Updated: Jun 30
Marcus gripped the hilt of his sword tighter as he stared at the tombstone in front of him. Engraved on the front was the word “Katherine”, the name of his thirteen-year-old sister. The memory from two days ago was etched in his mind, never to be forgotten. His parents and older sister had been in town. He had been in the barn, working while Katherine prepared dinner. And then came the horrific scream. He had run outside to see a red-haired man on a speckled horse galloping away from the house. When he had entered the house, he had found Katherine lying on the floor with a sword wound in her side.
Tears streamed down Marcus’s face as he glared. His mind was made up. That man must pay for what he had done. Quickly, he rode back to his parents’ house. His parents, Thomas and Cindy, and older sister, Emily, were seating themselves at the table to eat dinner.
“There you are,” said his mother. “We’re just about ready to eat.”
“Sorry, but you’ll all have to eat without me. I need to pack,” Marcus replied as headed to his room.
“Pack? Why?” asked Thomas.
Marcus turned to stare at his family. “I’m going after Katherine’s killer.”
His words were met with an awkward silence.
“Why?” Emily finally asked.
“Why? Because he must pay. He took our sister from us. I must have revenge.”
Thomas slowly rose from the table, staring with stern eyes.
“My son, we are all still mourning. The painful memory is still fresh in our minds. But revenge is not the way to go. God tells us to love our enemies, and to forgive them.”
“I know that. But I can’t sit by and let that monster get away and live life like normal. I won’t ever forgive him.”
“You must. I know it’s hard, very hard. But we must try the best we can.”
“You want me to forget all about what happened, just like that?”
“Not forget, forgive. We can never forget what happened. But we must remember that revenge is the Lord’s, not ours.”
“I’m sorry father, but I cannot rest until I know that man gets what he deserves. I’m packing up tonight and leaving tomorrow.”
“Marcus, please don’t.” pleaded Cindy. “Seeking revenge will only destroy you.”
“I have to. I won’t ever have peace until he’s brought to justice. You may not understand, but surely God does.”
With that, Marcus marched into his room and shut the door, leaving his stunned family at the table.
Early the next day, he got ready to leave. His family begged him to stay, but he refused to listen. Didn’t they feel the same unrest he did? Every time he closed his eyes, the haunting image of Katherine lying on the floor filled his mind. Finding the killer would end it. It must.
Marcus must hurry though; the murderer had a three-day head start on him. He quickly rode to Brangdon, the nearest town. His family was well known in town, and had a good reputation. He quickly made his way to the inn.
“Hello, Marcus!” called the owner, who was relaxing at a table. “What can I do for you?”
“Hello, Robert. I’m hoping you can give me some information.”
“A man. Specifically, the man that attacked our house a few days ago. I’m hoping he may have stopped here.”
Robert narrowed his eyes. “What are you up to, Marcus?”
“I’m going after him. I’ve had enough pain these last few days.”
“And you think finding him will get rid of this pain?”
Marcus was feeling annoyed. Why didn’t anyone feel like he did? Did anyone else care about his sister?
“Look, I’m not here to get a lecture. I already got one at home. Are you going to help me or not?”
“What did the man look like?”
“I only saw him real quick, but he had red hair and a short beard. He was riding a gray speckled horse.”
“I don’t recall anyone like that coming here the last few days. But criminals don’t stop at nice inns. They usually head to the taverns.”
Marcus thought for a moment. There was a tavern in town. He knew the atmosphere there wasn’t very Godly, so he had stayed away. Going there though seemed like his best option. However, if his father found out, he wouldn’t be very pleased.
“Thanks Robert,” he said as he headed for the door.
“Oh, Marcus.” Robert called after him. “Your father has a great reputation in this town. Be careful not to spoil it.”
Marcus just nodded and headed to the tavern. When he arrived, the stench of alcohol made his stomach flip and turn. Ragged men lounged around at tables, making bad jokes and being loud. Marcus almost turned around and left, but his desire for information pushed him on. Slowly, he walked over to the counter. Some men pointed at him and whispered to each other. Evidentially, they recognized who he was.
