Like most 7-year-old girls, my little sister, Nevaeh (through Big Brothers Big Sisters), loves the movie Frozen. By association, so do I. Though not blood related, we share a similar sense of humor, a particular goofiness, and a fondness for Disney music.
For those familiar with the movie, the following phrase will ring a bell, “Only a true act of love can thaw a frozen heart.” It recurs throughout the movie, but its thematic significance is fleshed out at the very end.
In the final scene, Anna (the younger sister) is struggling with a literal frozen heart—a result of her sister’s “ice” powers which went horribly wrong in the scene prior. Elsa (the older sister) is struggling with a metaphorical frozen heart—she’s isolated from her village because of her powers; she’s been ostracized, condemned, and misunderstood, and has built an ice palace to protect herself from this pain and rejection. At the height of the drama, Anna steps in and takes the fatal blow intended for Elsa.
Upon recognizing what her sister has done, Elsa weeps. In Disney-style fashion, her tears melt Anna’s physical frozenness, and as Anna emerges from her thawed state, Elsa astonishingly asks, “You sacrificed yourself for me?” To which Anna unquestionably responds, “I love you.” The love that motivated Anna’s sacrifice is the same love that thaws Elsa’s heart.
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This scene made me think about Jesus and the cross. The atonement (the theological word for the saving significance of Jesus’ death) is hard enough for adults to understand, let alone a 7-year-old. I’ve often wondered how to explain Jesus’ death to Nevaeh. The movie provided me with an answer.
When we look at the cross, I believe we’re just as astonished as Elsa. In trying to grasp what Jesus has done, we similarly ask, “You sacrificed yourself for me?” To which Jesus unquestionably responds, “I love you.”
In Scripture, the cross is a place where God’s love is poured out. A place that Jesus chooses to go, a death he willingly embraces. This self-giving love demonstrates God’s commitment to, and care for, his creation. In becoming sin, Jesus takes on our frozen hearts, our hardness, our isolation. He experiences humanity’s worst, bearing the brunt of damaged relationships and broken systems, as he suffers with and for us. The cross is a purposeful declaration of God’s transformative power—it reorients and reshapes our lives, restores relationships, and testifies to the profundity of God’s love for us.
In essence, the cross thaws our frozen hearts.
The love manifested in Jesus’ selfless act defrosts the sin which so often freezes and immobilizes us. God melts our icy interiors that we may experience fullness of life and relationship with him, and just as Anna and Elsa are reconciled to each other, Jesus’ death not only reconciles us to himself, but to one another.
As Good Friday approaches, as we reflect on the significance of the cross, may we remember that only a true act of love can thaw a frozen heart; only a true act of love can save us. Fortunately, this is precisely what Jesus’ sacrifice accomplished.
This is good news.
This is Good Friday.