23 Now when He came into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people confronted Him as He was teaching, and said, “By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority?”
24 But Jesus answered and said to them, “I also will ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things:
25 The baptism of John—where was it from? From heaven or from men?” And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’
26 But if we say, ‘From men,’ we fear the multitude, for all count John as a prophet.”
27 So they answered Jesus and said, “We do not know.” And He said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.
This probably took place on Tuesday.
elders (v.23) — scribes and other laymen who served on the high court
authority (v.23) — They considered the things He taught about to be under their authority. He had also taken it upon Himself to clear the temple the day before. They attempted to trap Him into blasphemy by saying He was from God.
They dared not directly oppose Him, but endeavored, by attacking Him on the one point where He seemed to lay Himself open to it, to arrogate to themselves the appearance of strict legality, and so to turn popular feeling against Him.
For, there was no principle more firmly established by universal consent that that authoritative teaching required previous authorization. Indeed, this logically followed from the principle of Rabbinism. All teaching must be authoritative, since it was traditional — approved by authority.
And, to decide differently from authority, was either the mark of ignorant assumption or the outcome of daring rebellion, in either case to be visited with “the ban.” — Pentecost, pages 382-383.
If they were unable to determine the authority behind John, they would be unable to determine the authority behind Christ, even though He demonstrated that authority to them. Consequently He refused to answer (v.34). His silence did not deny that His authority had come from God. Rather, He was withholding any further evidence from these leaders, though in view of their rejection they would be held responsible. — Pentecost, page 383.