A few weeks ago we started our series on Questions. As promised in the last post, and in class here are some brief summaries of the questions for those who missed it. Below you’ll see the question a summary answer and a “why is this important” section.
You’ve been asking really great questions, so keep it up.
1) “At what age did Jesus die? (a fitting question given it was just Easter)
The simple answer is, we don’t know exactly (I know, not what you were looking for). But with a little work, we can have a pretty good guess.
There are basically 4 main clues we can use to figure out roughly: when Jesus was born, when he started his ministry and when he was arrested, killed and rose again (that last part is why we’re still talking about him).
– The reign of Tiberius Cesar
– The rule of Herod the Great
– The dates that Pontius Pilate was governor
– The number of Jewish festivals in Jesus’ ministry.
Luke chapter 3 starts like this, “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene”
Then in verse 23 we get this little tidbit, “Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry.”
Since Tiberius Caesar started is reign in c. 14AD the 15th year will take us to c.29AD. So Jesus started his ministry in c.29AD (that c. means circa which is a fancy Latin way of saying around or about, so go ahead and impress your friends with that).
Luke tells us Jesus was “about thirty” and so if we used the dates of Herod the Great’s rule (who is mentioned in the birth stories of Jesus) to figure the time around his birth, and use the dates that Pontius Pilate governed (which is the time of Jesus’ death), we can get a good picture of when Jesus died and how long he ministered for (which will help us answer the why section).
Herod the Great ruled from 37BC to 4BC, this means that Jesus was probably born between 6-4 BC. Pontius Pilate was the Governor of Judea from 26AD – 36AD (we also know that Herod Antipas, who had dealings with Jesus and John the Baptist, ruled from 6AD-39AD), so we know that Jesus was executed before 36AD.
There are annual Jewish festivals, such as Passover, recorded in the Gospels that help us track the length of Jesus’ public ministry. From the Gospels we know that Jesus’ ministry lasted for at least 3 Passovers. Now the Gospel of John itself says that Jesus did many more things than what were recorded (John 20:30), so it is quite possible that the Jesus was a public figure for more than those three years, but we can’t know for sure.
So given all that we’ve covered, (to actually answer the question), Jesus was about 30 when he started his ministry in c.29AD (many scholars put this at 32 given the date of birth), he ministered for at least 3 years and was arrested and crucified around passover between 32-36AD.
Therefore Jesus is in his mid to late thirties when he is killed.
WHY DOES THIS MATTER?
Besides, our natural curiosity, knowing when Jesus lived and died matters a great deal.
1) It makes us realize that Jesus did in fact walk the earth, breath the air that we breath, he ate food, lived, and died. While not all scholars may profess that Jesus is God’s Son, they do affirm that the man Jesus of Nazareth walked the earth and had a following. All that to say, Jesus lived, he was one of us, he was human.
2) It shows us that Jesus didn’t jump into something before he was ready. Although Jesus lived in a very different time than us, I’m pretty sure his twenties were still a time of excitement and passion. He may very well have eagerly wanted to “get the show on the road.” But he waited – waited for the right time, when he was ready and when God had given him direction.
3) It also shows us how big of an impact Jesus made in just a blip of time. A mere 3-5 years. That’s less time than most people spend in college, and yet 2000 years later Jesus is still one if not the most talked about and influential figure in history.
So what will God do with us? Do with you?
If we are willing to listen to him, to his pulling in our life. If we can block out the noise of the other voices and listen to who God wants to transform us into. Yes, we’ll be called to “pick up our own cross,” (it won’t always be easy), but God can bring us new life, and bring new life to those around us!
Okay on to the next question. I promise I’ll be shorter next time.