“I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things."This indicates that Jesus is pragmatically answering the questions of these doubters. He isn't threatening them or condemning them for asking the question.
In other words, Jesus is not a fanatic. He does not threaten people if they do not listen to him. He understands that we each have the freedom to accept God's teachings or not.
He also respects that one must carefully choose who they accept as teacher.
"John’s baptism - where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or from men?”This is the one question Jesus asks because this is the key to Jesus' authority.
Jesus if referring to his being baptized by John the Baptist. This confirms that Jesus was the student and disciple of John the Baptist, and thus he was passing on the same message taught by John the Baptist.
This is also the same message passed down from teacher to student for thousands of years. It was passed from Abraham to Isaac. From Isaac to Jacob. From Jacob to Joseph. From Joseph to the sons of Israel. From Jethro to Moses. From Moses to Joshua. From Eli to Samuel. From Samuel to David. From David (and Zadog the priest and Nathan the Prophet) to Solomon. Jesus also came in the line of the prophets/teachers who descended from David and Solomon down to the devoted priest Zachariah - John the Baptist's teacher.
In all cases, we see a tradition among God's prophets that while their empowerment came from God, their service began by being the student of another prophet (often symbolized with an "anointing" or "baptizing"). The student would first learn at the feet of his teacher, and then apply this knowledge. As they developed their relationship with God, God would directly empower the student to become teacher. This is the authority that Jesus is speaking of here.
A teacher must have developed a personal relationship with their teacher who has a personal relationship with God. Only then will the student develop their own personal relationship with God: A relationship of loving service. This is diametrically opposed to the political process derived from appointment by politically-oriented councils of men (be they cardinals, deacons or otherwise).
The student must become submissive to the teachings of his teacher in order to learn. This is not just the case for spiritual teachings - it is the case for any type of learning. If a college student goes into a chemistry class thinking he knows all about chemistry, will he learn very much? Not much.
The act of baptism is not the submission in itself. The submission must take place within the heart, and through the activity of practicing what is being taught. It is not as if the dunking into the water creates the submission. It simply represents what already must be there.
This role describes being empowered by the Supreme Being ("anointed") to speak for Him. This is why the books of the Old Testament follow the lineage from teacher to student, sometimes also father to son (but not always, as we saw from Eli to Samuel and John to Jesus). The teachings of loving service to God has been passed on from generation to generation through His representatives - God’s messengers.
“Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will come to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” (Matt. 7:21-23)
(For a translation of Jesus' statements from the Gospel of Matthew without institutional sectarian influence, see the Devotional Translation - translated from the original Greek texts.)