When Jesus had come into the temple area, the chief priests and the elders of the people approached him as he was teaching and said, “By what authority are you doing these things? And who gave you this authority?” Jesus said to them in reply, “I shall ask you one question, and if you answer it for me, then I shall tell you by what authority I do these things. Where was John's baptism from? Was it of heavenly or of human origin?” They discussed this among themselves and said, “If we say ‘Of heavenly origin,' he will say to us, ‘Then why did you not believe him?' But if we say, ‘Of human origin,' we fear the crowd, for they all regard John as a prophet.” So they said to Jesus in reply, “We do not know.” He himself said to them, “Neither shall I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
In today's Gospel, the chief priests and the elders asked Jesus: "By what authority are you doing these things?" Jesus had cleansed the temple and taught there often. He was not a chief priest, yet He spoke with divine wisdom. As a result, the chief priests and elders questioned His authority to teach.
When asked provocative questions, Jesus seldom answers directly. He responded with another question: "Where was John's baptism from? Was it of heavenly or of human origin?" Jesus recognized their stubborn blindness, even if He answered the question, they would refuse to believe.
The word "authority" comes from the Latin auctoritas, which is an abstract noun from the verb "augere". Augere means "to increase, make bigger". A person with authority should not coerce others into submission. The exercise of genuine authority is to release the potential in people. Jesus invited people to follow Him. He came to serve, not to be served. In our own lives, we are given different levels of authority, let us learn from Jesus to exercise our authority properly.