As Christ was walking through the Temple area the Chief Priest and the scribes came up to him demanding, “By what authority do you do these things?” Jesus replied, “Before I answer I will ask you a question. John’s baptism was it from heaven or from men?” They replied we don’t know. Jesus said, “Then neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.” (Mark 11: 26-33 NIV)
Time and time again the answer to the Pharisees question was right in front of them. We see them here in the Temple demanding answers to questions they already knew. With them constantly asking for signs, Jesus now turns the debate on them. They asked by what authority Christ was doing the things He did. Christ responded by asking them if John’s baptism was from God or man? In other words, was John ministering of his own accord or was he sent for a specific purpose?
The Bible tells us they had a quick huddle to talk it out. They discussed among themselves: “If we say from men the people will stone us, but if we say from God he will ask why we didn’t believe John.” The fact that they were wise enough to see where Christ was going with this goes to show that they knew the answer. John’s ministry was from God and it was obvious even to these blind guides. But instead of letting the truth be known, they were constrained to shrug their shoulders and say, “We don’t know!” So Christ responds, “Then I won’t answer you either!”
This is a very interesting standoff! They knew Christ had them in a corner. Still, rather than proclaiming these religious leaders liars, Christ simply walks away with a smile of contentment, thinking as He turned to go: “You know by what authority I do these things. By the same power that was behind John as he baptized. You people, are you so hard of heart that you will not see?”