Note the consummate wisdom with which Jesus replied to the question put to Him (Matthew 21:23-27). His enemies had asked Him for His authority for doing what He did. They intended to make His answer a handle for accusing Him. He knew the drift of their inquiry and said, "I also will ask you one question, which if you tell me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, where was it from? From heaven or from men?"
We must understand that in this answer of our Lord's there was no evasion. To suppose this is a great mistake. The counter question He asked was in reality an answer to His enemies' inquiry. He knew they dared not deny that John the Baptist was a man sent from God. He knew that, this being granted, he needed only to remind them of John's testimony to Himself. Had not John declared him to be "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world?" Had not John pronounced Him to be the Mighty One, who was to "baptize with the Holy Spirit?" In short, our Lord's question was a home-thrust to the conscience of His enemies. If they once conceded the divine authority of John the Baptist's mission, they must also concede the divinity of His own. If they acknowledged that John came from heaven, they must acknowledge that Jesus Himself was the Christ.
Let us pray that, in this difficult world, we may be supplied with the same kind of wisdom that was displayed by our Lord. No doubt we ought to act on the command of Peter "and always be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks you a reason concerning the hope that is in you, with humility and fear" (1 Peter 3:15). We ought to shrink from no inquiry into the principles of our faith and to be ready at any time to defend and explain our practice. But for all this, we must never forget that "wisdom is profitable to direct," and that we should strive to speak wisely in defense of a good cause. The words of Solomon deserve consideration: "Don't answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him" (Proverbs 26:4).
Adapted from The Gospel of Matthew by J.C. Ryle (Chapter 21).