This timely reminder of the (timeless) emotional punch packed by Good Will Hunting comes to us from Sam Guthrie, twenty years after the film’s release.

Twenty years ago, a few no-name actors from New England wrote a screenplay about a math prodigy from South Boston. With the help of stars like Robin Williams and Stellan Skarsgård and the vision of director Gus Van Zant, Good Will Hunting became a hit and kickstarted the careers of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck (as well as his brother Casey) who in time would all become household names.

Out of the numerous gems in the treasure chest of Good Will Hunting, the one my eye is always drawn to is the relationship between Matt Damon and Robin Williams’ characters. Van Zant’s strong writing is enough to carry even two average actors, but Williams and Damon take the script and build a masterpiece.

When 20-year-old Will Hunting (Damon) walks into the office of Dr. Sean Maguire (Williams), it’s because he has to. A few professors at MIT have recognized his brilliance but also uncovered that he has a nasty past to work through. As part of the agreement, Will works at MIT solving and creating complex algorithms but must also see a therapist. Will agrees to the sessions and, being the quick-witted genius that he is, totally humiliates each shrink he sees with an impressive array of knowledge, humor, and wit. So when he walks into Sean Maguire’s office, he expects to do the same. But unlike all of the other therapists Will has burned through, Sean is different. He too is quick with a word, super-intelligent, grew up in the same low-income neighborhood as Will, and carries his own painful baggage. And as Will enters Sean’s office for the first time, Sean simultaneously steps into Will’s turmoil.

During their meetings, Sean doesn’t attempt to diagnose him, dive right into the depth of his problems, or lecture him with theory. Because of this, Will has less reason to retreat into himself. That doesn’t mean there isn’t tension or argument between the two, especially early on. But over the course of the movie, we see the walls come down. Bricks are removed one by one. Will stops looking at the clock during the sessions, and they converse on issues of love and loss, exchanging questions and answers that aren’t generic but an honest back-and-forth between the two boys from Southie. But when Will leaves Sean’s presence, he is like a sailor in the midst of a storm. Because he is a genius, he is a huge commodity for many of the city’s big corporations. Everywhere he goes, people are telling him what to do with his life. And with the prospect of success bearing down and looming with each company that courts him, it strains his relationship with his girlfriend, Skylar; the only intimate relationship, other than with Sean, that Will has. Because of the heightened pressures all around him, his vulnerability with Skylar, which should be a source of comfort, becomes a point of tension.

Like an injured pitbull, Will rages at almost anyone who tries to help or speak into his life. For Will, and for all of us, to be dependent or to rely on anyone means there has to be a certain level of vulnerability and self-awareness of our own predicament. We fight the urge to ask for help even though what lies beneath the surface seeps out of its bursting seams. And often, we are like the man who tries to pull himself out of quicksand by his own hair.

Towards the end of the movie, Sean looks over Will’s file and Will’s history of abuse surfaces. Instead of dismissing it or making a crude joke and moving on, Will does the unthinkable: he lowers his guard and asks Sean if he had ever been abused. Quickly we learn both had. And with the monster revealed, a common pain that neither man want but undeniably share, Sean looks at Will and speaks into his situation unlike any other person in the movie has thus far. He simply says over and over again, “Will, it’s not your fault. Will, it’s not your fault.” With each utterance of these words, Will softens, his guard comes down, and the weight that had crippled him his whole life retracts its grip and falls to the floor. With this repeated declaration, Will breaks down into Sean’s arms.

Sean’s comforting statement to Will doesn’t hide the darkness that burdens him. It doesn’t aggrandize it either. It’s not an “It’ll get better,” or, “Man, that’s hard to hear.” Sean’s words acknowledge the weight of the problem at hand; they don’t excuse it. But what causes Will to let go and break down is the repetition that assures him that the darkness of his past isn’t his to carry. What is more, this comfort came over and over again from a man who was no stranger to pain but who also endured beatings as a child and who lost his wife when she was far too young to die.

After the resurrection, Jesus met with a few of his disciples. Around the fire, he looked at Peter who, only days before, sat around a similar fire with strangers who accused him of knowing Jesus. He denounced the name of the man who now sat, resurrected, just five feet from him. What more can Peter feel but an intense guilt for what he did? How can he possibly respond when Jesus asks him over and over again, “Peter, do you love me?” when his actions prove otherwise? How can any of us respond to that question honestly? But the weight of Peter’s guilt and shame is lifted with Jesus’s repetitive declaration, “Feed my sheep.” The question to the often repeated “How could you ever love me?” is returned with a simple “because,” over and over again.

In both situations, a weight is lifted. It’s no coincidence that when Will collapses into the arms of Sean, the first words he utters through his tears and moans is, “I’m sorry.”

The story of Jesus and Peter, similar to the story of Will and Sean, is our story as well. It is the freeing story of imputation; where we have been declared worthy though we weren’t, or felt anything but. As Karl Barth says, “He took our sin upon himself as though he himself had committed it…the ‘no,’ meant to strike us mightily, struck the one who was without sin and did not deserve death.”

For Will, imputation leads to him hopping in a beat-up car and heading down 95 to see about a girl. For Peter, it means his participation in the care of believers. For us, it means that in spite of ourselves and the histories we carry, we have been declared righteous when we were, and are, at our wits end.