“Whad’ya want?” asked a short balding man who stood at the counter.
“I’m looking for someone.”
“A man. Red hair, short beard. Would’ve had a gray speckled horse. Probably came here about two days ago or so. Have you seen anyone like that?”
“Maybe I have, maybe I haven’t. Depends on what you’re willin’ ta pay.”
With a sigh, Marcus dropped a silver coin into the man’s hand, who grinned.
“Yeah, someone that matches that description came here a couple days ago. Seemed awfully nervous and in a hurry.. Left really early the following morning.”
“Did he say where he was going?”
“No, but he headed north.”
Marcus thanked the man then hurried out. The next town north was over a day away. If he rode most of the night, he could probably gain some ground. Earnestly, he pressed his horse as hard as he could. When the horse couldn’t take any more of the hard riding, he finally yielded and made camp for the night.
After a few short hours of pitiful sleep, Marcus made a quick breakfast. He opened the Bible he brought, planning to read a little. But no matter where he read, the passage seemed to focus on forgiveness. Joseph forgave his brothers. God forgave the Israelites. God forgave Jonah. Steven forgave his executioners. Aggravated, he shut the Bible and continued on his way.
Marcus’s desire for revenge continued to grow as he pursued his prey. The man always seemed one step ahead of him, which annoyed him to no end. No longer having the time to even read his Bible, he forsook everything as his only desire was to catch the man who took his sister’s life. The chains of revenge had grabbed hold of his life, and refused to let go.
After two months of relentless hunting, Marcus still hadn't found the man. As he rode through the next town on his horse, he ignored the wide-eyed stares of the villagers. His once fair face was now filthy and a scraggly beard had replaced his clean shaven one. His blonde hair looked brown under the dirt. His eyes were dull and face stern. The clothes he wore stunk and were covered in mud. His horse looked no better. Its mane was all knotted and saddle filthy. Always exhausted, it simply trudged along as Marcus urged it to the next tavern.
He walked in, barely noticing the stink of the ale or foul language; for he had gotten used to it a long time ago. Many turned to look as he entered. One hooded man in particular watched him longer than the others, but Marcus ignored him. The hooded man quickly left as a servant who looked like he hadn’t shaved in weeks walked up to the table Marcus had sat at.
“What will ye ‘ave? Our special brew is the finest around.”
“No ale, just some water and bread.”
“What? No ale? Come now, sir. You needn’t worry ‘bout the price; it ain’t much.”
“I said no ale!” Marcus practically yelled at the servant.
The servant sneered slightly then walked off. He soon returned with the water and bread.
“That’ll be three silver coins.”
Marcus stared into his purse.
“I only got two silver coins,” he said as he handed them to the servant.
The servant sighed. “I guess that’ll do.”
After taking the coins, he turned to leave.
“Wait, I’m looking for someone.” Marcus once again described the man he was after. And he got the same familiar reply.
“What are ya willing ta pay?”
“I just gave you the last bit of money I have. I can’t give you anything else.”
“Then no, I haven’t seen anyone like that.”
Rising from the table, he glared at the servant.
“Look here. I’m in no mood to play games. If you’ve seen the man, then tell me!”
“And I told ya, if ye ain’t got the money, then I can’t help you.”
Furious, Marcus reached across the table and grabbed the collar of the man’s shirt with his right hand while laying his left on the hilt of his sword.
“Tell me what you know! Now!”
The servant quickly made a motion with his hand, at which two burly men walked over.
“What be the trouble here?” asked one of them.
Marcus slowly let go of the man’s shirt.
“I want information about someone, and this runt here is refusing to tell me.”
The servant glared. “Get this trouble maker outa here. He didn’t even pay full for the meal.”
Before Marcus could make a move, he felt his arms being pulled tightly behind him. One of the men took his sword as the other threw him outside into the mucky road.
“Don’t you even think about coming back in here,” one of the men yelled as he slammed the door.
