Matthew 21:23. “And when He was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto Him as He was teaching, and said, By what authority doest Thou these things? and who gave Thee this authority?”
As Jesus taught the people who gathered around Him in the temple, muttering mumbling Pharisees, chief priests and elders of the people, approached him in all their dignity. I can imagine the frowns, the beard pulling, the harumphing and headshaking that went on as they expressed their disapproval. They, after all, had not given this Nazarene upstart any permission or authority to teach in their temple!
These so-called spiritual rulers of the people had begun to gather themselves in earnest now, getting ready for their final denunciation of Jesus. They had followed Him throughout His ministry, questioning and gathering evidence against Him, even trying to trap Him to do Him physical harm. If they could only catch Him in one major crime, they would be able to silence Him.
So they approached, robed in their own righteousness, and put Jesus to this question: By what authority do you teach? By what authority do you upset our moneychangers? By what authority do You perform Your magic, creating chaos among the common, ignorant people who aren’t onto Your tricks? And even more important, who has given you this authority? Who?
I imagine that what upset them the most was the cleansing of the temple the previous day. After all, there was money to be made, and Jesus had disrupted that sacred business!
Jesus was now face to face with the mighty ecclesiastical rulers of the people, the Sanhedrin! How would He respond to this august body of “holy” men?