Jesus knew that God the Father had given Him the authority to do everything He had done up to this point in His life and ministry (John 5:19- 29). Matthew 21 has already presented several aspects of this authority: Christ came to Jerusalem and received praise and worship from the people, cleansed the temple, and taught in the temple courts. These actions led the religious leaders to ask, “By what authority are You doing these things? Who gave You this authority?” (v. 23). The religious leaders were questioning Jesus’ authorization to do what He did. They essentially asked, “Is it from God or from man?” Today people still wonder whether Christianity is from God or whether it is just another man-made religion.
More than just innocent questions…
Lest we think these were just innocent questions by the religious leaders, remember that they had already rejected John the Baptist’s message (v. 32); these questions often come from unbelief. They had already rejected earlier revelation from God, so their rejection of Jesus was not altogether unexpected.
Will we let unbelief and the opinions of others control us?
Unbelief isn’t the only reason people question Jesus’ authority. These questions often come from misplaced fear, which is what we see in verse 26. Instead of fearing God, which the Bible says is the beginning of knowledge (Proverbs 1:7), these leaders had an unhealthy fear of man. This misplaced fear is what led them to question Jesus, and it leads many people to question Jesus’ authority today. The question for us is, Will we let unbelief and the opinions of others control us, or will we submit to God and His Son Jesus Christ?
Their professed agnosticism was a smoke screen.
Jesus responded to the questions of the chief priests and the elders by posing a question of His own. To force their hand, He asked them whether John’s baptism was from heaven or from man (v. 25). John had made Jesus’ identity as the Messiah clear, and the people respected John as a prophet. Therefore, the religious leaders couldn’t reject John, or the people would turn against them. However, if they claimed that John’s authority was from heaven, then they would be guilty of rejecting God, since they denied that Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus knew that His question would uncover their hearts. Their professed agnosticism—“We don’t know”—in verse 27 was simply a smoke screen.
**This Daily devotion was modified from Exalting Jesus in Matthew from the Christ-Centered Exposition commentary series, by David Platt.