Slowly rising from the mud, Marcus wiped off his clothes best he could, then walked to where he had tied his horse. He sighed, not knowing what to do. Quitting wasn’t an option. The thirst for revenge filled him so much that he barely thought of anything else. But without money, he could barely continue on.
He rode to the woods, and made a small campfire to keep warm. For several hours he thought, trying to think of some way to keep going, but he kept coming to the same conclusion. He’d had to ride back home, spend a few weeks gathering supplies and money, then head back out. The idea wasn't the best. A month wasted was not ideal. And meeting his family again wasn’t too thrilling either. They hadn’t exactly been on the best of terms when he left. But there was no alternative that Marcus could see.
The next morning, he set for home. The trek was hard, as he didn’t have any money for food or hunting equipment. By begging in town, some food was acquired, but more days than not he and his horse went hungry. Finally becoming so desperate for food, he sold the horse, and used the money to by enough food for the rest of the journey. Walking the rest of the way slowed him down immensely, but at this point he didn’t care. He just wanted to get home and get refreshed before heading back out.
After what felt like an eternity for Marcus, he arrived back in Brangdon. Only a few miles away was his father’s house. As he walked through town, most villagers avoided him when possible. However, he caught several staring and whispering.
“Is that Marcus?”
“It kinda looks like him, but it’s hard to tell under all that grime.”
“Who would’ve thought Thomas’s son would’ve turned out like that.”
Marcus ignored them best he could, clenching his teeth. As he approached his father’s farm, he slowed down and stopped. His father mending a fence. His mother and sister were working in the garden. A slight tug of guilt pulled at Marcus as he realized that he should be there with them, not on the road in mud-caked clothes. Finally gathering the courage he needed, he marched towards his old house.
His father spotted him first, and stopped working, staring. Then he began to run towards Marcus, who half expected to be chased off. But that was not the case as his father, with tears in his eyes, wrapped his arms around his son.
“Oh, Marcus,” was all Thomas could say.
The rest of his family greeted him with similar enthusiasm. After cleaning up in the creek and putting on new clothes his father gave him, his mother and sister served him with the best dinner he had had in months. They didn't seem to care that he hadn't caught Katherine's murderer. They even seemed to look relieved.
Throughout the day, Marcus kept pushing away the guilt he felt; for he had not told his family that he planned to resume his hunt. They seemed so happy to have him back. When his father asked him what he planned to do next in life, he quickly said he wasn’t sure. His father seemed to drop the question, to his relief. Totally exhausted, Marcus went to be early. However, sleep evaded him. He kept thinking about the joy his family had had when they first saw him. He thought about the pain they must have felt while he was gone and wondered about what kind of rumors had spread around town about his absence. The guilt continued to gnaw at him all night, giving him no rest.
The next morning, Marcus was sitting at the table eating breakfast and studying his maps when Emily walked out of her room. She smiled when she saw her brother.
“Good morning, Marcus!”
A grunt was her response as Marcus continued to look at his maps. Emily looked around.
“Where’s our parents?”
“They went to town. I think they had some errands.”
Emily grabbed an apple and sat down at the table across from him.
“What are those you’re looking at?”
“What do they look like? Maps.”
“Why are you looking at maps?”
Marcus gave an annoyed sigh as he looked at Emily.
“I’m still trying to figure out where the killer might be.”
“But Marcus! You came home! We thought you had given up.”
“I won’t give up until I catch him!”
“Please, no. Just let it go. Do you really think this is what God wants?”
He looked up, fury once again in his eyes.
“The man took our sister. Katherine loved God, and now she’s dead. Surely He wouldn’t want her murder to go unavenged.”
“Let God take care of that.”
“He hasn’t yet. I'm not waiting around forever.”
Emily reached out and wrapped her hand around Marcus’s.
“Look at what you’ve become. You care about nothing except revenge. You used to be so cheerful and happy. You used to laugh all the time, but I haven’t even seen you smile since you came back. You lost your money, your horse, and your life. For what?”
Marcus jerked his hand away.
“My life!? No, you’re wrong. Katherine is the one who lost her life.” He was shouting now. “Why don’t you and my parents understand? I can never have peace until that man is dead!”
