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In this study guide, we’ll continue working our way through the Gospel of Mark with a discussion of Mark 14:43–72 as Pastor Duane Roberts examines Judas and Peter’s failures and how God can use our failures to redeem us!
Below, you’ll find some key discussion point questions to reflect on and consider on your own, in your small group, with your family, or in your circle of friends, as well as some action points for the week and a look ahead.
Memory Verse of the Week: 2 Corinthians 7:10 (NIV)“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”
Icebreaker: What’s your favorite comeback story (i.e. the “Miracle on Ice,” Robert Downey Jr.’s career resurgence after substance abuse battles, the story of Walt Disney, Super Bowl LI)? What makes it so great?
Getting the Conversation Going: Have you ever failed at something? Yes . . . yes you have. But it’s okay, because you’re not alone in that. There’s no way around it; every single one of us has failed. In fact, if we’re being honest, we fail a lot—we fall short, give up, don’t meet goals, say the wrong thing, make mistakes, don’t live up to expectations. Failure is a by-product of our sinful condition within this fallen world. So, the better question to ask is “What does life after failure look like for you?”
In Mark 14:43–72, we see a great many failures—on the part of all the disciples, the Jewish leaders, and the people. However, we’re going to focus on two stories of failure and the ways their failures were handled.
Discussion Question 1: How has failure impacted your life?
The Value of Failure: In the 2007 Disney film Meet the Robinsons, failure is a major theme. The main character, a young genius orphan boy named Lewis, is sent on a journey to the future and meets the Robinson family. After failing at an experiment, the family celebrates and says, “You failed! And it was awesome . . . From failing, you learn. From success, not so much.” They then go on to list all they would’ve failed to accomplish had they simply given up or become bitter and resentful after failure. The point the film makes in respect to failure is that the way we handle our failures will have a huge impact on our growth, character, and future.
Discussion Question 2: Why are people so often afraid of failing?
A Tale of Two Failures: In 2 Corinthians 7:9–11 (NIV), Paul explains, “Yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done.”
In Mark 14, we read about the failures of two key people: Judas and Peter. The Gospels and the rest of the New Testament show us where their failures led them . . . one experienced godly sorrow that produced repentance and led to salvation, and the other experienced worldly sorrow that produced death.
Judas realized his failure. Matthew 27:3–10 (NIV) tells us, “When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. ‘I have sinned,’ he said, ‘for I have betrayed innocent blood.’”
This is important and necessary for all of us. Judas realized his sin, his failure, and his transgression against God. He was filled with remorse and sorrow, but it was worldly and not godly sorrow for he did not repent or seek out the mercy and forgiveness of God. Instead, he looked inward and became consumed by guilt and shame. And so, we see vividly the words of 2 Corinthians 7:10 (“worldly sorrow brings death”) as Judas, we’re told, “threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself” (Matthew 27:5 NIV).
Peter is a man whose story throughout the New Testament is littered with missteps and some key failures. But in Mark 14:66–72, we see his greatest failure . . . his denial of Jesus. Even after Jesus told Peter this would happen, Peter denied this by saying, “Even if all fall away, I will not. . . . Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you” (Mark 14:29–31 NIV). But fall away he did. And as he heard the rooster and remembered the words of Jesus, “he broke down and wept” Mark 14:72 (NIV). Luke 22:62 (NIV) goes further, telling us that he went away and “wept bitterly.” The Greek word for bitterly describes a deep, heart wrenching, and miserable grief.
Again, as Jesus’ words were fulfilled, Peter realized his failure and transgression against God. He was filled with remorse and sorrow, but unlike Judas, Peter’s sorrow was a godly sorrow. How do we know this? Because he was still with the disciples on the morning of the resurrection. This shows us that despite his failure, he didn’t isolate himself or become consumed with shame, resentment, or self-loathing. We also know he sprinted to the empty tomb upon hearing the news, which shows not only humility to come face-to-face with the One he denied, but also that he knew his only path to redemption was found through Jesus, not by looking within himself. And finally, after His resurrection, Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him three times—hardly a coincidence—and then proceeds to tell him to feed and tend to His sheep (John 21:15–19). It’s here that Jesus restored Peter and reaffirmed his calling. This empowered Peter to move forward in redemption, free from shame and guilt. This was godly sorrow in action; it led to repentance and salvation, it left no regret, and it led to character building and growth.
Your failure can lead to redemption or destruction, and Jesus lets you choose which one. If you choose to dwell on it and stay stuck in it, to fall backwards in shame and guilt, to seek isolation and look inward instead of drawing near to Jesus and seeking His restoration, it will lead you down a destructive path. But if you fail forward in repentance and seeking the restoration of Christ, He will not only restore you, but He will also use your failures for His glory and your good!
As Martin Luther once wrote, “It is a great comfort the Bible records many celebrated people falling into huge sins. Such errors are given to us so those who are troubled and desperate may find comfort, and those who are proud may be afraid. . . . No man has ever fallen so grievously that he could not have stood up again, and no one has such a sure footing that he cannot fall. If Peter fell, I too may fall. But if Peter stood up again, I also can!
Discussion Question 3: What can you learn from Judas and Peter’s failures? What encouragement does Peter’s restoration offer? What warning does Judas’ death provide?
Discussion Question 4: What have you learned from your failures? How has God used them?
Press On: So often, we allow past failures, mistakes, and painful experiences to keep us from all God wants to do in and through us. We stay trapped in the past, stuck in our circumstances, unable to move, and, more importantly, unable to press on. But there’s no failing too far that it’s beyond the reach of God’s grace; no mistake so grievous that it disqualifies us from His forgiveness. And if He can forgive us and use our failures to bring glory to His name, then we should be able to rest in that forgiveness, stop looking backwards, and fix our eyes forward towards Jesus.
Discussion Question 5: What steps can you take moving forward to ensure that when you fail, you walk in the process of godly sorrow and avoid the destructive path of worldly sorrow?
This Week: Do you know someone who seems far from God’s grace? Someone you look at and almost see as a lost cause? They’re not! Pray for them! Pray the Lord reveals Himself to them and draws them to Himself so they can experience His redemption. If you feel like a lost cause, like one who has failed and fallen hard and have disqualified yourself from His promises and grace, please know that you’re not! If you have questions, need help, or just want someone to talk you through the process of failing forward, repentance, and reconciliation, please contact me at DanielS@CalvaryFTL.org.
In our next study, we’ll continue working our way through the Gospel of Mark with a discussion of Mark 15:1–41 covering the trial, crucifixion, death, and burial of Jesus.
Danny Saavedra is a licensed minister who has served on staff at Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.