The World We Live In
In the passage we see some major themes:
1. The devil is attracted to things that are wild - people, places, things. The WILDerness was the perfect place for Jesus to encounter the devil's temptation, in a weakened state after fasting.
2. The tempter WILL come, when you are in his environment.
3. "IF" is repeated through the passage. The word "IF" is the expression of doubt and skepticism. Those two letters can cause a person to question everything about God when placed into someone's thoughts strategically. It is good to ask questions, but not good to question God once you know the answer to the question. "IF" is questioning of God's word because it is unacceptable.
4. "IT IS WRITTEN" is the counterpart to "IF". Questioning, with a pure motive, is good; God wants us to use our minds. For a believer, when we see what is written, or are explained the meaning of what is written, that is our authority. There is never an "IF" or the resulting question of "Is God right?", or "Did God really mean that?" or even "Does God know what He's talking about?". For a believer, there is just acceptance of what is written as the final say in the matter. "IT IS WRITTEN" is acceptance of God's word because it is the authority.
5. Which one - "IF" or "IT IS WRITTEN" - does this world adhere to, and which one does it mock? If you can answer that, you're already on your way to understanding what "the world" is.
6. We see in this passage (v. 3-4) that the devil supposes Jesus to have authority over the physical creation. He assumes correctly that Jesus has the ability to rearrange the molecules of rocks into wheat if he wanted to. The scriptures make it clear that God created the earth, can alter and shape matter, and is the owner of it all. The devil does not dispute this. (Psalm 24:1 tells us that the earth is the Lord's. It states it twice - and calls it the "world". Can "world" have more than one meaning? Yes.)
7. We see in verses 5 and 8 that the devil is comfortable with the holy city, the temple, and the kingdoms of the world. They are his REALM. He didn't turn the stones to bread (and offer them to Jesus), but he DID take Jesus to the religious center of Jerusalem where he felt at ease. From there, they looked a the center of commerce, culture, art, and politics - the city of Jerusalem. Later the devil confidently offers Jesus ownership of the kingdoms of the world - he offers him a deal in which he will GIVE them to Jesus. Jesus does not dispute this.
8. The proposed deal with the devil is to worship him in exchange for the kingdoms of the world. The proposition is LOYALTY for WORLDLY AUTHORITY. The kingdoms of the WORLD contain hierarchy of government leadership, power, military force, riches and the power to mint currency, influence over the citizenry. The ability to shape and control lives. (Matthew 4:8 tells us that the kingdoms of the world are the devil's. Can "world" have more than one meaning? Yes.)