He quickly looked back at his maps, not wanting to see the tears Emily was beginning to shed.
“You’re wrong, Marcus. You can never have peace until you get right with God and learn to forgive. I know you were close to Katherine. Closer than I was. But the hole you feel will not be removed by committing the same crime her murderer did.”
“Will you just go away and leave me alone? I need to think and you're just being a hindrance.”
Emily slowly rose from the table. As she opened the door and headed outside, she turned and looked back, her eyes red and tears streaming down her face.
“You may have lost a sister that day, but I lost both a sister and brother.”
Marcus slammed his fist down on the table and stomped to his room. The guilt was about to drive him crazy. God was reprimanding him for his actions and telling him to forgive, yet the thirst for revenge kept him chained, without possibility for escape. In despair, he sunk down beside his bed. For the first time in months, tears fell from his face.
“God, help me! I know you want me to forgive this man. But how can I? Why should I? Katherine didn’t deserve to die. She’s dead and her murderer is alive. Why won’t you let me have my revenge?”
The confusion overwhelmed Marcus, who didn’t know what to do. He looked around for a Bible; he had lost his long ago. Spotting one on the floor by his bed, he snatched it up. Had that been there the entire time? His parents must have placed it there after he had gone to bed. Noticing a piece of paper stuck in between some pages, he pulled it out. Some verses written on it along with a note. It was in his father’s handwriting.
“and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified. And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe. And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews! And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head. And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him. Then said Jesus, Father forgive them; for they know not what they do.”
Marcus, if anyone ever deserved revenge, it was Jesus Christ. He was perfect and holy, yet they beat Him and mocked Him. Isaiah says ‘his visage was so marred more than any man’. They placed a crown of thorns in His head and nailed Him to a cross. Yet what did our Savior do? He asked God to forgive them.
Please forget this path of hatred and destruction you are bent on. God loves you, son. I love you. Your mom and Emily love you. Don’t let the death of Katherine rob you of the joy God wants you to have. You may think that by fulfilling your revenge, the hole in your heart might be filled. But only God can fill that hole. Forgive the murderer, Marcus, forgive him. We love you and don’t want to see your life ruined.
‘I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.’
Tears fell from Marcus’s face as he read the note a second time. He realized now what a fool he was. Christ could remove these chains from him, but only if he was willing to fully submit his life to God.
“Forgive me, God! Forgive me! I was wrong, and full of hatred and selfishness. In my desire for revenge, I have been blind to the pain I have caused to You and my family. I ask you to forgive me, and to give me the strength to forgive others.”
As Marcus prayed, he felt the chains begin break that had been holding him for so long. The burden was lifting, and he praised God for it all. As he rose from off the floor, he knew what he had to do. It would be most difficult, but God would require it of him.
Heading over to the barn, he could hear soft weeping. Emily was sitting on a stool beside a cow. Her hands were in her face as she cried. Tears welled up in Marcus’s eyes also as he thought of the pain he had given her and his parents.
“Emily?” he said quietly. She turned and looked at him and rose from the stool.
“What is it, Marcus?”
He could barely get the words out, but he had to.
“I…I need to apologize. I have hurt you and our parents more than I realized. I allowed the pain in my heart to control me and drive me to do things I never would have dreamed I would. All this time I thought I was doing right to go after Katherine's killer, but God showed me that I was wrong. I know I’m the last person on earth to deserve it, but will you forgive me?”
Marcus hung his head as Emily just stared, not believing what she just heard. Then she ran and embraced him.
“Of course, I forgive you Marcus! I love you, brother!”
Tears streamed down his face as for the first time since Katherine’s death he smiled.
“I love you too, Emily.”
When his parents came back, Marcus apologized to them too. It was hard, for his pride wanted to keep him from admitting his wrongdoing. But he knew that if he was ever to fully free himself from the chains of revenge, he needed to make things right. Thomas and Cindy were just as thrilled as Emily at Marcus’s change of heart, and they eagerly welcomed him back into the family. He worked hard on the farm the next few weeks, trying to make up for the months that he had wasted. Life began to feel good again, and the smiles and laughs that had been gone for so long returned. But God had one final test for him, to see if he truly was willing to forgive.
