Later on Palm Sunday and continuing into the week a clash of authority ensued that was, for the Jewish religious leaders, a fork in the road. They could repent and “lose everything”. Or they could harden their hearts, send Jesus to the cross, and retain what they had (not knowing they would lose it in some 40 years). On entering Jerusalem, Jesus launched an attack on the high priest’s family’s lucrative money-changing and animal-selling monopoly-racket:
And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. And He said to them, "It is written, 'MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER'; but you are making it a ROBBERS' DEN." And the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that He had done, and the children who were shouting in the temple, "Hosanna to the Son of David," they became indignant and said to Him, "Do You hear what these children are saying ?" And Jesus said to them, "Yes; have you never read, 'OUT OF THE MOUTH OF INFANTS AND NURSING BABIES YOU HAVE PREPARED PRAISE FOR YOURSELF'?" And He left them and went out of the city to Bethany, and spent the night there. (Matthew 21:12-17, NASB)
These leaders who should have been teaching and caring for God's flock saw that flock as their own, to fleece and abuse. When Jesus came back the next morning, the chief racketeers were still somewhat cowed by the high regard the people had for Jesus. Not yet ready to risk open conflict, they tried to intimidate Jesus into backing off by challenging his authority:
When He entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to Him while He was teaching, and said, "By what authority are You doing these things, and who gave You this authority?" Jesus said to them, "I will also ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John was from what source, from heaven or from men?" And they began reasoning among themselves, saying, "If we say, 'From heaven,' He will say to us, 'Then why did you not believe him?' "But if we say, 'From men,' we fear the people; for they all regard John as a prophet." And answering Jesus, they said, "We do not know." He also said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things. (Matthew 21:23-27, NASB)
Jesus had trapped the would-be trappers, but it was like a battle of wits in which the leaders were the ones who were unarmed. Jesus well knew their authority and power and its temporal limits; He also knew something they did not want to contemplate, His own vastly greater eternal authority. He gave them lots of “outs,” chances to change their course; ultimately their anger and violence would unwittingly fulfill His chosen destiny and purpose.