The devil finds that he must try a more subtle way with his second temptation. So he brings out the glittering bait. Where sense fails, ambition may succeed.
There is nothing said now about ‘Son of God.’ The relation of Jesus to God is not now the point of attack, but His hoped-for relation to the world.
There is much in Scripture that seems to bear out the boast that the kingdoms are at Satan’s disposal. But he is ‘the father of lies’ as well as the ‘prince of this world,’ and we may be very sure that his authority loses nothing in his telling.
If we think how many thrones have been built on violence and sustained by crime, how seldom in the world’s history the right has been uppermost, and how little of the fear of God goes to the organisation of society, even to-day, in so-called Christian countries, we shall be ready to feel that in this boast the devil told more truth than we like to believe.
He knew that Jesus looked forward to becoming the world’s King, and he offers easy terms of winning the dignity. Very cunning he thought himself, but he had made one mistake. He did not know what kind of kingdom Jesus wished to establish. If it had been one of the bad old pattern, like Nebuchadnezzar’s or Caesar’s, his offer would have been tempting, but it had no bearing on One who meant to reign by love, and to win love by loving to the death.
His answer, again taken from Deuteronomy, is His declaration that His kingdom is a kingdom of obedience, and that He will only reign as God’s representative.
For us the lessons are plain. We have to learn what sort of kingdom Jesus sets up. We have to beware, in our own little lives, of ever seeking to accomplish good things by questionable means, of trying to carry on Christ’s work with the devil’s weapons. Let us learn, too, to adore and be thankful for the calm and fixed decisiveness with which Jesus chose from the beginning, and trod until the end, with bleeding but unreluctant feet, the path of suffering on His road to His throne.
[Excerpt from MacLaren Expositions of Holy Scripture]