Movie Clip Discussions

Les Misérables (Confession)

Dynamic Image

(Sony Pictures, 1998)

Main Point: When we sin, we must confess our failure and face the consequences. If we don’t, others may suffer the consequences of our actions.

The Movie Clip:
Les Misérables, or Les Mis, as it’s often known, is a powerful story of justice and forgiveness set in the shadow of the French Revolution. The movie follows the life of Jean Valjean (played by Liam Neeson), a man who has just been released from prison after serving 19 years of hard labor for stealing bread. He is shown such incredible kindness, mercy, and generosity by a priest that he vows to change his life, which he does.

Eventually, Valjean becomes a wealthy man and mayor of his city. But unfortunately for Valjean, the city’s police chief is a man named Javert (played by Geoffrey Rush) who was once a guard at the same prison in which Valjean was kept. Javert becomes suspicious that his mayor – and boss – is none other than the criminal he once guarded. In spite of that stress, Valjean continues to keep his promise to lead a changed life. But Valjean cannot keep up his alter ego forever; eventually, he must come face to face with his past.

Introducing the Clip:
Les Misérables is a classic, and has been since it was written in France in 1862. In fact, the story has taken Broadway by storm, and has even been made into a movie on several occasions. Here’s what you need to know for this clip to make sense: Jean Valjean is a criminal-turned-mayor. He served almost 20 years in prison, but after his release, he turned his life around. Unfortunately for him, his old prison guard named Javert keeps tormenting him. In this clip you’re about to see, another man is being tried in court as Jean Valjean; if the man is convicted of Jean Valjean’s crimes, he will die. Sitting in the crowded courtroom that day is the real Valjean. Take a look at what happens next.

The video clip is available for purchase at by clicking on the following link:

Transitional Statement:
That’s a pretty powerful scene, huh? In it we saw a man who was living a clean cut life, but in his past, there were plenty of skeletons. In his past life, he had committed crimes, and now, even though he was sitting in a courtroom dressed in fine clothes, another man was being condemned to death for crimes he didn’t commit. Fortunately for the accused man, the real criminal, the real Jean Valjean, stood up and confessed to his true identity. He did that, even though he knew he would face the penalty for his crimes. I showed this clip because I want us to learn an important lesson in life: when we sin, we must also confess our failure and face the consequences, too. If we don’t, others may suffer the consequences of our actions. That would be tragic. Let’s take a look at the Bible to see what happens when someone doesn’t take responsibility for their actions.

Divide into Small Groups:
Let’s go ahead and split up into our discussion groups, and then afterward we’ll come back together for a final word.

CLICK HERE for a quick training article on how to maximize your small groups using our small group format—a great resource to equip your small group leaders.

Discussion Questions:

  1. AROUND THE CIRLCE: As we get started, let’s all take a second to share our names and whether or not someone has ever confused you with someone else.

  2. ASK A FEW: In the clip, how do you think the man accused of being Jean Valjean felt when all the witnesses told the jury he was somebody he wasn’t?

  3. ASK A FEW: Why do you think the real Jean Valjean stood up and confessed to his former crimes?

  4. ASK A FEW: What would you have done? Would you have confessed to your crimes knowing there would be a price to pay, or would you let the other man die?

  5. ASK A FEW: We’re told that the man in the clip, if found guilty of being Jean Valjean, would have died for crimes he didn’t commit. Have you ever seen someone in real life pay for someone else’s mistakes?

  6. ASK A FEW: Have you ever been blamed for someone else’s actions? If so, what happened?

  7. ASK A FEW: Why is it important to confess our failures and our sin?

  8. Read the following passage:

      Genesis 39:1-20 (NIV)

      Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. Potiphar, an Egyptian who was one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him there. 2 The LORD was with Joseph and he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. 3 When his master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD gave him success in everything he did, 4 Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. 5 From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the LORD blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the LORD was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field. 6 So he left in Joseph’s care everything he had; with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate. Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, 7 and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me!” 8 But he refused. “With me in charge,” he told her, “my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. 9 No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” 10 And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her. 11 One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. 12 She caught him by his cloak and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house. 13 When she saw that he had left his cloak in her hand and had run out of the house, 14 she called her household servants. “Look,” she said to them, “this Hebrew has been brought to us to make sport of us! He came in here to sleep with me, but I screamed. 15 When he heard me scream for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.” 16 She kept his cloak beside her until his master came home. 17 Then she told him this story: “That Hebrew slave you brought us came to me to make sport of me. 18 But as soon as I screamed for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.” 19 When his master heard the story his wife told him, saying, “This is how your slave treated me,” he burned with anger. 20 Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined.

  9. ASK SOMEONE: Was Joseph guilty of any crimes or indiscretions in this story?

  10. ASK A FEW: By your thinking, how serious of an offense were the charges of adultery and sexual violence that were brought against Joseph?

  11. ASK A FEW: In your opinion, why didn’t Potiphar’s wife “fess up”?

  12. ASK A FEW: Does it surprise you that the guilty criminal Jean Valjean confessed his sin, while the high-profile wife of General Potiphar did not? Why or why not?

  13. ASK A FEW: What was the punishment Joseph faced for the crime he didn’t commit? Was that fair?
  14. AROUND THE CIRCLE: Have you ever sinned – told a lie, gossiped, stolen, cheated, etc. – but someone else paid for your wrongdoing? If so, can you quickly tell the story?

  15. AROUND THE CIRLE: Is there something you can do to make it right to the person who took the fall for you? If so, what?

  16. AROUND THE CIRLE: What will you do this week to set the record straight, confess your sin, and bring healing to the person you wronged?

Wrap Up:
This lesson is a powerful one, but a simple one, at the same time. To be honest, I wish I didn’t even have to talk about something as clear as “owning up to your failures.” But just look around our culture; everywhere we turn, we see people suffering because of others’ sin. We hear people blaming others for their failures. We see people get hurt because of others.

My hope is that you will avoid all of those stories. I hope you will never, ever allow someone else to feel the pain of your sin. I hope that each time you make a mistake, you own it and grow from it. It will teach you responsibility. It will teach you a dependency on Jesus. But, it will also keep your loved ones from feeling the burn of your shortcomings.

Listen, we all sin. We all intentionally break God’s heart from time to time. Let’s face it: we mess up. That shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody! So, if all of us know that all of us are prone to sinning, then why do we retreat from our mistakes so quickly, and allow others to suffer for them? Let’s not do that. Let’s begin to take responsibility for our actions and our words.

We’ve got a wonderful Example of that in the life of Jesus. Not only did He NOT EVER SIN, but He also took the punishment of our sin upon Himself! Think about that! Instead of running from our sin – and our punishment – He went to the cross for us. The least we could do in return is to limit our sin and freely confess it when we commit it.

It doesn’t matter who you are; you could be the celebrity-like wife of Potiphar, a person with a great reputation, or you could be like the guilty criminal Jean Valjean, a person everybody hated and despised. It doesn’t matter; you have the obligation to own up to your sin and free others from suffering because of what you did or said.

The only question is…will you?

Close in Prayer

Written by David R Smith


Jonathan McKee

Jonathan McKee is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Guy's Guide to FOUR BATTLES Every Young Man Must Face; The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices; If I Had a Parenting Do Over; and the Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket. He speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers on Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.

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