Saw Frozen last night with the family, and it struck me that the climax of the movie is actually a fairly good picture of the substitutionary atonement of Jesus — not perfect, but pretty good. If you haven’t seen the movie, and don’t want to spoil it, you’d probably want to stop reading this post about here. Spoilers ahead, as they say.
So without going into all the details of the story, Anna has been struck in the heart by her sister, Elsa. Anna’s heart has begun to freeze and soon her whole body will turn to ice. She has been struck with Elsa’s ice-curse. One key to understanding the curse of sin in this world is understanding the curse as the wrath of God against sin. It is God’s eternal judgment against that which turns away from Him and His love. It’s like gravity, like a spell, but it’s all exhaustively personal and not mechanical or merely a law of nature. It’s God’s eternal determination to drive sin and darkness back into the nothingness, to free all of creation from the bending disease. Thus, when Paul speaks of the wrath of God in Romans 1, it is God turning men and women over to themselves, allowing them to continue down the path of evil, toward the void, in increasing confusion. Hell is the fullness of this wrath.
The central theme of Frozen is, like every Disney princess movie, surprise, true love. But what is actually surprising is that “true love” is not what it seems. Both sisters struggle with opposite distortions of love. Elsa hides herself from others, afraid of hurting and being hurt, while Anna has no discretion, no wisdom, and throws herself into the world, falling in love with the first gorgeous face she happens to run into. What unfolds is the startlingly biblical explanation that love is putting other’s needs before your own, thinking of others first.
Turns out Anna’s first “love” was Hans, a suave, handsome player. He’s the Satan of the story, an angel of light, full of dazzling moves, quick on his feet, smooth with his words. But in the end, his aim is to murder both sisters and take over the kingdom. Here, we arrive at the climax. As Anna has stumbled out onto the frozen fiord trying to make it to Christof, who she believes may be able to break the spell (true love), she sees Hans raising his sword to finally strike Elsa down who cowers in despair, believing that her sister is already dead. The Accuser has announced that Elsa is guilty, she has brought this freezing curse on the land, she is responsible for the trouble in the kingdom. She deserves to die. Instead of seeking her own safety, her own healing, her own salvation, Anna runs between Elsa and the sword of judgment. And at that very moment, as the sword comes crashing down, the spell finishes it’s awful work and her body freezes altogether. Anna becomes the curse completely, she is finished by the wrath, the judgment, and as the Satan’s sword comes down it is the ice that has consumed Anna that now shatters the Accuser’s sword. The wrath has been filled to full. Once death has done its worst, there is no more room for wrath, there is no more room for judgment.
Our hero Jesus is the One who did not seek His own good, His own glory but rather rushed to stand between us and the sword of judgment that we justly deserved. We were all born with the curse of sin, we were born deformed in our loves, but He came in His love and took our curse upon Himself. When He died He bore the awful wrath of God against sin, all of God’s fury was laid upon Him, and He was consumed. And at that very point, as Satan swung his sword down, all of the sin was paid for, all of the sinners were ransomed, all of the blood was atoned for, all of the guilty were pardoned. And the very power which Satan had wielded, the fear of death and dying, became the very power by which God shattered the Accuser’s sword.
And like Anna, our Hero, because He acted with true love for His brothers and sisters could not stay dead. And on that first Easter, a heart enclosed in the ice of death buried in a tomb, sealed with a stone, began to beat again. And the ice began to melt, and now light and life to all He brings, risen with healing in His wings.
Of course there are details that make our stories different at points. Several creep into my mind immediately, but honestly, I’m content to ignore them for the moment. True Love bore the wrath of God on the tree. True Love shattered Satan’s sword. True Love stood in our place. True Love melts the power of death. And now we watch as the winter dwindles away, and we await the Great Spring to come.