesus closely followed the ministry of John the Baptist.

This places the date of Jesus’ ministry around AD 26.

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When did Jesus die?

There are more methods to narrow down the date of Jesus’ death than his birth, thanks to the use of astrological dating instead of just scriptural accounts. 

However, all four synoptic gospels agree that the crucifixion of Jesus was ordered by Roman Judaea governor Pontius Pilate. He held his position from 26–37 AD, meaning Jesus’ death occurred somewhere during that period. 

Gospel accounts like Mark's also indicate that the crucifixion was held during the day of Passover, specifically a few hours before the start of the Jewish Sabbath: 

“Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity” (John 19:31).

Furthermore, a lunar eclipse is referenced in Acts 2:14-21 on the date of Jesus’ death: 

"The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the day of the Lord come." 

The calendar of Judea notes that the Passover tradition of ‘the slaughtering of lambs’ occurs between 3–5 p.m. on the 14th day of the Jewish month (Nisan), a Friday. 

The Passover meal takes place at moonrise or sundown of the same evening, so the 15th day of the Jewish calendar month. This suggests Jesus was crucified on Friday the 14th, or Good Friday, and was resurrected on the 16th on what we now refer to as Easter Sunday.

Isaac Newton offers us a different specific date of the Son of God's final days based on the likely dates of lunar eclipses. We know his death occurred on a Friday, and the date where a lunar eclipse most likely occurred within the timeframe offered by Pontius Pilate's reign was April 3, 33 AD.

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What was Jesus’ mission according to the Bible?

Jesus didn’t accept his fate on the cross for no reason. 

From the beginning of his ministry to the end of his life, he was divinely driven to accomplish the sacred goal of bringing salvation to the lost, the sinful, and the world at large: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). 

This was made clear in Luke 19:10: “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Bringing Christianity to the masses was his mission.

His passion for salvation was not at all lessened by the imperfections of those around him. In fact, he actively sought sinners of all kinds, adulterers, tax collectors, and more, to earn their repentance.

You’ve likely heard the expression ‘Jesus saves.’ This simple phrase sums up his central mission — to save those who need saving, liberate the poor, resolve injustice, and bring redemption to sinners so that they might be able to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. 

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Did Jesus die for us?

While we can’t know the date of the crucifixion with absolute certainty, we are able to come close. 

The words of all four gospels agree that Jesus died during Jewish Passover under the orders of Pontius Pilate. A lunar eclipse was referenced in Acts of the Apostles, a crucial data point that allowed academics and astrologists, including Isaac Newton, to estimate the death of Jesus Christ occurring on April 3, AD 33.

But a more important question than when Jesus died is why.

And the answer to that question we do know with all the certainty in the world. Jesus died so that we could be saved. And for that, we are forever grateful. 

To stay connected to Christian thought through breakdowns of the New and Old Testament, download the pray.com app in the iOS App Store or on Google Play.

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