Marcus was harvesting the corn with Emily. It was a hot day, and sweat was pouring down them both. The dirt stuck to them, making them look like a mess. As they picked the final few ears of corn, Emily noticed a rider heading their way.
“It looks like our neighbor, Matthew,” she remarked. “I wonder what he’s doing here.”
Marcus grinned and gave her a nudge.
“Probably to see you, why else? Though he may not recognize you under all that dirt and sweat. He'll probably just think you're one of the scarecrows.”
Emily glared in mock anger and swung her leg out at him. He laughed as he nimbly moved out of the way, then scooped up some dirt and smeared it across her forehead. She was about to throw her whole basket of corn at him when Matthew rode up. Both he and the horse looked exhausted. They had evidentially rode a good distance fast.
“Is everything all right?” asked Marcus.
Matthew took a second to catch his breath.
“They have him. In the town jail.”
“What in the world are you talking about?”
“The man that killed Katherine. They have him.”
Marcus felt his blood freeze.
“How is this possible?”
“Some soldiers caught him robbing a house in town. He admitted to the murder. They’re holding him in the jail. I came as soon as I heard.”
All those months, searching and searching. And now the murderer was right here. Marcus looked down and noticed he was clenching the basket he was holding, his fingers going purple. With a deep breath, he set it to the ground.
“Emily, give Matthew and his horse some water. I need to take care of something.”
“What are you doing? Please don’t do anything stupid.”
“Don’t worry about me, just take care of Matthew.”
After quickly saddling a horse from the barn, he quickly rode to Brangdon and requested to see the prisoner. A soldier led him to a cell and let him inside.
“Call when you’re ready to get out,” the solder said as he left.
Marcus stared at the red-haired man in front of him, who looked back, his eyes huge with fear.
“I know who you are!” he exclaimed. “You’re the one that’s been hunting me.”
“You knew I was hunting you?”
“Yes, word got to me that someone was after me. You nearly caught me too in that tavern in Icros.”
Marcus was stunned for a moment as he thought of the hooded stranger that had watched him so closely at that last tavern. Was he really that close and didn’t even know it? He quickly said a quick prayer. He would need all of God’s help if he was to do what God wanted him to do.
“Several months ago, you murdered my sister. She was young, and posed no threat, yet you still killed her with your sword. I had never felt so much fury in my life for that act of wrongdoing. The revenge I felt in my heart permeated my entire being, so that I only wanted to see you receive the same death Katherine had. Nothing else mattered to me as I sought after you.”
As Marcus spoke, the man’s eyes grew huge and he looked around, seeking a way to escape.
“I let the hatred in my heart poison me so much that I was willing to commit the same crime I hated you for. I hurt myself, my family, and my God in my pursuit for you. I ruined my life, and almost ruined my family’s. Why? Because I thought that your death would heal the hurt that I felt.
“But that was wrong of me. My God does not want me to have revenge, but forgiveness. Only forgiveness will free me from the pain I feel and the hole that is in my heart. That is why, though it is the hardest thing I have ever done, I forgive you; and ask you to forgive me for the hatred I have felt against you.”
The man stared in shock for several moments, not sure if this was some kind of cruel taunt. But as he looked into Marcus’s eyes, he saw sincerity and truth. Tears began to fall down his face.
“Why? How?” was all he could say.
Marcus smiled, tears falling down his cheeks as well.
“If you want, I can tell you.”
The next hour Marcus explained to his sister’s murderer the love of Christ. How all were sinners and deserved hell. That all would go there except for Christ’s love. He explained that Christ took all of mans' sins upon Himself when He died on the cross so that those who accepted that free gift could go to heaven. By the end of the conversation, another man had become a son of God.
The final link of the chain of revenge finally fell from Marcus as he led to Christ the very man he had tried to kill for so long. The next day the murderer was executed for his crimes. Marcus felt no joy in his death, but only in that the man was now in heaven, not in hell.