Have you come to destroy us?
The demons were worried. We might suppose the demons were the least anxious of all creatures in the spiritual world of Jesus' time. Popular mythology saw them as controlling the weather, the wilderness, disease and madness. They could stir up storms on a lake, torment the lonely, madden the troubled, and itch the scratcher. They were everywhere and controlled nearly everything. As Satan boasted,
I shall give to you all this power and their glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I may give it to whomever I wish.But the demons worried when Jesus appeared.
Anxiety comes with power. The more you have the more anxious you are about losing it. Great power suffers enormous anxiety, and must become evermore alert against threats, suggestions of threats, and hints of suggestions of threats. Even rolled eyes are punishable to the insecure.
Saint Francis urged his followers to imitate the example of Jesus: aspire to less. The Lord preferred homeless poverty, exile in Egypt, death on a cross and burial in a borrowed grave. Owning nothing there was nothing to prevent him from doing God's will. Without political, social or religious authority he had no fear of losing it when crowds turned away and enemies plotted against him.
That was maddening to the demons. What power would counter a man with no power? When he was driven from one place he went to another. When the door was shut he came through the window. When he was silenced his silence spoke loudly. When he was killed he rose from the dead.
Yes, he had come to destroy them. They knew it and were helpless. As we read the Gospel according to Mark during the Sundays of 2018 and the early weekdays of the year, we will watch Jesus approach Jerusalem and Calvary. At every step he will meet opposition. With every healing of the sick and every compassionate word to the poor, his enemies will grow more furious with seemingly impotent rage. Only on his last day will they finally discover the power to act, a power which was given them "from above," though they cannot comprehend that.
As we follow him he will teach us how to handle the power we have as responsible human beings. Always we must be under obedience to the Holy Spirit. We must be continually ready to act like the boy Samuel who said, "Speak, Lord, your servant is listening;" and like his mentor Eli, who realized in the middle of the night he was being told to step down.
In exchange for power we have communion with the Lord and one another. There can be no sweeter reward.