Jesus often invoked his right to remain silent (even though the Sadducees never read him his Miranda rights).
Another annoying habit for them, I'm sure, was the way Jesus answered their questions with a question.
One of the times He did this was during an epic encounter with the chief priests and scribes, who were challenging Christ's authority (what else is new?).
The leaders asked Him:
Tell us, by what authority doest thou these things?
or who is he that gave thee this authority?
Now here's the surprising thing: Christ doesn't tell them!
Hmm. Didn't he want them to believe? How hard would it have been for Christ to whip out His credientials and pedigree?
So why did the Lord "hide" the insignia of His rank?
"Anything You Say Can and Will be Used Against You"
Notice the leaders posed two separate questions:
(1) By what authority did the Lord do the things he did?
(2) Who gave Him his authority?
The answer to #2 was obvious to the scribes and Pharisees: No one!
(No one other than Satan, that is: "This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils" (Matt. 12:24).
But I hope you noticed that the leaders were not asking an honest question.
They already knew Christ's geneology inside and out, having dug into his past to find any dirt they might use to smear him.
One thing was demonstrably evident: Christ held no ecclesiastical office (he wasn't a Levite) and held no political position (he wasn't among the rulers of the Sanhedrin).
In other words, the leaders went into this smugly knowing that Christ had no authority.
This was all a set up. They wanted him to publically acknowledge before the throngs of people that he held no "legitimate" priesthood.
I mean, Nathanael said it best, when he said out loud what everyone else was thinking: "Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?" (John 1:46).
"You Have the Right to an Attorney"
I guess I can't blame the leaders; after all, Jesus was bad for business ― and what's worse, in their eyes, he was leading good Jewish grandmothers astray.
(The worst persecution always comes from the most sincere.)
It would be like if I were stopped by the police on the Freeway for speeding.
I would want to see the Officer's badge to make sure he had the "authority" to stop me. Did he graduate from Police Officers Standards and Training? Can he prove it? Were his certifications to use a Radar gun up-to-date?
I would be all over that paperwork.
Because without the proper authority, he can't issue me a legimate ticket.
And, in fact, if he stops me while impersonating a police officer, then he's committed a serious crime.
So the Pharisees were just doing their due diligence, I guess, trying to weed out imposters.
"If You Cannot Afford an Attorney"
Jesus deflected their question with his own:
And Jesus answered and said unto them, I will also ask you one thing; and answer me:
The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men?
Well, this is going to be easy to answer. There are only two options: from heaven or of men?
50/50 chance of getting the correct answer.
Of course the religious establishment couldn't admit that John's authority came from heaven when they had rejected his baptism. They weren't going to step aside and let John jump ahead of them in line.
And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say, Why then believed ye him not?
But and if we say, Of men; all the people will stone us: for they be persuaded that John was a prophet.
I think it is hilarious that "the people" knew John was a prophet when the religious leadership did not. I mean, that shows us that uneducated, non-trained laypeople are better judges of God's messengers than those who claim to be God's rulers.
Question: Okay, so the Pharisees didn't accept John's or Jesus's authority. Tell me, whose authority did they recognize?
Answer: I think it's safe to say they viewed the only "good" authority as their own.
"One Will Be Appointed to You"
You guessed it: Jesus won the argument without even breaking a sweat.
And they answered, that they could not tell whence it was.
And Jesus said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.
Ah, that's interesting. Jesus did not answer their first question, by what authority he did these things.
But he would repeatedly answer their second question ("Who is he that gave thee this authority?"), only they were too deaf to hear Him:
All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and they to whom the Son will reveal himself; they shall see the Father.
Here's the point: the leaders didn't accept Christ's authority because, at the end of the day, they didn't accept the Father's authority, either.
Their devotion to God was a guise for them to enjoy the trappings of status, power, and wealth while appearing holy.
After all, it's easy to give lip service to God when you claim to be the mouth that speaks on His behalf.
"Do You Understand These Rights?"
The story isn't over.
After the Jewish leaders left with their tail between their legs, things got nasty (they always do when you embarass powerful egos).
And the chief priests and scribes watched him, and sent forth spies,
Look! They used spies. Religious Gestapo agents. Think about that. It reminds me of the Church's Strengthening the Church Members Committee, which spies on its members and keeps McCarthy-esque dossiers on them.
which should feign themselves just men,
They're just pretending to be "just men," you see (as if the Lord couldn't see through their hypocrisy). Going back to our policeman example, they dress up in uniform to fool others into thinking they uphold the rule of law, when in fact they are law-breakers.
that they might take hold of his words,
Well, instead of sitting down with Christ and sharing a coffee, and actually listening to what he had to say, they chose instead to use his words against him, and to twist them to entrap others, laying a snare by speaking his words with a forked-tongue.
that so they might deliver him unto the power and authority of the governor.
Ah, here we are at last. Re-read that last part.
Here we learn who the Pharisees actually trusted; the authority they truly honored: Rome's.
Not God's, but the "power and authority of the governor."