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MATTHEW - Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at Hand!
A Bible Study Course on the Gospel of Christ according to Matthew
PART 4 - Jesus' Last Ministries in Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1 - 25:46)
A - A Dispute in the Temple (Matthew 21:1 - 22:46)

4. Jesus Questioned by the Elders of the Jews (Matthew 21:23-27)

MATTHEW 21:24-27
24 Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you one question, 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?” They reasoned with themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘From men,’ we fear the multitude, for all hold John as a prophet.” 27 They answered Jesus, and said, “We don’t know.” He also said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.
(Matthew 14:5)

Christ recognized the snare laid for Him by His enemies. He did not answer their question immediately, but opened the door for them to turn back and admit that God sent the Baptist to prepare the way of Christ. This way of answering shows us two things:

First, that Jesus did not teach people using explicit word proves that he was the Son of God. Rather, He waited for the gradual development of their faith from an obedient heart. He wanted them to be sure of His divinity and then seal this recognition by coming in love to Him. This is contrary to our way of approaching people. We try many ways to convince them to accept the divine state of Christ. It is better to call attention to His works, purity, and kindness so that their trust in the Son of Man will be developed. They should come to see that He who raises the dead loves sinners and forgives His enemies. They should come to the point where they believe that He is the incarnate God.

Second, that Christ stirred up reasonable thinking in His enemies. He tried to prepare them for repentance, to get them to leave their unsound beliefs, and to avoid any judgment that is empty of love. If they had recognized and admitted that John’s baptism originated from God, they might have confessed and repented of their sins. Since they imagined themselves to be godly and righteous, however, they did not prepare themselves to submit to Jesus. Their hearts were hardened. They became angry and harbored hatred against Him.

If these enemies of Christ had admitted John’s baptism to be of God, they would have endangered their own credibility. To acknowledge that a doctrine is from God, and yet not receive and entertain it, is the greatest iniquity that a man can be charged with. Many people will stay in bondage to sin because, out of neglect or opposition, they refuse to take hold of that which they know to be true and good. Thus, they reject the counsel of God in not submitting to Johns’ baptism, and are left without excuse.

If people said that John’s baptism was only of men, they feared for their own safety because they would be opening themselves to the resentments of the people. The chief priests and elders stood in awe of the common people, which is why their consciences were in disorder and mutual jealousy was at a great height. The government had become an object of hatred and scorn of the people, and the scripture was fulfilled which said: “Therefore I also have made you contemptible and base before all the people” (Malachi 2:8, 9). If they had kept their integrity and done their duty, they would have retained their authority and need not fear the people. Those who studied how to make the people fear them could not but fear the people themselves.

Thus, the delegation of the Jewish council hid behind the pretense that they did not know where John’s baptism had come from. This was a shameful failure for them, for the people watched this debate smiling at the deviousness of their leaders.

Jesus led the delegation into the same snare that they had laid for Him. He concealed the declaration of His authority and divinity because 1) they did not believe in Him. and 2) because His hour had not yet come, the hour when His full glory would be declared in one decisive action before His enemies.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, You are the true God, You gave Your authority to Your Son that He might save and sanctify us. We worship You and Your Christ, for You are full of love, compassion, mercy, and kindness. We thank You because You redeemed us from the bondage of sin by the blood of the Crucified One, and sanctified us by the power of His Holy Spirit. We beg that You deliver the unbelievers around us from their unbelief in the unity of the Holy Spirit that they may come and believe that You are the Almighty Father.


  1. Why did Jesus not declare His authority to the delegation of the Jewish council?


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