Zachary, Zach as everyone called him at his request, knew that the second-grade class at the church were going to being doing some artwork this morning, but he wasn’t quite ready for the surprise that greeted him when he entered the room. Mrs. Johnson had informed him that the project was going to include some sparkles, but he did not figure that the room would be covered in them. Well, not exactly covered but close enough. Zach could only smile as he stared his late Sunday morning routine, a position at the church he had held for more than ten years now and one he thoroughly enjoyed.
“Ow, that hurt.” The pain in his back was a little worse today, but not as bad as other times, somedays it kept him bedridden, but he saw these times as an opportunity to study his Bible more intently. Not that he didn’t read every day, seeking the face of his Lord for guidance, but those times were special to him, they reminded him of when he did not study Gods Words, the times that he didn’t want to.
“We’re not sure he will even make it through the night, time will tell.” Zach heard the words through what seemed like a tunnel, bouncing off the walls before they reached his ears. He could hear his mom and dad in the distance, but couldn’t see them, in fact he wasn’t even sure of what was happening. The last thing he remembered was three of the front defensive linemen from the opposing team heading right for him, he made a quick turn to avoid them, and then woke up here, wherever here was. He saw his dads face then, and knew something was terribly wrong, his dad didn’t cry, ever, but the tears were rolling down his face and his mom looked white as a ghost.
“Are you sure I can’t get you anything else before I leave for the day” Physical therapy was pain, that was all it was, serious agonizing torture, and Zach had learned to hate the face of John, hated even the sound of his voice in the hallway of the hospital coming towards his room. “Okay then, I’ll see you tomorrow, think about what I said.” The last thing on Zach’s mind was more Jesus talk, the pain in his back was beyond aching, it felt like ever part of him was on fire from the neck down. The injury had been severe, two of the three linemen had landed square on his chest, the other had cut his legs out from under him, and he had been folded backwards, his head nearly touching the heels of his feet. Three broken vertebrae and a spine that had been stretched way beyond the limits it was ever intended to be stretched. There had been visitors, cards and phone calls, but almost three months had passed now without barely a word, two months of that had been in traction.
Now that the second-grade classroom had been given a thorough wipe down and vacuum, Zach grabbed his cane and headed down the hallway to the next room, one he was more than familiar with. Zach taught the high school kids, the ones who were just in grade school when his accident occurred. He was a legend in a small way in town, the boy who not only lived but walked, there was even a small plaque in this room that had been given to him eight years ago by the kids, one commemorating his anniversary of graduating from walker to cane.
Most of the kids in his class were good kids, attentive as much as anyone at that age could be, and more than willing to lend a hand when it was needed, some even staying late on Sunday morning after the service to help him clean occasionally. Danny was one of them, and Susan, both were wanting to go on to a fine Christian college, and though neither of them knew for sure into what field yet, they were willing and obedient to the leading of the Christ and loved their Lord dearly.
“John, why can’t we do therapy just once without all of the Bible stuff?” It was Zach’s seventeenth week in the hospital, the body cast covered his chest down to his hips, but it was better than the traction device that he had been stuck in those first few weeks. He had even been allowed to go home last Thursday for the first time, only for a couple of hours, but his folks made a big deal of it, even some of his high school buddies were there. John had of course come along, he was not only his primary physical therapist, but his guardian, as it were. “More like a watchdog” Zach had said more than once. “I’ve told you, Zach, I’m not just concerned with your recuperation but your soul, besides, how often does a Christian get this kind of captive audience.” Zach had to admit that some of the things that John had been talking about lately made sense, sort of. He knew that he was going to die someday, nobody comes that close to it as he had and not think about it. It was the sin thing he didn’t like. He thought of himself as a good kid, no real trouble, he had even volunteered at the local dog pound more than once and had two dogs at home to prove it.
“Alright, what was that one thing you said about everybody is a sinner,” Zach said as the pain shot up his entire spine like a parade of needles while John continued to pull his knee up to his chest. “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God, it’s from the Book of Romans, Chapter three verse twenty-three, it means just what it says, every single person is born with sin in them.” John released Zach’s leg and gave him a two-minute reprieve, he knew how much all his work on the boy hurt, but he also knew that it was necessary if he was ever to walk again.
