And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who are you?…
The work of John and its results would seem to have come up formally before the Sanhedrim, and this mission was born of their professional dealing with the matter. They had suffered him to go on for some time without taking any public notice of him, Gamaliel-like thinking. If this be of man, it will come to nought; if of God, it will prove itself. And so the resolution probably was: Wait and take the winning side. I suppose they looked upon the Forerunner as one who was going up like a rocket and would come down as a stick. They do not send a deputation till they must. They did not like this interloper, but comforted themselves with the thought that the worst would soon blow over, and that the enthusiasm, too fierce to last, would soon cool down. At length, when they found that it was not to be pooh-poohed, they said, "We must see to the bottom of this." But it would not have been dignified to come to examine into matters themselves, so they sent a deputation to obtain an account of who John was and what he was about.
(A. B. Grosart, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou?