And when he came into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority do you these things? and who gave you this authority?
Read Chapter 21
Hilary of Poitiers
Prior to this, the Pharisees had seen many things more worthy to be called great miracles, but now they were deeply troubled and asked Jesus to identify the authority by which he performed these works. The great mystery of the future is included in the consequences of present deeds. They felt the urge for special questioning, then, because the prefiguration of every danger was made known in this event. The Lord replied that he would tell them by what authority he did these works if only they would also reply to his question about whether they considered John the Baptist to have come from heaven or from man. They hesitated while pondering the dangers of responding. If they confessed John to have come from heaven, they would be convicted by that very confession for not believing in the authority of a heavenly witness. They were afraid to say that he was merely from man, however, because of the large crowd of people who believed John to be a prophet. So they answered that they did not kno...
But the boastful and arrogant Jews, wishing to interrupt His teaching, came unto Him, and asked, By what authority doest thou these things? Matthew 21:23 For since they could not object against the miracles, they bring forward against Him the correction of the traffickers in the temple. And this in John also they appear to ask, although not in these words, but with the same intent. For there too they say, What sign do you show unto us? Seeing that you do these things. But there He answers them, saying, Destroy this temple, and I in three days will raise it up, whereas here He drives them into a difficulty. Whence it is manifest, that then indeed was the beginning and prelude of the miracles, but here the end.
But what they say is this: Have you received the teacher's chair? Have you been ordained a priest, that you displayed such authority? It is said. And yet He had done nothing implying arrogance, but had been careful for the good order of the temple, yet nevertheless having nothi...