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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 1–8
Verses 1–8

In this passage of story nothing is added here to what we had in the other evangelists; but only in the Luke 20:1; where we are told,

I. That he was now teaching the people in the temple, and preaching the gospel. Note, Christ was a preacher of his own gospel. He not only purchased the salvation for us, but published it to us, which is a great confirmation of the truth of the gospel, and gives abundant encouragement to us to receive it, for it is a sign that the heart of Christ was much upon it, to have it received. This likewise puts an honour upon the preachers of the gospel, and upon their office and work, how much soever they are despised by a vain world. It puts an honour upon the popular preachers of the gospel; Christ condescended to the capacities of the people in preaching the gospel, and taught them. And observe, when he was preaching the gospel to the people he had this interruption given him. Note, Satan and his agents do all they can to hinder the preaching of the gospel to the people, for nothing weakens the interest of Satan’s kingdom more.

II. That his enemies are here said to come upon himepestesan. The word is used only here, and it intimates,

1. That they thought to surprise him with this question; they came upon him suddenly, hoping to catch him unprovided with an answer, as if this were not a thing he had himself thought of.

2. That they thought to frighten him with this question. They came upon him in a body, with violence. But how could he be terrified with the wrath of men, when it was in his own power to restrain it, and make it turn to his praise? From this story itself we may learn, (1.) That it is not to be thought strange, if even that which is evident to a demonstration be disputed, and called in question, as a doubtful thing, by those that shut their eyes against the light. Christ’s miracles plainly showed by what authority he did these things, and sealed his commission; and yet this is that which is here arraigned. (2.) Those that question Christ’s authority, if they be but catechized themselves in the plainest and most evident principles of religion, will have their folly made manifest unto all men. Christ answered these priests and scribes with a question concerning the baptism of John, a plain question, which the meanest of the common people could answer: Was it from heaven or of men? They all knew it was from heaven; there was nothing in it that had an earthly relish or tendency, but it was all heavenly and divine. And this question gravelled them, and ran them aground, and served to shame them before the people. (3.) It is not strange if those that are governed by reputation and secular interest imprison the plainest truths, and smother and stifle the strongest convictions, as these priests and scribes did, who, to save their credit, would not own that John’s baptism was from heaven, and had no other reason why they did not say it was of men but because they feared the people. What good can be expected from men of such a spirit? (4.) Those that bury the knowledge they have are justly denied further knowledge. It was just with Christ to refuse to give an account of his authority to them that knew the baptism of John to be from heaven and would not believe in him, nor own their knowledge, Luke 20:7, 8.