The Trial

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Simplified

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Varied Jewish Opinions (595-596)

Besides Nicodemus and Joseph of Aramathea (both secretly disciples of Jesus), "many, even among the authorities, believed in him" (Jn 12:42). After Pentecost, many priests and even some Pharisees became believers (Acts 6:7, 15:5). Years later, James told Paul that thousands who were zealous for the Law had become believers (Acts 21:20).

The authorities were not unanimous in their stance toward Jesus. The Pharisees wanted to excommunicate Jesus' followers (Jn 9:22). Caiaphas, the high priest, thought that Jesus should die "that the whole nation should not perish" (Jn 11:4-50). In asking Pilate to condemn Jesus, the Sanhedrin used the charge of "political revolt."

Jews are Not Collectively Responsible for Jesus' Death (597)

Jesus' trial is historically complex and we cannot place responsibility upon the Jews in Jerusalem. Jesus forgave them from the cross, and after the Resurrection, Peter says that the Jews and their leaders acted in "ignorance" (Acts 3:17). "Jews today cannot be charged with the crimes committed during Jesus' passion. They should not be spoken of as rejected or accursed" (Second Vatican Council).

We Sinners are Responsible (598)

Really, "sinners were the authors and ministers" of all Jesus' suffering (Roman Catechism). Because of our sins, the Church places responsibility primarily upon Christians (a responsibility often given only to Jews).

"We must regard as guilty all those who relapse into their sins. Our crime in this case is greater in us than in the Jews. Because we profess to know him, when we deny him, we lay violent hands on him" (Roman Catechism). "Nor did the demons crucify him. You crucify him when you delight in your vices and sins" (St. Francis of Assisi).

Not a Coincidence (599-600)

Jesus didn't die from an unfortunate coincidence of circumstances. St. Peter said that he died "according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God" (Acts 2:33). The people involved were not passive players in a script written by God.

God's "predestination" includes each person's free response to grace. The Bible says that they "gathered together against your holy servant Jesus to do what your plan had predestined to take place" (Acts 4:27-28). God permitted their acts of blindness to accomplish his plan of salvation.

Foretold by Scripture (601)

Scriptures foretold Jesus' death as a ransom "to free men from the slavery of sin" (Isa 53:11). Christians professed that "Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures" (1 Cor 15:13). After the Resurrection, Jesus explained that his death was needed so he could enter into glory (Lk C 24).

Jesus in Solidarity with Sinners (602-603)

Christ was always destined to shed his blood, even though our ransom was only manifested "at the end of the times" (1 Pet 1:18-20). Jesus was made "to be sin" so we "might become the righteousness of God" (2 Cor 5:21).

Jesus did not experience reprobation as if he himself sinned (Jn 8:46) but he assumed our state of sinful waywardness. God placed Jesus in solidarity with us sinners. He "did not spare his own Son" (Rom 8:32) so we might be "reconciled to God by the death of his Son" (Rom 5:10).

God's Initiative in Christ (604-605)

Prior to any response on our part, "God sent us his Son to be the expiation for our sins" (1 Jn 4:10). "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom 5:8).

The Father wants none "of these little ones to perish" (Mt 18:14). The Church teaches that "there is not, never has been, and never will be a single human being for whom Christ did not suffer" (Council of Quiercy).

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