The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men? And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him? But if we shall say, Of men; we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet. And they answered Jesus, and said, We cannot tell. And he said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.
The Pharisees weren’t willing to commit one way or the other. It didn’t matter what they actually believed, because they wanted to go the way that would give them the most approval. They wanted to appear a certain way. They wanted to play both sides and save face at the same time. If they agreed with Jesus that what John was doing was of God, then He could condemn them for their unbelief. But if they said it was simply of men, the people would condemn them because they knew it was from God.
But we have to take a side. We can’t keep waffling back and forth between both, but we must decide once and for all if we want God’s approval or man’s. We can’t examine things through the lens of which will gain us the most acceptance and make us look the best, but we must stick with what we know to be true no matter what. We can’t cater to the world without displeasing God, and we can’t truly honor God by catering to the world.
Jesus asked the Pharisees a question He knew they would never be able to answer. Their pride would not let them admit they were wrong. And their desire for the praise of the people would not allow them to go against the belief of the multitude and risk looking foolish to them and being attacked. And sometimes Jesus will ask these kinds of questions to us that force us to confront where our loyalties lie. Sometimes we have to risk admitting we were wrong. Sometimes we have to risk the disapproval of others. But it’s important to take a stand on what is right and true no matter what it costs us.
Jesus doesn’t have to justify Himself to anyone. He is God and so has the sovereign authority as God to do as He pleases. And if we try to reason against Him, we’ll never come up with a satisfactory answer. But if we’re willing to submit to Him, we are set free by the truth. Trying to please both sides will get us into trouble, but if we make a commitment to agree with God and honor Him no matter what, we will surely be blessed for that.