Matthew 22:11

ESV “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment.
NIV But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes.
NASB But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes,
CSB When the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed for a wedding.
NLT But when the king came in to meet the guests, he noticed a man who wasn’t wearing the proper clothes for a wedding.
KJV And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment:

What does Matthew 22:11 mean?

Jesus' parable of the king and the wedding feast (Matthew 22:1–10) takes some surprising twists and turns at the end. First, the king directs his messengers to invite all the common people they find in the streets to come to the feast. This is because the chosen guests have refused to come. Those who arrive are welcomed as they fill the wedding hall, including both the bad and the good people.

Now, though, the king finds someone who has been invited, and has attended, but is not welcome. He asks the man how he was able to enter the feast without a wedding garment. The man has no answer for this. It's not clear if the wedding garment is meant to be an explicit reference to something, or simply a representation of the man's shallowness. In the parable, all are welcome, good or bad, to come to the king in honor of his son. But going through the motions is not the same as deeply embracing the full meaning of the event (Matthew 7:21–23). This connects to similar messages Christ has offered in recent parables (Matthew 21:28–31).

Some commentators suggest that it was traditional for a king or lord to provide clean wedding garments for his guests. If so, this man has likely refused to wear it and cast it aside. If that is the understanding, it could be that the wedding garment represents being covered by the righteousness of Jesus (Romans 3:21–31). This would make the man representative of those who want the benefits of a relationship with God but refuse to submit to Him or obey His teachings (John 14:15).

Others see the garment as representing a person's willingness to set aside one's former "dirtiness" before entering the king's presence. This seems unlikely, as the man is about to be completely rejected for his choice, which would suggest merit-based salvation: the exact opposite of biblical teaching (Titus 3:5; Romans 11:5–6).

Still another idea, based on Matthew 22:14, suggests the man was not given wedding clothes because he was never chosen to attend the feast. He was called, by some of the servants, but not actually chosen by the master. Whatever is meant by the wedding clothes, the man who does not have them will pay a high price.
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