Matthew 21:23-27. When he was come into the temple, the chief priests came Who thought he violated their right: And the elders of the people Probably, members of the sanhedrim, to whom that title most properly belonged: which is the more probable, as they were the persons under whose cognizance the late action of Christ, in purging the temple, would naturally fall. These, with the chief priests, seem purposely to have appeared in a considerable company, to give the more weight to what they said, and, if need were, to bear a united testimony against him. As he was teaching Which also they supposed he had no authority to do, being neither priest, nor Levite, nor scribe. Some of the priests, (though not as priests,) and all the scribes, were authorized teachers. By what authority doest thou these things Publicly teach the people? And drive out those who had our commission to traffic in the outer court? Jesus answered, I also will ask you one thing Who have asked me many: The baptism That is, the whole ministry; of John, whence was it? Whence had he his commission? from heaven, or of men? Did God or man give him his authority to act and teach? This question reduced the priests and elders to an inextricable dilemma: and they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven, &c. They considered, on the one hand, that if they should acknowledge John’s mission to be from God, it would oblige them to acknowledge Christ’s authority; John having more than once borne testimony to him as the Messiah. On the other hand, if they denied John’s divine mission, they did not know but the people, who stood listening to Jesus, would stone them; for they generally believed John to have been a prophet, many of them had submitted to his baptism, and at present not a few held him in high esteem on Christ’s account. Wherefore, as matters stood, they judged it safest to answer that they could not tell whence John’s baptism was. And he said, Neither tell I you That is, not again in express terms: he had often told them before, and they would not believe him. Thus, by the question which he put to them, he obliged them to confess that they had not been able to pass any judgment upon John the Baptist, notwithstanding he claimed the character of a messenger from God, and they had sent to examine his pretensions. This in effect was to acknowledge themselves incapable of judging of any prophet whatsoever. “Ye are come,” said he, “to inquire into the proofs of my mission. I agree to submit myself to your examination, on condition that you tell me what your determination was concerning John. Was he a true or a false prophet? You say you do not know. But if you were not able to form a judgment concerning John, how can you take upon you to judge me?” In this light our Lord’s question, in answer to theirs, appears to have been formed with the greatest wisdom; because, whether the priests replied in the affirmative or in the negative, or gave no reply at all, they absolutely condemned themselves. See Macknight.
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