When Jesus drives out the merchants in the temple courts, He angers the religious leaders who are sanctioning the corrupt buying and selling of animals and imposing a Temple tax upon visiting worshippers. These lucrative sources of income were financially beneficial to the teachers, priests, and elders. So when Jesus returns to the Temple the next day after causing a scene and condemning these business ventures within the Temple courts, the religious leaders demand to know what authority Jesus has to tell them what to do.
The leaders ask Jesus about His authority, but they do not truly seek to know about it. Their question is instead a rhetorical one meant to humble Jesus and justify their own right to conduct business as they see fit within the Temple. But Jesus uses this interaction with the religious leaders to expose the teachers’ purpose behind asking about Jesus’ authority. He knows that the religious leaders are only seeking to preserve their status among the people. This is confirmed in the way that they respond to Jesus’ question: Was the baptism of John the Baptist from heaven or from men? The leaders find themselves choosing their answer not based on what they believe to be true, but on what they think will elicit a favorable response from the people witnessing the conversation. Jesus’ question points out that if John really was from heaven, then he was right about Jesus’ Messiahship as One with all authority over the things of God. So the leaders say that they don’t know the answer to Jesus’ question, refusing to allow the truth to be revealed to them.
What is our purpose when we seek Jesus? Do we really seek the truth from Him? Are we prepared and willing to prioritize Truth of His authority over us as God? We can only move forward with Him if we are willing.