“Because of the sin of Adam in the garden like I told you, everyone is born with sin in them, and until that sin is covered with the blood of Christ, they will remain in that sin.” The other leg went up, the short scream of pain was repeated, but John continued, trying not only to help the young man see the truths of God’s Word, but take his mind off the pain for at least the moment. “When Jesus Christ went to the cross, He shed his blood for us, our blood would not have done any good, only Christ was completely sinless, and His blood was necessary for the atonement required by God, He was in fact the perfect sacrifice.”
Zach thought about that for a few minutes, a perfect sacrifice. He remembered how John had told him a little about the sinless life of Jesus, how he had been the only one to ever be completely without sin. “So, your telling me that nobody has ever been good enough to get into heaven on their own?” “Nobody Zach, there is none righteous, no not one, that ones in the Book of Romans too. There has only been one good enough, like you said, one perfect enough to be acceptable to God for the remission of sins. That means cancellation.” “I know what remission means” Zach said right before he almost passed out again from the intense pain in his back. “Sorry,” John said, “but you know it has to be done.”
Zach had to spend almost a half-hour on the vacuum cleaner again, it was the second time in as many weeks he had needed to patch up the cord. “Should probably tell Steve about this, see if its in the budget to get a new one.” This was one of the times that Zach liked the best, cleaning the chapel area, it made him feel like it was just him and his Lord here together, just the two of them. Zach knew that the church was just a building, that the people were the true church, but this time was still special to him. He had occasionally found little scraps of paper where the hymnals were set with “Thank You, Zach” printed on them, and they always made him smile. It was a fine time to pray and thank his Lord for all that he had given him and allowed him to have.
Zach didn’t mind the hot tub time that he was given twice a week, that’s not what the physical therapy staff called it, it was “water therapy,” but no matter what it was called, it was about the only time that the pain almost completely went away. He had been thinking a lot about what John had said lately, and some of it had scared him, though he hadn’t let on to him that fact. He was beginning to give some serious thought to what he had said about dying in his sins, that he would never see heaven, ever and though John had tried to be polite as possible, he understood what he meant, if he died in his sins he would go to hell.
Zach had tried to speak to some of the other hospital staff workers about the things that John had mentioned, but none of them wanted to talk about it, it almost seemed like it scared them too. What had he said, while I was still a sinner, Jesus died for me. That one had hit Zach hard, it just didn’t make any sense, why would God send his Son to die for a bunch of sinners that didn’t even like Him. What possible reason could there be to even care about a lot of people that didn’t seem to care about Him at all. He thought about the way John had looked when he had told him that verse, how he had looked like he was going to start crying, in fact some tears had begun to form in his eyes.
“Because of just that Zach, because He didn’t have to. He loves us so much that even if it would have been only you here on earth Christ still would have died for you.” That was the one that had really struck Zachary, the Son of God loved him enough to die for him, and not just die, but suffer, suffer like Zach himself had suffered but much worse. Zachary had started to read some of the Bible that was in his therapy room, the one in the desk by his bed in the new room that they had transferred him to last week. John had asked him to read some of the Book that he was named after, and then some verses in the Book of Isaiah that he had marked for him. Those were tough ones, those were the ones that Zach could not get out of his head and the ones that really made the tears flow from Johns eyes when he spoke about them.
As he picked up the Bible from the desk, he felt something stir within him, something that did not make any sense, almost like he was being handed the Bible instead of picking it up himself. He pulled the little string and open it to the Book of Isaiah. “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”
“John, can I ask you a question?” “Sure thing Zach, just let me get these things marked off on your chart first, there, all done, what’s up?” “Why me, John, why would He love me, why would He die for me.”
Zachary looked around the church, everything vacuumed, polished up nice and clean for the evening service, Bibles and hymnals all in place. “Good to go,” he said to himself. As he grabbed his keys to lock up and then his cane, he thought he might stop by John’s house on his way home to see if his friend and his wife might like to join him and his wife for some lunch and an afternoon of conversation while they enjoyed the game on the television.