Christ’s enemies were at a fever pitch of rage against Him by this time.  The raising of Lazarus from the dead had provoked them to contemplate murder, fearful that the Romans would take away their place and nation.  The praises of the people when Jesus entered the city had only served to heighten their fear that they may lose their prestigious positions.  Something must be done to discredit and push aside this young rabbi, Who was proving such a threat to their station in society.

Unable to arrest or assassinate Him presently, because of the favor in which the people held Him, the chief priests and elders instead attempted to discredit Him before the people.  They were willing to shut Him up without murdering if such could be done, but would not stop at lies, conniving, and violence if necessary.  Their first attack was to demand upon what authority He was doing such miracles and preaching such doctrine.  They knew He had received no authority from them, which, after all was their greatest objection.  How dare any man utter a religious word in Jewish society without the approval of the chief priests and elders?  But surely they should have known the answer, for had not Christ often taught them, “The doctrine that I teach is not Mine, but His that sent Me”?  The Lord was forever proclaiming He was upon special mission from His Father.  This question was certainly a superfluous one, meant only to provoke the Lord into some unguarded word which they could seize upon to defame His character.

But instead of telling them the answer which they ought already to have known, the Lord Jesus instead strikes a bargain.  He will tell them from whence He derived His authority, if they could answer the question of whether the baptism of John was from heaven or of men.  In this manner the Lord Christ neatly turns the tables on these men who thought themselves so wise and clever.  They were always in the process of dredging up questions or issues He could not answer without humiliating Himself and losing face.  But instead, they find themselves unable to return an honest answer, because of their own pride and wickedness.  They could not agree that John’s baptism was from heaven, because then the Lord would denounce them for not believing him.  But then too, they were afraid to deny its heavenly origin, because if they did they themselves would lose favor with the people, a risk they dared not run.  Because they could not answer Christ’s simple question, He refused to answer them, and their attempt to disgrace the Lord ended in humiliating failure.