Matthew 21:23-27 A Question Of Authority.
This passage is often focused on the questioning of Jesus’ authority by the chief priests and scribes. However, it is ultimately a question for them, a question which they could not answer. There are only two supposed sources for authority – either God or humans. The very question is a presumptuous one on their part, for one must have some authoritative source to ask the question of another. In their minds they had the authority, from God no less, by virtue of their office either as chief priests or their work as scribes. There were two questions posed to Jesus. The first was one of asking where he stood in relationship to them, namely did he speak and act because of the office he held such as a chief priest, or as one entrusted with the word such as the scribes.
The second question is intimately related to the first, namely who is it that gave him his office or entrusted to him the ministry of the word. These very same issues are what Jesus confronted them with. Either they believed that Jesus, like John, spoke simply by the authority of men, or they spoke by the authority given by God, and had their offices as prophets, and Jesus as also priest and king, from God. They were faced with the same dilemma with Jesus as with John. They wanted to say with regard to both, that they spoke and acted only through their own human authority, but in both cases they feared the crowd. They contemplated saying the authority came from God, but they realized that they would then have to answer why they did not obey.