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What is the meaning of the wedding garments in Matthew 22:11?

wedding garments

Jesus’ mention of wedding garments comes in one of His many parables. As Jesus neared the end of His earthly ministry, He ministered in the Jerusalem temple, issuing serious indictments against Israel’s leaders. In Matthew 21:23—22:46, Jesus taught about the impending destruction of the Jewish temple, the capital city, and the nation of Israel if its people and leaders did not repent. Using three parables, Jesus counters the religious leaders’ challenges to His authority (see Matthew 21:23).

In the Parable of the Great Wedding Feast (Matthew 22:1–14), Jesus foretells the fall of Jerusalem in response to the Jews’ rejection of Him, their Messiah. He also prophesies judgment on those who refuse to come to Christ on His terms. Jesus uses the detail of “wedding garments” to illustrate the righteousness of Christ, the only valid justification for entrance into God’s kingdom.

In the story, a generous king (representing God the Father) prepares a grand wedding feast for his son (Jesus the Savior). The feast symbolizes the great end-times union of God’s redeemed people (the bride) with their Messiah (Jesus) in heaven (i.e., the marriage supper of the Lamb). The guests (the people of Israel and its leaders) refuse the king’s invitation. So, the king sends out invitations to anyone and everyone who will answer his bidding (see Matthew 28:19).

Although the wedding feast fills up with guests, the king notices one man who isn’t wearing the proper wedding garments (Matthew 22:11). The king asks, “How did you get in here without wedding clothes?” But the man is speechless. The king expels him from the feast, having him bound and thrown “outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (verses 12–13). Jesus concludes the parable, stating, “For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14, NLT).

The wedding garments provide a crucial piece of instruction in the parable. The king lovingly supplies his guests with wedding clothes. John’s Gospel declares, “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:16–17, NLT).

Jesus is the believer’s righteousness (Romans 3:21–26; 10:3–4; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24). Accepting Christ’s sacrifice for our sin is the only way to be made right with God and receive His gift of salvation. Only those forgiven by grace through faith in Christ can say, “I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God! For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness. I am like a bridegroom dressed for his wedding or a bride with her jewels” (Isaiah 61:10, NLT).

The Scriptures have pointed to this truth from the very beginning in the Garden of Eden. After Adam and Eve sinned, they grabbed the first things they could get their hands on—inadequate fig leaves—to cover their nakedness and shame. But God wrapped them in warm, protective coverings of (sacrificed) animal skins (Genesis 3:7, 21).

The man in the parable dishonored the king by not wearing the proper clothes to the feast. In crashing the party, he tried to come to God on His own terms. His self-furnished wedding garments represent his own way, or his own self-righteousness, which is insufficient to secure salvation (Ephesians 2:5, 8–9; 2 Corinthians 3:5). Our “righteous deeds” are sin-stained robes and “nothing but filthy rags” in the eyes of God (Isaiah 64:6, NLT). We must trust entirely in God’s righteousness, not our own (Philippians 3:9).

In the book of Revelation, the redeemed of the Lord “from every nation and tribe and people and language” worship God dressed in “white robes” (Revelation 7:9, NLT). “They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:14). Only when we are in Jesus Christ, washed in His blood and clothed in His righteousness, are we fit to attend the marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:6–10). Nothing can secure our salvation except wearing the wedding clothes supplied by our King.

God provides the way of salvation for all who accept His invitation (see Revelation 22:17). He saves us “not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. Because of his grace he made us right in his sight and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life” (Titus 3:4–7, NLT). We cannot earn or work our way into heaven. Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father (John 14:6).

We must dress in the wedding garment of Christ’s righteousness if we want to enter the joy of heaven. Otherwise, we will be like the man cast out of the king’s presence for all eternity. Jesus said, “But many Israelites—those for whom the Kingdom was prepared—will be thrown into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:12, NLT; cf. Matthew 25:30). Many people hear God’s invitation to come, but only a few correctly answer the call (see Matthew 25:1–13; Luke 13:22–30).

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What is the meaning of the wedding garments in Matthew 22:11?
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This page last updated: May 9, 2024