Matthew 11:8

ESV What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses.
NIV If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings' palaces.
NASB But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ palaces!
CSB What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothes? See, those who wear soft clothes are in royal palaces.
NLT Or were you expecting to see a man dressed in expensive clothes? No, people with expensive clothes live in palaces.
KJV But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings' houses.

What does Matthew 11:8 mean?

Jesus is defending and praising John the Baptist. Some in the crowd may have questioned John's faith in Jesus as the Messiah. John's disciples brought a message asking if Jesus really was the Messiah, or if they should expect someone else (Matthew 11:1–3). After answering John's disciples and sending them away (Mathew 11:4–6), Jesus began to tell the crowd about John the Baptist (Matthew 11:7). This began by pointing out that people were not attracted to John's message because he was ordinary or weak (Matthew 11:7).

Now Jesus continues this theme by referring John the Baptist's clothing. John was famous for—among other things—his rough clothes made of camel hair secured with a leather belt. This was a reason he was so closely associated with the prophet Elijah (2 Kings 1:8). Jesus adds that those who live in kings' houses wear soft clothes, not prophets in the wilderness. The reference to kings' houses might be a dig at Herod, the ruler who had imprisoned John the Baptist for calling out his unlawful marriage to his brother's wife.

Through His questions, Jesus is reminding the people that John the Baptist was strong and wild in the way prophets can be. Despite John's question for Jesus, John's faith was not soft or weak. Like so many others, he simply had the wrong expectations for God's timing in connection to the events surrounding the arrival of the Messiah (Matthew 16:21–23; John 2:22).
What is the Gospel?
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